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Bude Canal and Marshes

Bude Canal and Marshes is an award winning, unique site with an important engineering history, fascinating landscape and outstanding habitats.

These provide a rich tapestry of cultural heritage rooted deep within the vibrant community. Bude’s Canal and Marshes is located in the heart of a busy seaside town.

It provides opportunities to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings of the Bude valley. Other activities include fishing, kayaking or a gentle stroll along the accessible tow path and or network of well marked walking routes

Site facilities

  • Car park on the Crescent (Pay and Display)
  • Toilets
  • Interpretation and Tourist information centre
  • Wheel Chair-Accessible Bird Hide
  • Angling (Environment Agency Permit required)
  • Rowing Boat hire
  • Day launching for Canoes and Kayaks (Permit required)

Site description

Bude Canal and Marshes is a rural gem that stretches into the heart of Bude. A stunning combination of, freshwater canal, damp grassland and marsh at Pethericks Mill, Reedbed in the Local Nature Reserve. With a level surfaced tow path of 2.5 miles starting alongside the harbour winding up the valley to Helebridge. The tow path passes two inland working locks giving the passer by a flavour of the intriguing history of the canal and its environs.

For more information please visit the information centre

Bude Marshes just alongside the canal next to the Visitor Information Centre was declared a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) in 1983. The first in Cornwall, in fact it had been identified as a wildlife amenity area as early as 1955! The reserve covers an area of 6ha (14.5ac) of mainly reed bed, wet grassland and willow carr. In 1999 the area was extended to 9.2ha (22.5ac) when the Environment Agency handed the management of an area of wet scrapes over to Cornwall Council. Pethericks Mill was designed to increase flood storage and the wildlife conservation value of the area as part of the Bude Flood Prevention Scheme. A footbridge (the Peter Truscott Bridge) was built in 2001 to give access from the canal towpath.


The Local Nature Reserve includes an area of 6ha (14.5ac) of mainly reed bed, wet grassland and willow carr.

Pethericks Marsh is a slightly saline environment with wet grassland. The Canal has reedbed fringe habitat, and open water.

Look out for:

  • Swans
  • Otters
  • Bats
  • Herons
  • Kingfishers
  • Little Egrets
  • Bee Orchids
  • Grass Snakes

If you are lucky enough to spot an otter or other wildlife please pop into the Tourist Information centre and report it to a member of staff to display on the wildlife information notice board.


Cornwall Council Managed by: Cormac Solutions Ltd.

Travel Directions

A fantastic area of such abundant richness, you would never believe it was at the edge of Bude.

View travel directions to Bude Canal

Further Information

Find out how to donate a bench or memorial to Bude Canal and Marshes

If you would like to organise an event on the Canal or tow path please follow this link for more information Cornwall Council's guide on organising events.

All members of the public, both local and visitors, wishing to launch in Bude Canal are required to pay a launching fee. 

Find out more and buy a permit

All commercial users of the canal must do so under a Water-based Activity Providers licence from Cornwall Council. Day or seasonal launch permits cannot be purchased by commercial users. For more information, please contact 0300 1234 202 or email

Permit holders obligations

Cornwall Council will expect all day launch, and season permit holders to adhere to the Bude Canal code of Conduct. The permit holder is responsible for ensuring users of their craft are aware of the Canal Code of Conduct.  Any failures to comply will be investigated by Cornwall Council. Cornwall Council retains the right to withdraw permits at any time.

All permit holders will be required to display an adhesive label or hi-vis snap band at all times.

Information about the habitats in Bude Marshes and our wildlife surveying.

Important Habitats and Species

Reed Beds

The main habitat feature of the reserve is the reed bed. Reed marsh is a particularly restricted habitat in Cornwall and Bude Marshes is the fourth largest area of reed in the county. This important area of reed provides valuable habitat for wintering migrant and breeding birds. 

Migrant birds have included bittern, glossy ibis, Baillons crake, night heron, and gargany duck, as well as the more regular sandpipers, warblers, etc. The area is also important in summer when there are breeding sedge and reed warbler, moorhen, willow warbler, reed bunting and mallard.

Neutral Grassland

There is a large area of neutral grassland with a damper area near the pond dipping platform. This area has developed on waste ground and is moderately herb rich with two species of orchid, which are monitored annually.  The grassland is cut in September to allow wildflower seed to drop, and to ensure the orchids have had a chance to seed. This area is particularly good for invertebrates and is often used for children's bug hunts.


Six Cornwall Scarce species have been recorded within the Bude Marshes Local Nature Reserve . (A Cornwall Scarce species is a species found in four to ten sites in Cornwall )These are-   

  • Trifid Bur-marigold - Bidens tripartita
  • Grass Vetchling - Lathyrus nissolia
  • Bee Orchid - Ophrys apifera
  • Beaked Tasselweed - Ruppia maritima
  • Pink Water-speedwell - Veronica catenata
  • Horned Pondweed - Zannichellia palustris

Wildlife Surveys

  • Plant Surveys
  • Bee orchid counts

Each year a group of volunteers at Bude Marshes monitor the orchids found on the dry grassland behind the tourist information centre. The orchids were first recorded in 2002 but there has only been periodic records of numbers .

Year Total Number of Bee orchid flower spikes Number of Marsh Orchids
2002 12 Not Counted
2007 70 Not Counted
2008 103 Not Counted
2009 58 Not Counted
2010 30 137
2011 30-35 Not Counted


Fish Surveys

At the request of Cornwall Council, the Environment Agency surveyed the fish populations of three lakes in the Bude Marshes. Information gathered will help the Council manage pond habitats and fish populations to maximise the wildlife value of the ponds


Pond 1. Tourist Information Pond (NGR SS 2081305981)

Method: Timed electric fishing survey by boat

Species caught Number caught Length range (mm)
Rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus) 3 62, 64, 136
Roach (Rutilus rutilus) 1 118
European Eel (Anguilla anguilla) 10 140mm to 310mm
Crucian Carp (Carassius carassius) 11 57mm to 220mm

Pond 2. Bird Hide Pond (NGR SS 2081505743)

Method: Timed electric fishing survey by boat.

Species caught Number caught Length range (mm)
Rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus) 16 22 mm to 119mm
Roach (Rutilus rutilus) 45 59mm to 163mm
European Eel (Anguilla anguilla) 2 269 and 270mm
Crucian Carp (Carassius carassius) 35 58mm to 186mm,
Three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) 3 37, 49, 52
Tench (Tinca tinca) 9 54mm to 176mm

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