About the Grand Western Canal
The Grand Western Canal and the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal are the remains of James Brindley’s ambitious project to bypass the tricky sea passage around Land’s End. The summit level of the Grand Western Canal from Tiverton to Lowdwells was built first and opened in 1814. Plans to continue towards Taunton were shelved until the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal opened in 1827. Although the summit level was able to take wide beam boats carrying 40 tons, the linking canal was built for small tub-boats about 20ft long carrying only 8 tons. It opened in 1838 with seven vertical locks and an inclined plane. This section closed in 1867 but traffic continued on the summit level until 1925.
The 11 miles (18km) of the Grand Western Canal remaining in water is the original summit level and has been owned by Devon County Council since it was sold by British Waterways in 1971. Restoration started immediately and the isolated canal reopened to navigation later that year. It is managed as a country park stretching between Tiverton and Lowdwells on the Somerset border. Initially powered boats were excluded but are now allowed.
[Photo: Wilderness Boats on the Grand Western Canal – by Peter Huish]
[The tile photo shows canoeists at Lowdwells – by Alison Smedley]