Picturesque run or jog beside canal
For decades, the Wiltshire village of Semington was blighted by heavy traffic. Its main street was literally the A350, that major trunk route that carries a steady stream of lorries from the M4 motorway to the South Coast ports of Poole and Southampton.
In April 2004, a bypass was opened bringing a huge sense of relief to the villagers.
The main street now has an almost ghostly feel, bringing the residents the chance to stand and chat without putting life and limb at risk.
The downside, however, has been for the local businesses with the village shop being but the most obvious victim of the bypass.
If you do take time to detour and explore the village, take time to explore the village, there is much to catch the eye. St George's Church, for example, is mostly a rebuilding of 1860 and is chiefly characterised by a rather fine bell-turret – 'of the type of Leigh Delamere and Biddestone' to quote Nikolaus Pevsner. There is also the handsome Manor Farm House that dates from 1698, where architectural types will be taken with the windows of two lights with their typical stepped-back mouldings, as well as a doorway with what is known as a 'bolection' moulding.
Just off of the main street is the former St George's Hospital, itself a one-time workhouse. One guidebook notes how it is typical of the coming of the Victorian age with its classical and Grecian motifs being clumsy and extremely heavy.
The walk heads out to Seend along the banks of the K&A Canal. In Semington, its main features are a pair of locks as well as a diminutive aqueduct that crosses Semington Brook.
Although most of the evidence has gone, this was also the junction of the K&A with the long defunct Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal.
Seend is a pretty enough place – and well worth exploring in its own right.
The village is located on a ridge which makes for a fine outlook all around.
Were you to make the admittedly lengthy detour to the church, there is an expansive view in a southerly direction across the Vale of Steeple Ashton towards the fringes of Salisbury Plain.
To the north – and on the walk – the view extends across the Avon Vale towards Spye Park and Bowden Hill.
The village was also the site of a significant iron works in the latter part of the 19th-century.
The Barge Inn marks the start of the return to Semington by way of the Kennet & Avon Canal.
This is a tranquil and little explored section of the waterway, a complete contrast with the hustle and bustle of the towpath between Bath and Bradford on Avon.
The abundance of swing bridges is evidence that the arrival of the canal was something of an intrusion in this former rural backwater.
One writer talks of the K&A being 'a raw scar cut through old farming communities and their rural preoccupations'.
The same writer – Niall Allsop in his guidebook to the canal – continues by saying that 'the scars have healed and even the more industrial backdrop that was borne out of the canal hereabouts is today but a memory treasured by the few'.
Back in Semington village, one business that has worked hard to overcome the lack of passing traffic is the Somerset Arms.
The website talks of 'roaring fires, comfy sofas and a friendly atmosphere with an excellent and well appraised restaurant that offers a delightful menu with interesting dishes created from fresh local ingredients'.
It might sound like a copy writer's clichés but here is one pub where the reality matches the hype.