In this guest blog from Mike at The Bedford Hotel, we enjoy a “virtual” walk along Tavistock's historic canal, which was constructed in the 19th Century to link the town of Tavistock to Morwellham Quay on the River Tamar.
If you love a long walk, or a short stroll, you're spoiled for choice here in Tavistock.
When times are a little more normal than they are right now, Tavistock is of course a great starting point for exploring the wide open spaces of Dartmoor, with many wild and awe-inspiring walks to be enjoyed within a short drive.
For now, we're all staying close to home of course, so a walk along Tavistock's historic canal is just the ticket.
Starting at The Bedford Hotel, head into Bedford Square and turn right, then pick up the footpath behind the hotel, alongside the River Tavy. When the river is running high, the fast-flowing waters of the Tavy make an impressive sight as they pass over the weir and the rock-strewed riverbed, between glorious wooded riverbanks.
This path will take you into the Meadows – a lovely parkland space in which to while away a sunny afternoon. Leaving the riverbank, head to your right and pick up the footpath alongside the canal (which is fed from the waters of the Tavy). If you've brought a little food for the ducks, they'll be very grateful!
Continue along the canal path, and take the underpass beneath the main road, to rejoin the canal on the other side. From here on, the footpath becomes gradually quieter, and the canal waters become increasingly tranquil. No need for a map or signs – just follow the canal!
After passing Tavistock College, the canal banks become increasingly wooded, and the trees reflect beautifully in the still waters on a bright day. You might not see a soul from here on – or perhaps an occasional dog walker. All very serene.
Enjoy the views from the nicely placed benches along the way, and then marvel at the architectural majesty of Shillamill Viaduct, high above your head, which once carried the railway line from Tavistock through the Tamar Valley and onwards to Plymouth.
Just before the viaduct, look out for a steep and rocky path to your left, which leads down and under the canal. If you take this path, it'll bring you up onto the disused railway line, which leads you back into town for a perfect circular walk. But beware – the railway path gets exceptionally muddy during the wetter months, and stout boots or wellies are essential if you take this way back!
Alternatively, simply continue along the canal, past lock gates and sluices, until the path ends at a gate. Beyond here, the canal bank is definitely out of bounds, but not far past this point the canal disappears into a tunnel through the hillside, which once allowed the canal to serve its purpose of moving cargo from Tavistock to Morwellham Quay, on the River Tamar, where it would be loaded into ships.
The waters of the canal are still put to positive and sustainable use today, as they supply water to a small hydro-electric plant at Morwellham Quay.
It's a lovely, easy two mile walk from The Bedford to the point where the path ends. Rest a while (there's even a picnic bench!), then head back the way you came. Enjoy!