Just a few miles over Hampshire's northern border with Wiltshire is the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal, a continuous waterway joining the River Thames at Reading to the River Avon at Bath. The 57-mile long canal joining these two rivers was completed in 1810. The Great Western Railway took over the running of the Kennet & Avon in 1846, maintenance standards declined and traffic was discouraged by high tolls. By the start of the last century, little canal traffic remained and declined even more with the increase in road traffic after the end of the First World War. In the early 1950s parts of the canal closed when some of the locks fell into a dangerous condition, and more followed through disuse and its future was threatened by closure. This inspired the founding of what is now called the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust and in 1956 they successfully fought against the closure of the canal.
The newly-formed British Waterways Board took over responsibility for the canal in 1963 and a number of restoration projects were begun with the assistance of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust. The first phase of the restoration project finished in 1990 when Her Majesty the Queen declared the canal re-open to navigation. Although open between Bristol and Reading, there still remains much to be done to complete the canal's full restoration. Photo: David Packman