History of The Canal

The Bude Canal has a history spanning some 190 years

History of The Canal

The Bude Canal has a history spanning some 190 years. The Canal’s origins lie in the era of “canal mania” during the late 1700s, when throughout the country canals were conceived and built. The idea of the Bude Canal was first conceived in 1774, its main use being seen as a means of transporting Bude’s lime-rich sea sand inland to “sweeten” the acidic soils in the area. Other ambitious plans were drawn up for the canal, but dropped.

in 1819. The Bude Harbour and Canal Company was formed and began work the same year, constructing what became a system of waterways with three branches. The scheme was completed in 1825, with a total length of 57km/36 miles.

The amended scheme designed and built to be operated by small “tub boats” comprised of three branches:

the Holsworthy branch
the Aqueduct branch,
(originally built to supply water to the system from the specially built Lower Tama lake.)
the Launceston Branch
The Aqueduct branch of the system (which runs close to Dunsdon Farm), which is the length in the ownership of the Bude Canal Trust, was the original feeder arm for the whole system, although it was later also used as part of the general canal network.

The railways arrived in the area in 1901 forcing the closure of the canal, with the Aqueduct stretch of the canal being taken over by the local water company to take water from the lake to Bude.

“It was great to have such good walking near our holiday cottage in Bude”


Bude Canal Aqueduct

The Trust’s Aqueduct branch length is the centre of two canal-based walks:-

Tamar Lakes Walks
These walks are based at Lower Tamar Lake, at the northern end of the Aqueduct branch, and the Canal’s original reservoir. The walk explores the lake itself, and also the northernmost 0.3 mile/0.5 km of the Aqueduct branch, between the lake and Virworthy Wharf. An extended route includes the newer Upper Tamar Lake, built in 1977 to provide water supplies to the area. As well as the historical interest of the northern end of the Aqueduct branch, the two lakes are important for their wildlife interest, especially their birdlife.
Variety of length options, from 0.75 mile/1.25km to 2.5 miles/4km.

“Five star pet friendly cottages in Bude and great wildlife at Tamar Lakes – what more !”

The Aqueduct Trail

Dunsdon farm: Bude Canal Trust
This walk is based on the length of the Aqueduct branch. The signposted route is based on Lower Tamar Lake and follows minor lanes to Brendon Bridge, near the Aqueduct branch’s southern end. There is an optional cul-de-sac route to the Burmsdon aqueduct bridge over the Tamar and back, and the walk then follows the Aqueduct branch towpath back to Tamar Lake. Total length approximately 10 miles/16km.

The Aqueduct Trail passes right through the Dunsdon National Nature Reserve, a rare Culm grass habitat managed by Devon Wildlife Trust. The Dunsdon Reserve is home to many rare and endangered species including; the Marsh Fritillary butterfly, Barn Owls, a Heronry and rare orchids,
to name but a few.

“Dunsdon Farm was such a lovely pet friendly cottage in Devon with access to the Bude Canal”

Other Walks include:
Planekeepers Path
Canal and Coastal Walk
For Further information: Download the Bude Canal Trails PDF


Bude Canal and Marshes
Bude Canal and Marshes is an award winning, truly unique site with nationally important engineering history, fascinating landscape and outstanding, habitats which provide a rich tapestry of cultural heritage rooted deep within the vibrant community. Bude’s Canal and Marshes located in the heart of a busy seaside town provide opportunities to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings of the Bude valley, or the opportunity to try a spot of fishing, kayaking or gentle stroll along the accessible tow path and or network of well marked walking routes.

“What an abundance of wildlife – a five star cottage near Bude, and access to such wildlife”

Bude Canal and Marshes is a rural gem that stretches into the heart of Bude, a stunning combination of, feshwater canal, damp grassland and marsh at Pethericks Mill, Reedbed in the Local Nature Reserve and a level surfaced tow path of 2.5 miles starting alongside the harbour winding up the valley to Helebridge . The tow path passes two inland working locks giving the passer by a flavour of the history of the canal and its environs.

“Dog friendly holiday cottages in Bude, with plenty to see in the area”

Bude Marshes just alongside the canal next to the Visitor Information Centre was declared a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) in 1983 ,the first in Cornwall, in fact it had been identified as a wildlife amenity area as early as 1955! The reserve covers an area of 6ha (14.5ac) of mainly reed bed, wet grassland and willow carr. In 1999 the area was extended to 9.2ha (22.5ac) when the Environment Agency handed the management of an area of wet scrapes over to Cornwall Council. Pethericks Mill was designed to increase flood storage and the wildlife conservation value of the area as part of the Bude Flood Prevention Scheme.

“Five star cottages in Bude don’t come much nicer than The Old Shippon, and only a short distance to Bude from this Luxury wildlife retreat in Devon”

The Local Nature Reserve includes an area of 6ha (14.5ac) of mainly reed bed, wet grassland and willow carr. Pethericks Marsh is a slightly saline environment with wet grassland. The Canal has reedbed fringe habitat, and open water.

Look out for: Swans, Otters, Bats, Herons. Kingfishers, Little Egrets, Bee Orchids, Grass Snakes.

The Bude Canal

“If you are having a wildlife holiday in Devon, a visit to the Bude Canal and surrounding area is a must”

The Old Shippon Welcomes Cyclists
The Old Shippon Welcomes Families
The Old Shippon Welcomes Pets
The Old Shippon Welcomes Walkers