Kayaking The Grand Western Canal

What do you do if you are desperate to go for a paddle but a howling wind has messed up the sea and torrential overnight rain means the rivers are also innaccessible?

You swallow your pride and go canal paddling. I plumped for the Grand Western Canal at Tiverton because it should offer the best shelter from the wind. My trip started off well as I had a close encounter with a kingfisher…..

Unusually friendly Kingfisher
Unusually friendly Kingfisher

It was good to be flogging along at a good lick in my Paddleyak Swift but I am at fault in thinking I am Olympic class and burn myself out too early.

Perfect canal paddling
Perfect canal paddling

Today was no exception so by the time I had thundered up to Tiverton and half way back again I had to have an emergency stop on the edge of the golf course. This part of the canal is actually rather stunning as it executes a huge loop following the contours of the land in an effort to avoid having to have a lock. Irritatingly I ran into an area of thick duckweed which had a treacle like effect on my progress.

The green slime
The green slime

I soon demolished a couple of ham sandwiches,which never taste too good on winter kayak trips,and downed a thermos of coffee which was a mistake as my drysuit has no comfort zip.

I like my wilderness experiences so was a bit irritated that the canal towpath had been turned into part of the national cycle network and was buzzing with cyclists and walkers with yippy dogs. One which was a bit like a rabid wolf hurled itself at me as I  paddled past but fortunately it lost all its ferocious zest once in the water and just looked like a floundering doormat.

I passed a family of swans and the enormous cygnets still made a ridiculous squeeky babyish whistling noise. They’ll get a nasty shock when they get their marching orders from their parents in late winter.

Swan Family
Swan Family

I was determined to paddle the entire eleven mile length of the canal but it was hard to pass my car at the seven mile mark and carry on. A deep cutting containing the old lime kilns culminated in the very narrow Westcott tunnel and just peeped through before heading for home.

Westcott Tunnel
Westcott Tunnel

The one hour return paddle to my car was interminably tedious as only canal paddling can be .I was fairly pooped anyway and it was made worse by a nasty squall and accompanying headwind,and another ferociously yapping,but tiny,dog that wanted to cock its leg on my kayak as I got out.

Was it really worth paddling 22 miles on such a grotty day?…….as always, Yes.


3 thoughts on “Kayaking The Grand Western Canal

  1. Hi, can you tell me where is best to put in on the canal, and were you able to park near by. Thanks

    1. Hi Graham,

      yes there is a car park right beside the canal where the road crosses to the west of holbeton, and this provides access to what I consider the most scenic part of the waterway where it contours the land in a huge loop.

      Near the other end there is a handy canalside car park at Burlescombe.

      Neither have any charge!



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