Bridgwater & Taunton canoe trail
The Bridgwater and Taunton Canal opened in 1827, linking the River Tone to the River Parrett. It is a well-kept secret but a well-managed one. Local people, have set up a volunteer wardens scheme to look after their canal and their success can be shown in its beauty.
Distance: 8 miles
There are many possibilities for journeys on this canal. This particular trail starts from Maunsel Lock, where one can easily park and travels south. It is possible to go north too.
Maunsel Lock is mid-way along the beautiful Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. It is along the edge of the picturesque Somerset Levels, and as well as a lock there is a Canal Centre and Tea Shop. Whether you arrive by boat, bike, car or on foot, Maunsel Lock is a beautiful starting or rest point for walkers, cyclists, canoeists and boaters of all ages.
Look out for the sun
To commence your journey carry your canoe over the bridge and launch at the other end of the lock, and this will point you in a southerly direction. Not long after you start you will encounter Higher Lock. Portage is on the towpath side. Don’t forget to find out where the sun model is.
After just over a mile you come in to the outskirts of Durston. The parish lies on undulating ground between the lowest slopes of the Quantock Hills and the valley of the River Tone at the Curry and Hay Moors.
The Bridgwater & Taunton Canal runs though the village. It is crossed by two bridges, Headworthy and Swan's Neck.
Remains of the Chard Canal
You reach Creech St Michael after another one and a half miles. The name derives from a creech, or creek, on the River Tone, which creates an island in the river to the south of the village, and the parish church of St. Michael, which dates from the 12th century. On the canal at Creech St. Michael is the site of the former junction with the Chard Canal which was opened in 1842 (the last 'small' canal to be built in Britain) but was closed just 26 years later.
The Bridgwater & Taunton Canal provides a picturesque route through the village for pleasure boats, and the towpath is open to pedestrians and cyclists. There are also dramatic remains of the Chard Canal, including the (filled) junction with the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal, a raised embankment leading south from the village, a ruined aqueduct that would have carried the canal over the River Tone, and the abutments of a second aqueduct across a local road.
This is the end of your journey before you turn to head back to Maunsel. It is possible to picnic on the bank here and the village has some good amenities including a variety of public houses.
To extend your journey you could paddle on for another mile to Bathpool and then from there another two miles to Firepool Lock and the junction with the River Tone in Taunton. You may wish to turn here as portaging this lock can be quite challenging.
If you chose to go on keep right away from the weir and paddle through Taunton where you will find several landing places. There is a park (French Weir Park) after Priory Bridge and the castle which has amenities and a place to picnic.
You can start at Maunsel and head north. From here you can paddle all the way up to the River Parrett in Bridgwater docks where there is no access. This is a distance of just over seven miles with 3 portages (6 for a round trip) This route takes you up through North Newton, Kings Lock (No. 4), Standards Lock (No. 5), Fordgate, Huntworth and Mead before you reach Lock No, 6 Bridgwater Dock which is the end of the canal.
This canoe trail has been provided by Canoe England