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Bridgwater & Taunton Canal

This beautiful Somerset canal might be cut off from the rest of the system, but its well-maintained towpath and fascinating lock structures make for idyllic walking and peaceful boating.

Bridge over canal Bridgwater & Taunton Canal

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While the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal connects the two towns of Bridgwater and Taunton, the majority of the canal is rural, making it a wonderful spot for nature enthusiasts.

One of the canal's highlights is the unique Somerset Space Walk. A scale model of the sun can be found at Maunsel Lock, with planets set along the towpath for six miles in both directions, demonstrating the scale of the solar system. Maunsel Lock is also home to a canal centre offering boat trips, refreshments and information on the local area including walking routes.

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Days out

Maunsel Lock was once busy with boats plying their trade to and from Bridgwater Docks. Today it is a great place to start exploring the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal - and to find some pieces of living history!

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The history

The Bridgwater & Taunton Canal skirts its way in splendid isolation around the base of the Quantock Hills for a little over 14 miles. Its tranquil seclusion belies the fact that it is one of very few sections to be built in a grandiose, but ultimately doomed, plan to link the Bristol and English Channels.

Nevertheless, the canal slotted neatly into Somerset's evolving, self-contained network of navigable waterways: the river Parrett and its extensions, the Ivelchester & Langport Navigation and the Westport Canal; the Chard Canal, which had four inclines; and the Grand Western Canal, which had one incline and seven lifts (the remains of the one at Nynehead are well worth visiting).  Of these, only the eleven miles of the Grand Western from Tiverton to Lowdswell is still navigable, managed by Devon County Council.

Opened in 1827, the B&T met the River Parrett at Huntworth and in 1841 it was extended round the town of Bridgwater to new docks below the town bridge. Its principal cargoes were coal and iron from across the channel in South Wales, with agricultural goods filling the boats on their return journeys.

The Bristol & Exeter Railway bought the canal in 1866 and constructed a branch to the docks.

By the turn of the 20th Century, commercial carrying on this rural waterway had all but ceased and the canal found a new role as a water supply. Access to the fiercely tidal Parrett was curtailed and during World War II swing bridges were secured in position for security purposes - so although the line contained water, it was not navigable by anything more than a canoe or dinghy.

The combined efforts of British Waterways, local enthusiasts, district councils and Somerset County Council achieved restoration of the Bridgwater & Taunton which reopened in 1994. The area aorund Bridgwater Docks has been transformed from industrial decay to desirable residential. However, although the connection to the Parrett had been restored, it is currently closed in order to keep silt out of the canal at high tides.