In Tiverton: The Grand Western Canal - The Seven Year Itch - CycleBlaze

June 3, 2024

In Tiverton: The Grand Western Canal

With two layover days here in Tiverton we plan to bike together on one of them and I’ll bike off on my own while Rachael takes a hike on the other.  We seem to still be getting lucky with the weather so the order doesn’t matter.  Rachael decides on a walk today, and we’ll take an out and back tomorrow on the hopefully tame ride I’ve picked out for us to share - not that any road around here is really all that easy.

We both plan on starting on the path along the Great Western Canal, probably the primary attraction in the area if you’re oriented to the outdoors.  Rachael has mapped out the usual 12 miles for herself, a loop that starts along the canal and then doubles back to town on hopefully quiet backroads.  When she’s back in town she’ll stop in at the Lidl to replenish our diminished snack inventory.  In a last minute decision she reverses her route, realizing that she doesn’t want to carry peanut butter, bread, trail mix etc for the whole twelve miles.

We get started about ten, stuffed from a filling breakfast where we’re entertained by the hosts’ four year old son terrorizing the dining room in his stegasaurus sleeper.

Our street in Tiverton.
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We’re both starting our outings along the canal, so there’s a chance we’ll stumble across each other somewhere early on my ride.  It doesn’t happen right away though.  I start after Rachael, and by the time I make it up to the canal she’s already gone on ahead.

Tiverton’s a river town. The Exe runs through it, but so also does the Lowman shown here which merges into the Exe just south of here.
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The clock tower on Lowman Green.
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I biked up to the canal, but there’s also a walking path to it that Rachael found.
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Peeking over the wall from the trail.
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Built in the early 1800’s, the Great Western Canal was part of a never realized vision to connect Exeter and Bristol by canal.  with the coming of the railroads the whole enterprise became obsolete, but the eleven mile section west of Tiverton remains as an outstanding recreational resource for the region used by walkers, bikers, fishermen and boaters.  Like the ride between Exeter and Exmouth, it’s the sort of place you’d return to over and over if you lived here and never tire of it.

I had planned to leave it for the pavement after about three miles, but once here and finding what a delight it was I abandoned my ride plan stayed with it for ten.

On the canal now, at its western end in Tiverton. If we were here later into the season we could see this thing hauled up the canal by draft horses. It’s just for show now of course, but it’s one of the last ones still operating in the UK.
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Especially close in to Tiverton there are some attractive, elegant homes lining the canal.
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A typical scene along the canal. It’s totally flat for its whole 11 mile length I think, without a single lock on it.
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About once or twice a mile the canal path crosses beneath an arched overpass. There’s invariably a sign like this requesting bikes to take care, give priority or get off and walk through it.
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It’s a good idea to dismount. The path narrows, visibility is often poor, the arch crowds the headroom, and it drops straight off to the canal. I imagine some unfortunate incidents have happened.
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Canal scene.
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Don’t worry. I won’t show every overpass I come to. I’ve omitted several already.
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It’s pretty the whole way, a delightful place to walk or bike. Folks walking their dogs are a frequent sight, and they’re invariably courteous and give priority to bikers, stopping and keeping their dogs close by once they see a bike approaching. Its no place to race by though - everyone needs to do their part.
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Lovely off to the side as well.
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#249: Eurasian wren. This was a lucky sight, catching one in the open like this. I’ve seen a number of them by now, invariably as they’re disappearing into the greenery.
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Another arch, another canal boat.
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The same barge, plus others.
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Wall scene.
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Serbian bellflower. In an odd coincidence, Jacquie Gaudet just posted her own bellflower photo from down in the French Pyrenees: https://www.cycleblaze.com/journals/pyreneesloop/aucazein-to-cierp-gaud/#53636_birecnykjbfovu9x3wa9tp9hcde.
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#250: Mandarin duck. Milestone! I’m starting to believe in 300 by the end of the year.
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Scott FenwickYour bird photos constantly amaze me. Such great shots. And now you have captured the only one that I thought you might never get. https://www.cycleblaze.com/journals/tuscany/to-gambassi-terme/#46213_6n702z4xnyhhrcha6sptgoib5xx
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Scott FenwickI was really pleased with this one. I especially like it when a bird poses in front of a nice background like this.
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1 week ago
OK. I heard you silently hoping there’d be another barge before we leave the canal. Last one though.
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Here comes Rocky, I see. She chastises me for not wearing my helmet, but I’m not going much faster than her. And if I tumble into the canal a helmet would just be a hindrance.
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Rachael saw this happy family and took a video of it with her phone but it didn’t come out.
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Ayshford Chapel looks like it would have been worth crossing the canal for a closer look, but it didn’t get one from me today.
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I’ve started paying more attention to the doves and pigeons since learning there’s a new one here I haven’t seen yet - the stock dove. This isn’t one - it’s just another run of the mill wood pigeon - but I liked the shot anyway.
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Lime kilns, at Burlescombe I think.
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I left the canal after Burlescombe and improvised my way back to town through the backroads because I was off my ride plan. Spoiled for choice again, though all ways seem quite lumpy.
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The Church of Saint Peter, Greenham.
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Buzzard and pheasant.
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What?
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The view from the top. I was hoping for a view of Tiverton from up here, but it’s just the hills and sheep. Still nice though.
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In addition to the photos I came back with this video I took to capture one of the most remarkable bird songs I’ve ever heard.  It went on for a full minute, constantly varying, before finally pausing for a few seconds before starting up again.  Doesn’t this bird ever breathe?  I couldn’t tell if it was coming from the reeds or trees just above it, and was frustrated by being unable to see it.  Anyone know what this bird is?

I don’t make it back to the inn until nearly five, and by the time I arrive Rachael’s been worried about me.  She’s afraid I’ll be late for dinner of course, but she’s also just concerned something’s gone wrong because I’ve been out so long and she can see how slowly I’ve been traveling.  And she’s right - it takes me nearly six hours to cover 25 miles today, a time and distance a strong walker could match.  That’s just how I travel when I’m on my own though - it’s virtually a hike with wheels.  Stop here for five or ten minutes listening to a bird song, then over here for a dozen photos of a bird hoping one will come out well, and then over here to gradually close in on a buzzard shredding his pheasant with feathers flying out of his beak.  That and the occasional 12-14% climb to overcome, and it all adds up.

An excellent if excessive meal at the Indian restaurant our host Chris recommended to us. We probably didn’t need all of the papadams, rice, and naan with sultanas and coconut to go with the mains.
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Scott AndersonTo Diarmid HarrisHey, you knew it too! We don’t have this bird back in the states. What an astonishing call!
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2 weeks ago
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Today's ride: 26 miles (42 km)
Total: 1,885 miles (3,034 km)

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Stewart BradyThe bird is a reed warbler
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Stewart BradyCongratulations! I was sure someone would know. I identified it with the bird call matching function on Merlin.
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2 weeks ago