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50 trees planted to celebrate 50th anniversary of Grand Western Canal Country Park

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School children, volunteers and councillors have been busy helping the Canal Rangers plant 50 trees along the Grand Western Canal to celebrate its 50 years as a Country Park.

In 1971, Devon County Council took ownership of the in-water section of the Grand Western Canal in mid Devon and declared it a Country Park. This followed a successful campaign by local communities to save the canal from proposals being considered in the 1960s to permanently fill in parts of the canal to make way for roads or housing.

The County Council recognised the potential for the Canal to provide opportunities for informal recreation, nature conservation and preservation and interpretation of the Canal’s industrial heritage. Taking advantage of provisions within the 1968 Countryside Act, the Canal was declared a Country Park and work to restore the Canal commenced.

Nowadays the Country Park is often described as ‘the jewel in mid-Devon’s crown’ and is a popular tourist attraction, hosting the horse-drawn passenger barge Tivertonian and providing a wide range of recreational opportunities for local communities and visitors.

The Country Park also recently racked up its 13th consecutive year of achieving the prestigious Green Flag Award – an independent assessment of how well the park is managed and maintained.

With the ongoing impact of the pandemic, it was decided that the best way to celebrate the park’s anniversary was through the planting of 50 trees.

Councillor Andrea Davis, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, said:

“Congratulations and thanks to everyone who has been involved with the Grand Western Canal over the past 50 years and has helped play a part in reaching this landmark anniversary. Tree planting is the perfect way to mark the occasion while also providing a positive and long-lasting legacy in terms of the wildlife and landscape of the Canal. Sadly, many of the large Ash trees which line the towpath are having to be felled due to Ash Dieback, so these 50 trees will grow to become their replacements, and because they absorb carbon they will make a vital contribution to the ongoing efforts to tackle the climate emergency.”

Councillor Ray Radford, Chair of the Grand Western Canal Joint Advisory Committee, Mid Devon District Councillor for Halberton and County Councillor for Willand and Uffculme, said:

“This a great achievement – 50 years since the re-opening of the canal which at one point was going to be filled in. Thankfully that never happened. We’ve seen a lot of changes in those 50 years, most notably the breaching of the canal. It is great recognition to be planting these trees along the bank to mark the anniversary, something that will remind users of the canal for years to come, what a wonderful country park we have. It fits well with climate change in meeting zero carbon targets, and these trees will grow into fine specimens while at the same time supporting wildlife and the environs of our award-winning canal.”

Councillor Colin Slade, County Councillor for Tiverton East and Vice Chair of the Grand Western Canal Joint Advisory Committee, said:

“It was a privilege to be asked to plant a tree to celebrate 50 years of our award winning country park which is enjoyed by so many people, local residents and visitors alike. I planted a Hornbeam near Manley Bridge which is quite near my home, so I look forward to watching it grow in the years to come. I would like to add my own congratulations to Mark Baker and his team for doing such a magnificent job in keeping the canal and country park in such great shape. These new trees can only enhance this important local asset.”

Tree planting also provides an opportunity to engage and celebrate with local school children and community groups. Children from Sampford Peverell, and Burlescombe Primary Schools, Blundell’s Preparatory School, and 2nd Tiverton Beavers and Cubs, have helped to plant trees.

The Canal Ranger Service would like to thank all the people and organisations that have helped to plant trees and who contribute to the Country Park’s ongoing success.

Tree planting this year and in 2022 also contributes to the Queen’s Green Canopy initiative which sets out to promote nationwide tree planting to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. It also coincides with the launch of Devon County Council’s Emergency Tree Fund. This generous grant from the Woodland Trust has provided Devon County Council with almost £300,000 to support tree planting in Devon. As well as supporting tree planting at the Grand Western Canal, the grant has also supported the launch of the ‘Free Jubilee Tree Packs’ scheme; 70 packs each containing 45 trees are currently being distributed to landowners across Devon in support of the Queen’s Green Canopy. Devon County Council is also working with Parish, Town and District Councils, and is encouraging those interested in tree planting to get in touch with our Natural Environment Team.