Devon to host 2014 IWA National Trailboat Festival

Issue date: 28th May 2013

IWA and Devon County Council are delighted to announce that next year's IWA National Trailboat Festival is to be held at the Grand Western Canal Country Park.

The event will form the main celebration of the Canal’s bicentenary year. Construction work began in 1810 and was completed in 1814.

The festival will take place over the late May Bank Holiday weekend (24th – 26th May) in 2014.  There will be a big public festival day held at the Mid-Devon Showground on Saturday 24th May, with a range of live music, performers and entertainments, all with a birthday party theme.  

There will also be a number of smaller satellite events happening at locations along the Canal on the other two days, including an illuminated night time parade in Tiverton and a fun day in Sampford Peverell.

The event will also provide an opportunity to celebrate completion of repairs to the breached embankment at Halberton, and will enable the message to be spread nationally that the Canal is once again fully operational.

The Canal remains open for all to enjoy with just a small diversion from Swing Bridge to Watton Bridge whilst those repairs are carried out.  Works on repairing the embankment are due to commence in June and, all being well, should be completed by the end of this year.

The festival will attract dozens of colourful trailboats from around the UK.  Thousands of visitors enjoyed live music and entertainment at IWA's 2008 National Trailboat Festival, which was also held by the Grand Western Canal, and the 2014 festival aims to be even better.

Councillor Des Hannon, local member for Tiverton East and Chair of the organising committee says; "200th birthdays don't come along very often! The Festival will be the highlight of our celebrations. It'll also mark the completion of works at Halberton embankment. Our canal will be in the best state for 200 years. That's worth pushing the boats out for a big party!"

Cabinet Member for Community Services, Roger Croad says; "The Grand Western Canal Country Park is an important natural asset for Devon and we are very pleased to be welcoming the festival here. The canal is a popular visitor attraction, a thriving local amenity and supports a rich and vibrant variety of wildlife. Since the flood damage of last year, I am pleased  the Council has been able commit funding for repairs and I look forward to seeing festival go-ers enjoying the new and improved section of the Canal."

Councillor Ray Radford, local member for Willand and Uffculme says; "This is an absolute must for canal lovers everywhere. Visitors will be able to see our restored Canal after the devastation it went through after last years storms and now enjoy this years festival to the full. The 2008 festival was great but we feel the 2014 will be even better. We hope to use the 11 miles of canal that will take visitors through stunning countryside whilst making the most of all the events organised along the route. See you there!"

The 2014 IWA National Trailboat Festival will be organised and run by Devon County Council’s Grand Western Canal Ranger Service, under the direction of an organising committee which includes local Canal enthusiasts and councillors, on behalf of IWA. 

Les Etheridge, IWA National Chairman said “I am delighted that the National Trailboat Festival is to return to the Grand Western Canal in 2014 in its bicentenary year.  The Canal is a beautiful waterway, and I am sure will attract a good turnout of boat owners with their trailboats.  The Inland Waterways Association greatly appreciates the strong support shown by Devon County Council for its waterways and its on-going commitment to the Grand Western Canal, especially after the canal breached following the torrential rains last autumn. We look forward to seeing the canal fully re-opened next year to coincide with the Trailboat Festival."

The canal suffered a serious breach on 21 November 2012 at the Swing embankment which rises nearly 60 feet from surrounding fields at Halberton.

This followed unprecedented rainfall of 38mm during the early hours coupled with the inflow of water into the canal from adjoining land. Water levels in the canal rose by 25cm within a matter of hours.

Earlier this year, Devon County Council pledged £3million to repair, restore and modernise this part of the Grand Western Canal following the damage.