Think of Bude and you will probably picture sandy beaches, crashing surf, our lovely sea pool or perhaps a sunset over the breakwater. They are certainly all iconic images of Bude. I wonder how many of you immediately thought of our lovely Bude Canal? In fact, I wonder how many of you have even seen it further inland than the Upper Basin.
It is Bude’s unsung hero. In fact, it is the reason that Bude exists in the first place. It was completed in 1823 and its purpose was to transport sea sand inland to fertilise the poor inland soil for agriculture. Fascinating as it is, I’ll leave the history of the Bude Canal for another time and concentrate on the leisure facilities it now provides. (Although if you are keen to find out more about its origins and operation, this is a good place to start).
The Bude Canal today starts from the unique sea lock at Summerleaze beach and runs a couple of miles inland to Helebridge. The towpath is a tarmacced along the whole length, making it an easy route for pushchairs, wheel chairs or scooters. Cycling is not permitted but there is a wonderful cycle path following a similar route across the other side of the valley. This makes for a great circular route of about five miles from the Crescent Car Park (where you will find the Tourist Information Centre) or a seven mile round trip from The Beach Haven via Crooklets and Summerleaze. Along the whole route, there is only one major road to cross; at Falcon Bridge on The Wharf. If you are not up for the complete loop, there are number of ‘short circuits’ you can take to reduce the length of your trip. There are also footpaths heading west to the coast path if you wish to experience a mixture of canal and coast.
Rowing boats and pedallos can be hired from the wharf and canoeing expeditions can be had from Bude Canoe Experience. There are plenty of benches and perching posts if you fancy a picnic along the route and there is a bird hide, overlooking the Marshes nature reserve, for any twitchers. At the far end of the towpath, The Weir is a popular destination for refreshments and the lovely play area makes it a favourite for children too. Our particular favourite though for a tasty snack or lunch is ‘Get Your Veg On’; serving gorgeous, vegan, street-food from a bright yellow trailer next to the Visitor Centre. We are neither vegan nor vegetarian but we certainly enjoy their unique offerings. And what a lovely spot to sit and eat, overlooking the canal with all its activities.
The Upper Wharf near the Visitor Centre
The towpath by the bird hide
Rodd’s Bridge (love the little dog in the front boat!)
Rodd’s Bridge lock
Finlay enjoying his walk!
The tarmac towpath is easy going for pushchairs, wheelchairs and mobility scooters
Rodd’s Bridge lock
Cycling on the Bude Cycle Path which runs up beyond Helebridge
The Peter Truscott bridge linking the canal and cycle paths
The river Neet
Messing about in boats on the Bude Canal