The Grand Western Canal

Traditional Horse-drawn barge, Tiverton, The Grand Western Canal.
Traditional Horse-drawn barge, Tiverton, The Grand Western Canal.

The Grand Western Canal meanders for 11¼ miles through beautiful countryside and quiet villages between the market town of Tiverton and the hamlet of Lowdwells. Known to locals as the ‘Tiverton Canal’, the Grand Western is now a nature reserve and home to many species of wild life.

The original plans where for the canal to link the English and Bristol channels allowing shipping to avoid the long and dangerous journey by sea around the Cornish peninsular and promised to better connect the heart of Devon and Somerset to the outside world.

The first stretch of the canal was opened in 1814 but because the project had run into financial difficulty it wasn’t until 1838 that the next section was completed. By this time hope of the Canal reaching the English Channel had been abandoned. The Grand Western Canal enjoyed a brief period of profitability in the 1840s when it was busy carrying limestone and coal. The coming of the Bristol to Exeter Railway however, brought competition and signalled a downturn. In 1865, with mounting losses and declining trade, the Canal’s eastern section from Taunton to Lowdwells was sold and abandoned.

In the 1960s plans were drawn-up to fill in a portion of the Canal in Tiverton, and use the land for residential development. This caused local people to form a ‘Save the Canal’ campaign, which was fought and won. Devon County Council took on ownership and declared it a Country Park in 1971.

This is a very pretty little canal, we have free parked in little parking spaces just off the canal and stayed at a cheap little site near Sampford Peverall, either is good. Not yet managed to walk the whole canal, but what we have walked we enjoyed.