We recently picked up on a fantastic piece in the Travel section of the Telegraph, all about Bradford on Avon and thought we’d just repost Sarah’s lovely article for you here… nothing like a good bit of free advertising!….
Bradford-on-Avon: Cotswolds and canals without the crowds
17 MAY 2018 • 4:32PM
As the sunshine descends on the honey-stone of Bath, so do the crowds. But just 11 minutes away by train is the historic market town of Bradford-on-Avon.
It’s a little bit of Bath-lite with its bucolic views of the river, canal and Cotswold fringes, fine old buildings, a raft of good places to eat – but with fewer tourists. It’s full of independents too, with barely a chain in sight. Late May sees the start of the Arts Festival at Iford Manor (ifordarts.org.uk), where opera and jazz are performed in the Italianate cloister.
It might make your home-town jealous
Bradford-on-Avon is almost too good-looking. Built on six centuries of wool and weaving wealth, the town’s fine mix of medieval-shonky and Georgian-grand buildings tumble idyllically down the valley and around the river, hugged by soul-stirring English countryside. Its lanes are dotted with delis, cafés and boutiques so shoppers can browse for hours, despite the town’s compact size. Walkers are truly spoiled with all the glorious rolling hills, while the delightfully flat Kennet and Avon Canal towpath is accessible to all.
For the princely sum of 20p (or free from bradfordheritage.co.uk), you can pick up a self-guided tour of the town. Begin at the small Bradford-on-Avon Museum (bradfordonavonmuseum.co.uk; free) and stroll via the Norman-era Town Bridge, narrow Shambles, Saxon church (built around AD 700) and many handsome 17th and 18th-century houses.
Do take the time to nose in some of those interesting independents. Stop at the Doghouse, a pet shop-cum-café (doghouseboa.co.uk), buy a chunk of Bath Blue from friendly Christophe in The Cheese Shop (cheese-shop.co.uk), get a new/old look at Instant Vintage or find unusual gifts in Strawberry Blue (strawberrybluehome.co.uk) or Made In Bradford, a collective of local artisans’ wares in the old vaults (madeinbradfordonavon.co.uk).
Take a steep, but worthwhile, detour up to Newtown and the Tory to see old weavers’ cottages and views to Salisbury Plain and the Westbury White Horse. Continue up to reach the Wiltshire Music Centre (wiltshiremusic.org.uk).
It’s a hop and a skip to the countryside
To the south of the town centre, reachable via a short, leafy walk along the river, is Barton Farm Country Park (wiltshire.gov.uk; free). Here, the river is guarded by a Second World War pillbox and spanned by the packhorse bridge. This once allowed goods to be carted across to the Tithe Barn (english-heritage.org.uk; free), a magnificent 14th-century limestone grange with a timber cruck roof – one of the best-preserved in the country. It sits within a complex of old agricultural buildings, which now house craft workshops, antique stores and a tea room (tithebarnartscrafts.co.uk).
Beyond the farmyard, there are picnic areas, wild flowers and the Kennet and Avon Canal. An easy mile-long walk leads to Grade II listed Avoncliff Aqueduct and the homemade scones of No. 10 Tea Gardens (avonclifftea.com). Follow the canal via the grand Dundas Aqueduct, another eight miles (13km) and you’ll end up in Bath.
But there are plenty of walking options including the Bradford-on-Avon Wheel (walkbradfordonavon.org; map £5), a 42-mile (68km) network of waymarked trails encircling the town. There’s a six-mile (10km) inner wheel and a 22-mile (35km) outer wheel, with various “spokes” linking the two. En route lie pretty villages (Monkton Farleigh, Limpley Stoke), National Trust properties such as 15th-century Great Chalfield Manor (nationaltrust.org.uk; £6.20 for adults, £3.10 for children), country pubs such as the New Inn (thenewinnwestwood.co.uk) and glorious countryside. The annual Walking Festival (August 31-Sept 2 2018) is a good time to get out and explore.
Bike lovers may prefer the Cycling Festival (July 14-15; boacyclingfestival.com), which includes a family-friendly sportive and a race up Market Street – a thigh-busting elevation gain of 144ft in 500yd (45m). Flat and traffic-free, the canal is perfect for easy rides. Bikes can be hired from the Towpath Trail Hire Centre (ttcycles.co.uk; one-day hire £18 for adults, £12 for children), which also rents family-size Canadian canoes (£12 per hour). Alternatively, take to the water by barge – boat trips aboard the Barbara McLellan run on selected dates from Bradford to Avoncliff or Hilperton (bmac.katrust.org.uk; from £5).
Worked up an appetite?
Interesting new eateries open quite regularly – next will be Il Ponte. For now, try the Weaving Shed (weaving-shed.co.uk; from £13 for mains), which serves seasonal brunches, lunches and dinners in its big-windowed dining room or on its riverside terrace; fat burgers and Cornish fish pie sit alongside fancier Creedy Carver duck breast and Bromham broccoli and chestnut stew.
Pablo’s (pablostapas.com; from £4 for tapas dishes) does proper Spanish sharing plates. There’s lots of choice for veggies, plus authentic fish and meat options.
After a long day
Timbrell’s Yard (telegraph.co.uk/tt-timbrells-yard; doubles from £95) is an 18th-century industrialist’s house turned smart pub-with-rooms, right in the heart of Bradford. The restaurant’s menu is a big draw, featuring largely West Country produce, from Quantock venison to Bath Soft Cheese.
Woolley Grange (telegraph.co.uk/tt-woolley-grange; doubles from £120) is a grand option for families. The 17th-century manor, a 25-minute walk along the canal from Bradford, has a kids’ club, crèche, toy boxes and an indoor pool. In the garden there’s another pool (heated in summer), a maze a tree swing and more.
Bradford-on-Avon | Know before you go
The Tithe Barn has proven a popular period backdrop. It featured in the BBC’s Eighties classic series Robin of Sherwood as well as Wolf Hall (2014) and the Drama channel’s The White Princess (2017). In 2009 film Creation, in which Paul Bettany starred as Charles Darwin, Bradford stood in for the town of Malvern.
A distinctly British sense of fun
Locals are cashing in on the Kennet and Avon with a series of floating markets throughout 2018 (July 28-29, Dec 1-2; facebook.com/kacanalfloatingmarket).
- The unofficial town icon is the Bradford Gudgeon, a type of freshwater fish
- Henry Shrapnel, inventor of the explosive shell, was born in Bradford -on-Avon in 1761