Connecting Tiverton and Tauton by water, the Grand Western Canal was built in the early 19th century to transport limestone, but was never particularly successful and became obsolete with the coming of the railways. The remaining 18km section between Tiverton and Lowdwells is a good place for walking or cycling along by the canal, passing by fields and through villages.
I hired a bike from Sampford Peverall in the middle of the canal and cycled out to Halberton for lunch, and toward Lowdwells afterwards, before returning the bike and travelling into Tiverton, the commercial and administrative centre of mid-Devon, for an afternoon explore.
The canal is now a Country Park and Local Nature Reserve, and being perfectly flat and scenic makes for pleasant cycling.
The morning was particularly still, offering good reflections on the water.
There were plenty of bridges of various size and design crossing over the canal.
I only saw one canal boat, understandable given the limited destination options. The original plan was to connect up with other waterways to allow goods to travel to port in Bristol, but it failed due to escalating costs and limited demand.
I left the canal at Halberton for lunch at the Swan’s Neck Cafe, part of a local farm.
There were plenty of views of rolling fields, and the back garden of this gnome obsessive.
People have lived in the Tiverton area since the Stone Age but the town really started to grow in the 16th and 17th centuries from the wool industry, and later from lace making at the Heathcoat factory. It is now a popular place to live for those working in Exeter and Tauton. The canal is much wider here and rather scenic.
The colourful new houses are the St George’s Court development, which were due to be completed in 2020 but were still going in mid 2022.
The town centre is a real mixture, but is home to rather nice heritage buildings.
To finish with St Peter’s Church, which was undergoing renovation but the exterior was attractive. The church dates from 1073 but underwent several restorations in Victorian times.