The Bude Canal Trust is a small, local charity that owns and maintains the Bude Aqueduct, a five-mile long stretch of the old feeder canal that runs from Lower Tamar Lake down to the River Tamar. The canal is accessible from several points and a well-maintained path that is open to the public runs the full length of the canal. The charity’s aims are to retain the historic interest of the old canal while managing what has become an important wildlife area. The trust is the major single landowner of the canal, and exists to retain and enhance the historic interest of its length and to manage it appropriately for its wildlife importance and low-key recreation potential.
The Bude Canal is of considerable historic interest, featuring some of the most unusual and ingenious engineering of the canal-building era in the 19th century. The Aqueduct Branch of the system, which is the length in the ownership of the Bude Canal Trust, was the original feeder arm for the whole canal system, although it was later also used as part of the general canal network.
With fewer than 50 members, the trust is heavily dependent on a handful of volunteers, most of whom are now in their 70s. Every Wednesday an intrepid party of volunteers ventures out to cut back the brush that encroaches on the path, cut back trees that have fallen across the path, and keep the dry canal bed free of obstructions. There is always plenty to keep us busy and the more helpers we have the better. Most of the work is clearing and burning the cut material. We are generally there between 10am and until we get too tired, which is usually about 4pm. If you have a few hours free on Wednesdays then join the BCT, or if you do not want to join, just come along and get some fresh air, exercise, and comradeship with like-minded volunteers.
By joining the Trust you will be helping to maintain an important recreational, historical, and natural wildlife asset. The Bude Canal has a history spanning some 190 years. Although never the centre of an area of intense activity, it does have a history as rich as many other canals. This historical thread continues to the present day, despite the canal no longer operating as a working waterway. The range of its uses and the heritage engineering features within it mean that its history continues to unfold and fascinate. For just £15 per year, or Life Membership for £180, you can be part of an organization that is making a difference.
Although the canal aqueduct is primarily an historic item it is also important as an area that is looked after for its wildlife interest as well. The fact that it passes through two of the Devon Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves (Dunsden National Nature Reserve and Vealand Farm Reserve) indicates the kind of value there is in the area. The reserves are based on the culm grassland and much of the wildlife associated with it may be seen along the towpath.
The tranquillity of the path and the rural scenery with the wildlife and flowers make for an enjoyable walk. Several leaflets are available which describe the towpath walk and the history, as well as other nearby canal-related walks. Brochures are available free from the Holsworthy Visitor Centre or the Tamar Lake Café (TLC Café) at Upper Tamar Lake.
If you would like to join us on a regular basis, or just for the occasional day o learn more about the trust on the website.