Originally part of an ambitious scheme to link the Bristol Channel with the English Channel, the Canal was proposed as a way for shipping to avoid the long and perilous journey around the Cornish peninsula, and as a route for transporting goods, including coal from South Wales, into the heart of Somerset and Devon. The first section was opened in 1814, but the costs escalated and delayed construction of the next section to Taunton for many years. Eventually it was completed in 1838. For a short time, the Canal was profitable, but the advent of the railway took much of the trade from the Canal and by the 1920s it became disused.
A wealth of structures dating back to the Canal’s heyday can still be found including the Tiverton Basin and Waytown limekiln complexes, 15 road bridges over the Canal (designed by John Rennie) and the 40m-long Waytown Tunnel. Other notable structures include milestones, culverts, wharves, accommodation bridges, an aqueduct and a lock.
The Canal supports a rich and vibrant variety of wildlife and provides a great opportunity to get close to nature.