On a recent sunny weekend we decided to visit the Caen Hill locks on the Kennet and Avon canal. The set of locks are an incredible feat of engineering. First opened in 1810 they were built to carry the canal 237 feet up Caen Hill. There are 29 locks in total, over 2 miles, although the picture you see most often is of the 16 locks stretching up the hill. The canal became derelict after the Second World War but was restored and officially reopened in 1990. Many of the locks are dedicated to those who helped with the restoration.
We parked at the wharf in Devizes and followed the signs to the locks along the towpath. The first half mile or so is through parts of the town but it soon heads into open countryside. The canal was pretty quiet with just a few owners out spring cleaning their boats.
Caen Hill cafe
The Caen Hill cafe marks the top of the hill and is a perfectly located refreshment stop. The cafe is in the old lock keepers cottage, and the tables in the front garden have views down the canal. We enjoyed a cup of coffee, whilst the kids took advantage of the sunny weather and chose ice creams. Suitably refreshed we continued downhill. Whilst the cafe had been busy, the canal itself was rather lacking in boats. Boats can take up to 6 hours to travel through the set of locks, but it was slightly disappointing to only spot one boat negotiating them during our visit.
I live in hope that my children are now of the right age that I don’t have to worry about them falling off the edge of the canal into the lock. Whilst my daughter has inherited my sensible gene, my son is of a much more random nature – act first, think later (maybe). So it’s a little hard to relax when he’s running and messing around by the edge off the canal. Suffice to say it was just me being paranoid and the walk passed without incident.
Shortly after reaching the bottom of the hill we crossed over one of the locks and headed back up the hill which runs alongside (but away from the locks). This takes you closer to the large pools which provide the water to operate the locks. These were home to a variety of ducks, and some nesting swans which signs warn against getting too close to.
It was at this point that we realised our mistake of stopping at the cafe on the way down rather than up. The ice cream incentive to finish a walk doesn’t work this way round! Fortunately the hill isn’t really that big or long and we were soon back on the flat and heading into Devizes.
The walk wasn’t very exciting, but the ice cream was really yummy!
- The towpath is accessible, although pushing a wheelchair or buggy back up the hill might take some effort!
- The car parking charges were reasonable. We extended our stay with a wander around Devizes, the parking cost for our visit was around £4. There’s another car park at the Caen Hill cafe if you don’t want to walk from the centre of Devizes.
- Further details can be found on the Caen Hill Locks web page.