Our first February walk was a four mile ramble around Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire. The town has long been a favourite of ours and we love to stroll along the tow paths of the Kennet and Avon canal which connects the river Avon in Bath to the Thames at Reading and stop for a drink at one of the canal side pubs.
The canal is very popular with narrow boats and there are always dozens moored along the banks. Some have been converted to use as houseboats.
It has been a mild winter and I was pleased to spot this patch of snowdrops under the trees. We were also lucky enough to see a kingfisher but unfortunately I did not manage to get a photo.
Bradford on Avon history
As this was a history walk we also took in some of the tourist attractions. Bradford on Avon became important in Saxon times when the land was given to the nunnery of Shafetsbury in Dorset. St Laurence church which dates from about 1000 A.D. is one of the few surviving stone Saxon churches in England. The high walls and small windows are typical of the period.
Equally famous is the large medieval tithe barn which forms part of the Barton farm estate. It is 51 metres long and its size shows how prosperous the region was. Nearby buildings house a teashop, artgallery and craft centre. In medieval times the area was a centre for wool cloth manufacturing and you can still see the remains of the old cloth mills and weavers’ cottages. One was later used to manufacture rubber.
The name Bradford is a corruption of broad ford. The town bridge in my top photo dates from the Norman period although it has been widened. Two of the original arches remain. The small domed building in the centre is a former chapel which was later used as the town jail. The fish pointer on the weather vane is a christian symbol which has become the symbol for the town. In a couple of weeks time participants in the annual Shrove Tuesday pancake race will run across the bridge brandishing their frying pans.
Another favourite of mine was this old doorway.
It is situated in the shambles and the house once belonged to the Tolsey who was responsible for collecting fees from market stall holders. Shambles comes from an anglo-saxon word for a stall holder.
Train: frequent service from Bristol or Bath
Car. There is a large long stay carpark close to Sainsbury’s
Bicycle It is part of a long distance cycle path along the Kennet and Avon canal. Bicycles can be hired locally.
Find out more. Bradford on Avon visitor guide.