THE Grand Western Canal Country Park has been presented with the Green Flag Award.

It is the sixth consecutive year that the Country Park, which is managed by Devon County Council, has achieved the prestigious status.

The park is among a record breaking 1,476 parks and green spaces to receive the award today (Monday 28 July) from environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, providing recognition that it is one of the best parks in the country.

The Canal has met the best standards in environmental and heritage conservation to win the award, and it has also demonstrated that it is well maintained, and provides excellent facilities and safe access for the whole community.

The Grand Western Canal, which stretches 11 miles from Tiverton to the Somerset border, is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year.

It hosted the Inland Waterways Association’s National Trailboat Festival in May to mark the occasion and to celebrate the re-opening of the canal earlier in the year, after it suffered a serious breach near the Swing Bridge at Halberton in November 2012 during torrential downpours and flooding.

Devon County Council allocated £3 million to reinstate the damaged section and to carry out further works to ensure the long term future of the whole canal, with the installation of a water level monitoring and alarm system, new sluices and embankment improvements.

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Community, said: “This Green Flag Award is another fine achievement for the Grand Western Canal in what has been a successful anniversary year, following the re-opening of the canal and hosting the National Trailboat Festival. Winning this award for a sixth year is deserved recognition that the Canal and Country Park is among the country’s best green spaces and is testament to the work which has gone into keeping the area open for business following the storm damage in 2012.

"We now have a Canal and Country Park which is better than ever.”

Councillor Des Hannon, Vice Chairman of the canal’s Joint Advisory Committee and County Councillor for Tiverton East, said: “Everyone who already knows the Grand Western Canal is fully aware of its charms. Yet another Green Flag is a bonus.

"This shouts what a wonderful welcome we have for visitors. It's also a quality stamp on the work of canals staff and dedicated friends. Thanks to them.”

Mid Devon Councillor Kevin Wilson, Chairman of the canal’s Joint Advisory Committee, said: “To maintain such high standards as to be awarded the Green Flag award for six consecutive years requires not just a lot of hard work on behalf of our staff and volunteers but significant and stable resources to fund such works.

"I hope this award focuses the importance assured funding plays when our partners begin theirs budget preparations for next year.”

Councillor Ray Radford, Devon County Councillor for Willand and Uffculme, said: “What another fantastic achievement, on our two hundredth anniversary and following the restoration of the breach. With good will, good management and terrific help from volunteers, and of course £3 million from Devon County Council, we have our canal back even better than it was before and we’ve retained our Green Flag award again. All the more reason for anyone who wants to visit and enjoy this wonderful Country Park, particularly the eastern end, Sampford Peverell and Westleigh – it’s worth a visit. Come and enjoy.”

Only green spaces that are free to enter and open to the public are eligible to receive a Green Flag Award.

Keep Britain Tidy’s Green Flag Award scheme manager Paul Todd said: “We are delighted to announce yet another record-breaking year for Green Flag Award parks and green spaces. A Green Flag Award provides national recognition for all the parks managers, staff and volunteers who, through their dedication and hard work, have helped to create these fantastic places for everyone to enjoy.

"Quality green spaces are a vital resource for communities and that is why it is so significant that we have given out more awards than ever before.”