Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Bude Canal

While walking another section of the South West Coast Path in North Cornwall, John stayed a couple of nights in the small coastal town of Bude and spent some time exploring the Bude Canal, another waterway that is inaccessible to Patience.

The sea lock in Bude

The non-tidal basin above the sea lock
The Bude Canal was completed in 1825 and ran from a sea lock (first photo) in Bude to Blagdon Moor Wharf near Holsworthy, with another branch to Launceston, a total length of approximately 35 miles. It was built to transport lime-rich sand from the beach to improve the condition of agricultural land in North Cornwall.  A narrow gauge railway track (still visible) allowed the sand to be hauled up to the canal basin. The sand was then transported on the canal in iron tubs, which had wheels attached so that they could be hauled up a series of six water-powered inclined planes. In its final form, the sea lock had a length of 116 ft and a width of 29 ft 6 in and could accommodate sailing vessels of up to 300 tons, enabling the first stretch of the canal to be used as a non-tidal basin, a purpose that continues to this day (second photo). However, with competition from the railways and the introduction of chemical fertilisers, the remainder of the canal fell into disuse, apart from the first couple of miles at the seaward end. The sea lock underwent a major restoration project in 2000.  More information can be found in the Bude Canal and Harbour Society website.  As the sand was transported to the canal by a short narrow gauge railway and rails were used to lift the tubs up the inclined planes, it begs the question as to why rails weren't used along the whole route. Although steam locomotives were in their infancy in 1825, horse drawn tramways were well established by this time.