It's that time of year when time is at a premium, the hours of daylight are minimal and yet there is that nagging desire to just get out and have some fresh air and exercise.
Here is the perfect short walk, and with enough of a climb along the way to ensure some decent exercise. From Dundas Wharf, where the finest aqueduct in Southern England stands alongside the junction of the Kennet & Avon Canal with the long defunct Somerset Coal Canal, the walk climbs steeply uphill to the former quarrying settlement of Conkwell. The K&A was the lifeline that carried the local stone far and wide. A quiet lane drops downhill through the ancient Warleigh Wood before the grand finale, a riverside path alongside the Avon deep in the valley bottom. And if there is time at journey's end, explore a short restored section of the Somerset Coal Canal to find the Angelfish Restaurant and enjoy maybe coffee or a creamed tea or a delicious light lunch.
Distance: 3 miles
Start: Lay-by on the A36 above Dundas Aqueduct (GR784626)
Maps: OS Landranger 172 or OS Explorer 155
Getting there: Follow the A36 south from Bath for five miles before parking in a lay-by on the left above Dundas Wharf, just before a garage on the left and 250 yards before the traffic lights at the junction with the B3108 road to Bradford-on-Avon.
1. Walk to the Bath end of the lay-by and follow a narrow enclosed footpath on the right down to Dundas Wharf. Turn left and walk along to a footbridge, cross the canal and turn right. Follow a canalside path that shortly bears left to cross Dundas Aqueduct. Beyond the aqueduct, follow a path to the left of a shed up to a stile. Continue along a track for 25 yards before turning left into a hillside field. Walk diagonally across the middle of this field up to a stile in its top right corner by a water trough. Follow the right edge of the next field, woodland on the right, up to a gate and stile. Continue along a path up to the lane in Conkwell, before continuing uphill to a junction at the top of this hamlet.
2. Turn left and continue for 300 yards to a junction by a small green. Turn left and follow a quiet lane through Warleigh Woods. Follow this lane for ¾ mile to a drive on the left leading to a property called Tanglewood. In another 25 yards, turn left along a driveway to Sheephouse Farm. At the far end of the farmyard, just past the last barn on the right, follow an enclosed path down to a handgate. Walk down the left edge of a hillside field to a gate on the left in 25 yards, pass through this gateway and follow a path downhill through scrubland to reach a footbridge and stile in the valley bottom.
3. Follow a riverside path for ¾ mile through the valley, crossing a couple of footbridges along the way, to reach a stile and one final field before Dundas Aqueduct. Cross this field, making for a stile on the far side of the field to the left of the Monkton Combe School Rowing Club. Continue up some steps to the K&A Canal, turn right and cross Dundas Aqueduct and continue to the footbridge crossed at the outset. Cross the canal, turn left and, having passed the crane by Dundas Wharf, follow that rough stepped path on the right back to the lay-by.