Heading across the Mendip hills towards the city of Bath the River Avon meanders through the town of Bradford-on-Avon. At the same time the Kennet and Avon Canal intersects the river in the town. The busy centre of the town has a muddle of small lanes, tight corners, steeped in history and evolving with time.
Tucked away is the ancient Saxon Church of St Laurence. Unusual in that it has never been modified or altered, it is a very tall and empty space. No-one is really sure when or why it was built but it certainly oozes the past. Inside there are two small cells and a porticus to the north (the south porticos is long gone). Right next door is the relatively modern Holy Trinity Church. Built in the about the 12th Century, this is about 300 years newer than the Saxon church – a bit of a mad thought!
Bradford-on-Avon Town Bridge and the Mill
The main bridge along the river from the churches has an unusual structure. Originally built in the 1400’s and updated in the 18th century some of the old pillars remain. On one of the cut-waters is a small lock-up, used to house prisoners in the 17th Century. On top of the cell is a weather vane with a fish called the Bradford Gudgeon. The bridge is continually bustling as it has done for centuries. However tucked under the bridge was a lovely surprise. A pair of swans who were next building on my first visit, but on my return three fresh and large eggs, the start of the next generation.
From the bridge, the industrial heritage of the town is visible with the old mill reflecting in the still surface of the river.
Following the river away from the town towards the canal, a footpath takes you under the railway line and immediately after the bridge the ancient Tithe Barn comes into view. This is a large monastic barn which is 51metres long. The roof is an amazing design. With great wood detail and sunlight spilling through the doorways, it is an impressive structure given its 700-years of existence.
Kennet and Avon Canal
Directly behind the Tithe Barn is the Kennet and Avon Canal. This waterway runs from Bath to Newbury but ultimately links the Bristol Channel to London via Reading and the Thames. The tow path behind the Tithe Barn is really close to the Bradford on Avon Lock which has a lovely tea room. The lock is busy with boats passing along the canal. There is also wildlife with birds busy nesting all along the tow path. The walking along the canal is easy and flat and the tow path is clear. The only dilemma is how far to walk. This can be decided quite easily if you find Widbrook Grange.
Widbrook Grange Hotel
A short walk along the canal from the Bradford Lock is the Widbrook Grange Hotel. Perfectly placed for walking in to town or exploring further along the canal without a car (always a bonus!) the hotel is a tranquil spot. This beautiful Georgian building was originally a model farm but has been renovated and is now a quirky, but really cosy hotel.
The rooms are beautiful with old furniture and gorgeous touches as well as a warm swimming pool.
The grounds are lovely and had some unusual finds tucked around corners. First thing in the morning the front lawn was busy with rabbits and from my bedroom it was lovely to watch the blackbirds squabbling over their ladies.
The food was gorgeous, both breakfast and dinner were a lovely experience with ‘pretty’ food all locally sourced, flowers and shapes making it a visual experience.
This brief visit to Bradford-on-Avon was a lovely escape. There is so much to do and it is a great base for exploring both Bath and Salisbury as well as an amazing overnight stop whilst walking the Kennet and Avon canal. I was invited to stay at the Widbrook Grange Hotel and it was a delight to stay and share my time with them, with you.