Devon County Council


AINA Representative: Mr Mark Baker - Canal Manager

The Moorings
Canal Hill
EX16 4HX

Telephone: 01884 254072
Fax: 01884 255935


Constitutional status 

Local authority.

Description of navigation

The navigation consists of an isolated, rural canal, situated within a Country Park.

A brief history of the navigation


There was always an interest in creating a route from the Bristol Channel to the English Channel, and legislation was passed in 1796 but work did not begin until 1810. The first section from Lowdwells to Tiverton was open by 1814 but the continuation to Taunton, using vertical lifts and an inclined plane, was not completed until 1838. The whole canal was 24.5 miles long. The Lowdwells to Taunton section was abandoned in the mid 1800’s with the arrival of the Bristol to Exeter railway.

Current situation and use

Today the 11 miles between Tiverton and Lowdwells is owned by Devon County Council and it is called the Grand Western Canal Country Park and Local Nature Reserve. The County Park is also a County Wildlife Site and a planning Conservation Area. It is a haven of peace where a gentle walk allows you to appreciate the wildlife all around.

The Tiverton Canal Company run a horse-drawn trip boat and floating cafe-bar and hires out electric boats, rowing boats and Canadian canoes from the Canal Basin in Tiverton. A photograph of the horse-drawn barge won the 2011 BBC Countryfile photographic competition, raising the profile of the canal considerably .

Between 2002 – 2007 the majority of the canal was dredged and all of the towpath has been resurfaced. Visitor facilities and site fabric have been markedly improved and the Country Park has been strongly supported by its owner, Devon County Council, and its co-funder, Mid Devon District Council.

Boating is increasing popular on the canal, thanks to the construction of a slipway and the operation of a moorings business. Boaters must buy a permit before they launch (see website for details). In 2008, the Canal hosted the 2008 IWA National Trailboat Festival, which attracted boaters and visitors from around the country and raised the profile of the Canal tremendously.


The Canal is a popular location for anglers as there is a wide range of coarse fish in the canal including roach, perch, pike, bream and tench. Angling rights are leased to the Tiverton & District Angling Club which sells permits at the local fishing shop in Tiverton.

The towpath forms part of National Cycle Route 3, and considerate cycling is promoted. Cycle Hire is available from Abbotshood Cycle Hire, based beside the Canal in Halberton.

Plans for the future

At the time of writing (Feb 2012), several significant projects are either underway or about to commence:

  • A four year DCC capital funded project to inspect, clean and repair all of the Canal’s siphon culverts is approaching the end of its thrid year
  • Construction of a new visitor centre in the Canal Basin in Tiverton has commenced and is due to be completed in early June 2012.  An official opening is targetted for the start of the summer holidays;
  • A project to construct a new reed bed / silt trap complex to reduce nutrient and silt inputs at the point where a stream flows into the canal, beside Fenacre Bridge is progressing well.  The purchase of the land required for the reed bed has been completed.  The next stage is to secure EA consents and planning permission before construction is undertaken in the summer / autumn of 2012.
  • Once these projects are completed thoughts will turn to the celebration of the Canal’s bicentenery in 2014, and to the creation of a new children’s play area in the Canal Basin.

How we consult with our users

The Grand Western Canal Joint Advisory Committee meets twice a year to discuss issues relating to the Country Park. It is chaired alternatively by members of the two principal funding bodies – Devon County Council and Mid Devon District Council – with all the local stakeholder organisations represented on the Committee. Members of the public are welcome to attend meetings and raise questions. A visitor survey was undertaken in 2010 and will be repeated in 2013.

How we are structured

The Canal Manager reports to the Chief Assistant Engineer in the Area East Team, whose chain of command runs up through the Network Management department of the County Council’s Environment, Economy and Culture Directorate:

Place Directorate
Devon Highways
Public Rights of Way and Country Parks Team
Canal Manager
2 Rangers

Navigation statistics

Length/area of navigable waterway


Number of locks




Unlimited - most winding holes ar around 60 ft or sometimes more


2.1m (7 ft)


1.1m (3ft 6ins)


2.7m (7ft 3ins)

Boating statistics

12 month period

Boat Type







Privately owned

Hire – day boats





Hire – overnight stay/timeshare





Hire – trip boat/ restaurant/passenger





Hire – hotel





Other business/charity boats





Requirements for boating

Boat Safety Scheme


Third Party Insurance