Thursday, 12 September 2013

Dawdling in Devizes

Wadworth's impressive brewery dominates the town
We are passing a few days here waiting for our travelling pal, Mac, to catch up. And what a pleasant little, old fashioned country town it is too. It has its own brewery (Wadworth's), independent cinema, market and, of course, canal. What more can you ask for in a small town?
Today, like many similar towns, it looks a little frayed round the shirt cuffs but clearly it wasn't always this way to judge by the many handsome and ornate sandstone buildings that dot the streetscapes around the place. Apparently the place has no less than 500 listed buildings!
Handsome buildings can be seen in every street
The town's wealth and status originated in the wool and cloth trades, then it grew to become the largest corn market in the south west and, thanks to the canal, a centre of transport.
These days it seems quieter and a little sleepy – the Beeching axe that closed its railway line didn't help, though it has kept the 'commuter-isation' of the place at bay and so it retains more individuality and charm than many.
The indoor market
Today the town was bustling; it was market day – and a chance to be reminded what proper vegetables look like (e.g. in all shapes and sizes). We picked up a massive cauliflower, a couple of punnets of strawberries, many of which would have been rejected by Tesco for not being designer-strawb styling, and some excellent cheese.
There's an indoor market too of smaller stalls and a little tea-bar largely occupied by old dears in wheelchairs.
It reminded me of visits to Bury St Edmunds market before the old covered market was knocked down and replaced by a shopping mall as part of the town's gentrification.
Town wharf and K&A Trust centre
We are moored opposite Devizes Wharf, home of the energetic Wharf Theatre and the Kennet&Avon Trust canal museum and cafe. And what a fascinating little museum it is too, telling the full history of the waterway and detailing the massive efforts, largely by volunteers, that were needed to bring it back to life. I had no idea just how derelict it had become - all bar a dozen or so of its hundred locks had fallen into disrepair, the famous pumping engine houses were in ruin, wharves like the one at Devizes were crumbling into decay and even the famous Caen Hill flight was in a perilous state.
We took a walk down the famous 29 locks to psych ourselves up for the trip down them at the weekend. I'm not sure that wasn't a mistake....


  1. We used to live not far from Devizes (Frome)and in those days traffic made it a chaotic town. But like most Wiltshire towns the bypass has helped. Don't mention it to Jean...she failed her driving test here twice. Enjoy your land based will make a change for Brian.

  2. Kevin,
    Are you intending passing through Bath and down into Bristol?
    NB Fruit of The Vine

    1. Yes we are. Also contemplating the trip up to sharpness though that is obviously rather weather dependent.....and the weather is certainly pretty ropey today!

  3. Let me know when you are in Bristol and I'll come down to the docks and tell you about our experience coming the other way from Sharpness to Bristol.