VISITING the GRAND WESTERN
Many visitors will start at Tiverton Basin, the western end of the Devon section. Here you will find a modern visitor centre with interactive displays that appeal to young & old alike, refreshments (in normal times!) and the start of a magical trip on Tivertonian, one of the country's last remaining horse-drawn barges.
There is also a recently added and very popular boat-themed children's playground but, however beguiling you may find the attractions of the basin, it repays hands down to venture along the towpath to the less-frequented parts. Heading out of Tiverton towards Halberton, you will find a car park beside the Tiverton Road Bridge. This is a great place for a picnic and to start a walk through the secluded loop of the canal known evocatively as the 'Swan's neck'. You can return to the car park via a recently created footpath from the farm shop in Halberton, which makes a good afternoon's circuit.
If you have your own boat, and need a slipway, then look no further than at Boehill, close to the A377 just east of Sampford Peverell. You'll need a licence from Devon CC (this canal is not covered by CRT permits), which can be obtained from the office in the basin, the Sampford Peverell shop and some other outlets (check the DCC website via the swan logo link in the page header).
A visit to Lowdwells, at the eastern end of the Devon section, is a must for those with a good map or reliable sat-nav (look for postcode TA21 0JY). This is where construction paused in 1814 and where one of only two locks was built. These days, there's a secluded car park, picnic bench and some delightful walking among the wild flowers, coots, moorhens, dabchicks and, if you are lucky kingfishers.
The interpretation board at Lowdwells also gives details of another great circular walk that takes you eastwards along the dry Somerset section and brings you back via Appley to the Waytown Tunnel, a circuit of 5-6 miles. On the way you'll pass the location of Greenham lift, just 400m from Lowdwells, which, at 42ft was the highest of Green's lifts. Sadly, nothing remains but the top and bottom basins can be made out. Just past Cothay Manor you can detour briefly to check out the restored Jayes Cutting.
The image shows the start of the walk at Lowdwells. The embankment of the dry canal is visible as the tree line to the right of this picture and the Greenham Lift site is just beyond the far field boundary. look for the masonry abutments of the cast iron aqueduct that once took the canal over the lane just to the right of the gateway in the photo. Unless it's a particularly dry spell, you will probably need waterproof footwear for this part of the walk!
Harder to spot, but rewarding when you do, are the wharf at Greenham (just beyond the road) and the occasional culvert beneath the old earthworks.
You could follow the canal to Nynehead, beyond Wellington, but would need to work out how to get back. The Friends sometimes sets up this walk with return lifts. The Wellisford Incline, a rare over-bridge at Harpford and the delightful half mile Long copse wood are all along this section, which ends at the Nynehead Lift site. The remnants of the lift (in photo) are adjacent to a public footpath but parking there is limited (it's on private land) so a visit, while very worthwhile, needs planning.
There's far more to see than we have space to describe here and we can only encourage visitors to explore. The Grand Western Canal is a venue that keeps giving!