Go Here… Tiverton Horse Drawn Barge

Jun 3, 2024 | Featured Articles, Go Here

Where? The Wharf, Canal Hill, Tiverton, Devon, EX16 4HX

When? Open April – October

How much? Adults from £18.55. Children from £14.55.

Do I need to book? Call to reserve your seats, maximum 7 days in advance of your trip.

Contact: 01884 253345 



Go Here… Tiverton Horse Drawn Barge

Jun 3, 2024 | Featured Articles, Go Here

Opened in 1814, the 11-mile stretch of the Grand Western Canal was originally used to bring limestone from the quarries at Westleigh to be fired at the canal basin in Tiverton. Tub boats carried up to 10 tonnes of limestone each, and contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t horses that traditionally would have pulled the loads, but a donkey or mule pulling up to three boats at the same time, walking along the purpose built ‘towing path’ next to the canal. 

The barge that travels along the canal today is purpose built to carry passengers along the same route, recreating the journey those tub boats made 200 years ago.

Nowadays, heavy horses such as Shire or Welsh Cob are used to pull the barge – even though at full capacity it doesn’t weigh even half what the donkeys of yesteryear would have pulled – but as explained by barge skipper Lauren, this is for the benefit of public perception and for keeping these breeds from dying out. 

In 1971, Devon County Council took ownership of the canal, declaring it a country park, and in 1974, The Tiverton Canal Co was started by Tony Stockwell, which was later sold to Pat and Ray Brind. Their son Phil and his wife Jacquie in 2005, are the current owners to this day. 

Understandably, Phil is enormously proud that not only are they celebrating 50 years this year as one of only two remaining horse drawn barges operating in the UK, but that for most of that duration, it has been a Brind family business – which is at the heart of all they do.

Stepping aboard feels special, like you are entering a different time zone where rushing is unheard of and peace is the order of the day. Moving at a pace of 2.5mph, you really are welcomed to explore the unique opportunity to get up close with the natural environment and soak in your surroundings in serenity. The gentle lapping of the water and clip-clop of the horse’s hooves “was so relaxing” as one ten-year-old exclaimed, and you couldn’t help but be mesmerised by the view on either side of the barge.

All barge staff wear traditional clothes, transporting you back in time, as does the delightful Roses and Castles canal folk art adorning the barge and gift shop. 

It’s clear the barge is well loved by visitors and locals alike: many of whom stopped and waved as we made our way on our journey, and the huge 17h Shire, Ross, that pulled us was treated with reverence and awe by all who paused to greet him.

This is a rare and precious opportunity to experience living heritage. Break away from modern life and experience it for yourself.

Words: Mary Bennellick

See more like this

The Stover Trail

Take to two wheels and follow the disused 18th century Stover Canal between Newton Abbot and Bovey Tracey

one mag

One Magazine
8 Woodbury Business Park, Woodbury, Exeter, Devon, EX5 1AY
01395 233 247
one mag facebook one mag twitter one mag instagram