Having recently moved to the South of the country, I am lucky enough to be trading one beautiful landscape for another.
From the dramatic highland hills of Aberdeenshire to the picture-perfect coastlines and lush fields of Devon, it is such a privilege to have so much impressive countryside to explore.
More than ever, the pandemic has taught us all too well the saving grace that can be getting out into nature, not only for our physical health but also for our mental wellbeing, hence why it is so important to both ramble and rediscover such excellent spots right on our very doorstep.
I originally stumbled upon the Grand Western Canal at a section called the Swan Neck in Halberton and was amazed to find that the entirety of the canal stretches 11 ¼ miles, all the way from the market town of Tiverton to Lowdwells. Here one can expect to see a stretch of forestry, rolling fields, canal boats and much more.
Celebrated as a local Nature reserve, the canal is also home to an array of vibrant wildlife that inhabit its banks. Particularly in the warmer months, moorhens, mute swans and mallards can be spotted from the towpath. Similar to Scotland, it is a great sight to see herons spearing fish in the water and kingfishers darting blue across the canal surface.
The canal visitor’s centre can be found in the Basin of the canal in Tiverton. Here you can find a family-friendly spot, which tells the history of the canal through a collection of interactive exhibits, films and games that uncover 200 years of history.
What was once a busy passageway for the trade of limestone, and coal in the 1840s, the canal was almost lost entirely due to competition brought by the Bristol to Exeter Railways.
However, it was the ‘Save the Canal’ campaign in the 1960s that saved the day, eventually resulting in the declaration of the canal as a Country Park. Slowly, in time, it has become the spectacle it is today. Open to much activity and excitement.
I have noted that it is not simply walkers, but cyclists too who frequent the pathway, as well as canoeists, kayaks and paddle boarders that take to the canal waters.
In summer, holidaymakers can easily hire bikes from the Globe Inn in Sampford Peverell, as well as the Prince of Wales pub in Holcombe, providing a picturesque setting for a leisurely bike ride and picnic.
At the canal basin, there even exists one of Britain’s last horse-drawn barges, ‘pulling the past into the future,’ bringing history to life and providing a truly unique experience.
One popular dog walking route and personal favourite is that of the Swan’s Neck Circular walk. Approximately 2 ¼ miles, the walk takes you under charming bridges and offers views that span the beautiful fields of Halberton, where an array of vibrant seasonal vegetables are grown.
Whilst life slowly returns to normal post-pandemic and the smell of spring is just on the horizon, we can look forward to taking advantage of all that places such as the Grand Western Canal have to offer, at little to no cost at all.
This summer, I will certainly challenge myself to walk the entirety of the canal. A place to learn, discover and lose oneself in nature. It is important not to forget these little treasures of Mid Devon that make the area such a pleasure to live in.
Besides writing, Natasha is a keen yogi and loves all things nature and hiking. Having recently moved from Scotland, she now works at her partner’s family-run business, Halberton Court Farm Shop, where she enjoys the excitement of farm life and exploring all that Devonshire life has to offer.
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