Walks in and around Monkton Combe
Bridging the gap - by Nigel Vile
General description - printable version (1 x A4)
Distance: 3 miles
"It was deep in a valley that we crossed a beautiful aqueduct, where the canal passed over the River Avon. We were very impressed by the grandeur of the structure set in such glorious surroundings". These thoughts were penned by some early navigators as they approached Bath on the Kennet and Avon Canal. The glorious surroundings were the steep wooded slopes of the Limpley Stoke Valley, whilst the structure was Dundas Aqueduct. Constructed in the Doric style, this is surely the finest existing testimony to the skills of John Rennie, the canal's chief engineer. From Dundas, where a stone warehouse and adjoining crane mark the junction of the K&A with the Somerset Coal Canal, the walk follows lanes through Monkton Combe, best known for its public school, founded in the 19th century by a local clergyman for the training of the sons of missionaries. The former woollen mills on the Midford Brook below the school speak of an earlier chapter in the village's history.
A steep climb of over 250 feet, up and over a wooded hillside spur, brings the walk to the neighbouring valley and the village of Limpley Stoke. This is a settlement full of houses with views, set against the steep sides of the Avon Valley. The residences have been described as 'Bathish in appearance' and are built across the hillside to take advantage of the exceptional vistas down the valley. There is also the small matter of the Hop Pole Inn, a 14th century hostelry that is a regular entry in the Good Pub Guide. The picture book cream stone exterior of this former monks' wine lodge has its name deeply incised in the front wall. Having passed the white-painted former railway half, the walk returns to Dundas along a stretch of the K&A Canal that will surely have visitors reaching for their dictionary of superlatives.
On one side, the slopes of Conkwell Wood tumble down to the canal bank, their green and rustic richness contrasting with the flat meadows and pastures bordering the Avon to the west.
As you cross Dundas Aqueduct at journey's end, gaze over the solid parapets of this fine construction. Local legend maintains that boys from Monkton Combe School at one time cycled along those narrow cornices that overhang the river flowing far below. At least a tumble would result in a soft - if somewhat damp - landing!