During this past summer in England, I spent a lot of time taking the dogs for a walk along the Grand Western Canal trail which was located just a few minutes drive from where I was housesitting in Stawley. The trail is a 11.5 mile bike/walking path that runs all the way from Lowdwells (basically just a parking area) to the small, cute village of Tiverton. Apparently the canal was dug in the late 1700’s to connect the English Channel to the Bristol Channel, but it was never finished because the railway beat them to it. Now it’s just a pretty waterway that cuts through stunning farmland and is home to families of swans, ducks, and other wildlife.
After a few weeks of settling into England and housesitting life, I decided to ride my bike from one end of the Canal to the other and back again. I started at the north end and cycled south along the mostly flat gravel track toward Tiverton. The track passed under a million ridiculously cute and quaint stone bridges plastered with ivy and ran past picture-perfect English estates with manicured gardens. It was a pretty easy pedal, perfect for a lazy ride where the ‘experience’ is more important than the destination.
After about an hour and a half of pedaling, I arrived in Tiverton where I stopped for a quick coffee at The Flying Pickle before setting off on backroads to Knightshayes Court, a majestic old manor about 3 miles outside of town. At Knightshayes, I parked my bike and explored the grounds with included a beautiful walled kitchen garden, expansive greens, manicured terraces, wooded paths, and a playground made from a gigantic fallen tree. Then I entered the manor and strolled from room to room gawking at all the cool, old memorabilia. Before heading out, I treated myself to a delicious elderberry ice cream cone and from there it was a slow, contented pedal back along the canal.