Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Grand Western Canal

Like the Somerset Coal Canal and the Bude Canal, here is another remote and land-locked West Country waterway, which was visited by John while staying in West Somerset, but which is off limits to Patience without the help of a low-loader.

The Grand Western Canal currently runs 11 miles through the beautiful mid-Devon countryside, from Tiverton in the west to Loudwells at its eastern end.  The Grand Western Canal was part of a planned 46 mile link from Topsham on the River Exe to Taunton, where it connected with the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal and, had it been completed through to Topsham, would have provided a link between the Bristol Channel and the English Channel. The Tiverton section opened in 1814 and for more than 100 years carried limestone from quarries at Holcombe to extensive lime kilns at Tiverton Basin, where quicklime was produced as a fertiliser.  However,  the section to Topsham was never built and by the mid 19th century the Tiverton to Taunton section was facing competition from Brunel's Great Western Railway.  It finally closed in 1924.

In recent years, the 11 mile lock-free section from Tiverton to Loudwells has been restored by Devon County Council as part of a country park. A few private narrow boats and day boats use it, as does a wide-beam horse drawn trip boat, the 'Tivertonian'.
Near Manley bridge there is a memorial to the two-man crew of an RAF Canberra bomber, which crashed into the canal on 21 November 1961 while on a training flight from Germany.

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