Canal walks for autumn

Chill mornings, ripening blackberries and the golden, orange and red hues of leaves on the trees indicate the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness has arrived. Autumn is a great time to put on your hiking boots and explore the paths alongside Britain’s waterways.

The Canal and River Trust care for most of Britains waterways and wherever possible keep or restore things as they were. The great canal engineers often used trees to stabilise the banks of canals. These are at their most colourful during autumn and with towpaths making walking easy, are great for a day out in arguably the most colourful of seasons.

There are many waterside pubs along our canals for refreshment or a meal.

Here then are a few canal-side walks recommended by the Canal and River Trust.

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal
Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, Wales
Photo via Good Free Photos

This canal meanders through the countryside of the Brecon Beacons National park in Wales from Brecon to Pontymoile Basin. It follows the wooded Usk Valley where beech trees provide a golden backdrop to the expansive views of the valley.

In autumn the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal is on of Britain’s beautiful and peaceful waterways. There is a café at Brecon Basin which is an ideal stop for lunch or a snack.

Getting there: park on the roadside where the B4558 crosses the canal and River Usk. Brecon, South Wales LD3 7UY.

Kennet & Avon Canal

As its name suggests the canal connects the Rivers Avon at Bath with the River Kennet near Reading.

The Avoncliff Aqueduct is surrounded by woodland and is a great spot for walking and viewing the autumn colours of the Bath Valley. The woodland here is made up of oak, ash, sycamore, hazel and hawthorn.

The aqueduct at 100m long and 18m wide provides a pale limestone contrast with the colourful displays of leaves. If you’re lucky, It is also a great spot to see bats flying to and from the tall arches of the aqueduct and wandering deer feeding on the hedgerow.

Getting there: parking is available at Avoncliff Aqueduct, Avoncliff, Near Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, BA15 2HB.

Llangollen Canal

Llangollen Canal, Pontcysylite Aqueduct
Dee Valley from the Pontcysylite Aqueduct
Fictional Future [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

For some of the best autumn colours follow the Llangollen Canal in Denbighshire, North Wales from the Horseshoe Falls, above the town from which it takes its name, through to Chirk. Pass through the Vale of Llangollen, a beautiful valley with native woodlands all the way through. Cross Thomas Telford’s engineering marvel, the Pontcysylite Aqueduct, as it crosses the River Dee Valley and enjoy the stunning views of the autumn displays in the valley below.

Getting there: parking is available at Horseshoe Falls LL20 8BN or close to the aqueduct at Trevor Basin Car Park LL20 7TY.

Grand Union Canal

The Grand Union Canal links Birmingham to the River Thames in London. For an autumn stroll one of the best and most accessible stretches is where it passes through Cassiobury Park in Watford, Hertfordshire

Veteran horse chestnut, ash and oak provide bright patches of colour along the Grand Union Canal as it follows the line of the River Gade along the western side of the park separating it from Whippendell Woods. Believed to be more than 400 years old the wood combines oak, beech, silver birch and ash with areas of hazel, hornbeam, holly, hawthorn and wild cherry.

Getting there: Cassiobury Park, Gade Avenue, Watford, WD18 7LG.

Peak Forest Canal

Peak Forest Canal
Autumn colours alongside the Peak Forest Canal near Marple
© Canal and River Trust

The flight of 16 locks at the Marple Lock Flight is a spectacular sight, one of the steepest flights in Britain. It is set within beautiful wooded countryside. At the top of the locks is the Marple Aqueduct, the highest aqueduct in England and a scheduled ancient monument. The aqueduct runs over the River Goyt and amidst this heavily wooded river valley the canal snakes through a mixture of mature beech trees and ancient semi natural woodland including oak, sycamore, horse chestnut and holly. The Peak Forest Canal is one of Britain’s most scenic waterways, running through magnificent landscape to the edge of the Peak District.

Getting there: parking available at Brabyns Park, Brabyns Brow, Marple Bridge, SK6 5DT.

Perry Barr Locks

Perry Barr Locks, Tame Valley Canal
Perry Barr Locks on the Tame Valley Canal
Andy Mabbett [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Tame Valley Canal are Located just to the west of Birmingham is a secret, secluded world, largely hidden from its built-up surroundings by high embankments and deep cuttings. Over the years these have developed and matured to create a beautifully wooded environment. The towpaths are open to walkers, cyclists and anglers making it a perfect urban escape. It runs for 8.5miles and at Perry Barr there is a series of 13 locks ascending to a former lock keepers’ cottage, gauging weir house and old stables. Nearby Perry Park and Sandwell Valley Country Park provide an oasis of woods, parkland, marsh and fields rich in wildlife that are great places for bird watching and seeing more of the autumn colours.

Getting there: parking available at Walsall Road, Great Barr, B42 1LT.

Trees were used to stabilise the banks of the canals making them ideal for an autumn walk - © Canal and River Trust

Other canals for autumn colour

Other canals for autumn colour recommended by the Canal and River Trust:

  • Trent & Mersey Canal, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire
  • River Trent, Stoke Lock & Woods, Stoke Bardolph, Nottinghamshire
  • Lancaster Canal, Lune Aqueduct, Lancaster, Lancashire
  • Pocklington Canal, Pocklington, Yorkshire
Canal in autumn - (c) Canal and River Trust

The Canal & River Trust is the guardian of 2,000 miles of historic waterways across England and Wales, caring for the nation’s third largest collection of listed structures, as well as museums, archives, and hundreds of important wildlife sites.

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