2015 – UK – “Berks & Hants”

A day out in Berkshire

One of my favourite railway journeys is from London Paddington to Penzance.

Although the section west of Exeter, through beautiful Devon and Cornwall, is much more dramatic scenically I am also particularly fond of the bit between Reading and Taunton.

This is the “Berkshire and Hampshire” or “Berks and Hants” line. The name is a curious one as it doesn’t go through Hampshire at all.

The line is effectively a short cut between Reading and Taunton that avoids the original longer route via Bristol. It was a late comer to the railway network in 1906 and was one of the last main lines to be opened in the UK.

The line passes through the towns of Newbury, Pewsey, Westbury and Castle Cary and is used by most of the express trains heading between London Paddington and the West Country. Many of the trains pass through from Reading to Taunton without stopping but a few make the four stops listed above.

There is also a commuter service that runs out from London stopping also at smaller settlements up to the village of Bedwyn situated between Newbury and Pewsey.

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Around Bedwyn the railway follows the route of the Kennet and Avon Canal. I have often looked out of the train window and thought that I would like to walk along the canal and explore the area a little more.

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In early summer 2015 we picked a nice sunny Saturday and headed out from Paddington on the little commuter train to Bedwyn.

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We arrived at about 11am and then spent a fantastic afternoon walking along the towpath of the Canal for 10 miles to Pewsey.  In the early evening we caught the train back to London from there.

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The Royal Oak

The canal was quite busy with boats and we watched and sometimes helped as the owners negotiated the locks. We stopped and had a picnic close to the canal and then paused again later for a drink at the thatched Royal Oak pub in Wooton Rivers.

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The whole walk was pleasantly punctuated by the sight and sound of the trains heading along the adjacent railway line.

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