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Published on Nov 7, 2011
THE Westcountry's only remaining horse-drawn barge has celebrated its ascension to national fame. Tiverton Canal Company's Phil Brind was proud to discover that the iconic image of his 12-year-old working horse Taffy and the 70-foot Tivertonian barge won a public vote to be featured on BBC Countryfile's 2012 Children in Need calendar. To celebrate he invited the photographer and competition winner Sarah Williams as well as her family and VIP guests on a special trip along the canal on Sunday 23 October. Sarah came to the canal with her Canon EOS 40D to take the photograph specifically for the competition. She said: "When the announced the category of working animals I thought this would be the ideal place to capture a stunning scene. "I'm very pleased it will help the canal and raise a lot of money for Children in Need. "Everyone should come here, it's wonderful for walking, the barge and to meet the animals." Mr Brind, whose family has run the company on the 12-mile waterway for 30 years, said he would never have thought the image would be chosen as one of the final dozen. The competition received more than 55,000 entries across 12 classes and was judged by John Craven, Chris Packham and Janet Street-Porter. Phil, who runs the company with his wife Jacquie, said working horses are also getting "rarer by the year" and while they have two others, Dandy, a Clydesdale, and Ross, a Shire, finding their successors will be difficult. He added: "Horse drawn barges are still going, but they have been dying off at a great rate and there are only four left in the country. "What this has done is telling people to come and use us before we die out completely. "The Grand Western Canal is a fantastic place to have this, and I'm very proud to be part of Tiverton." Tiverton's Mayor Cllr Neal Davey stressed the importance of the photo not only for the canal but for the town as a whole: "It's an excellent accolade for the town as the calendar is going to be available across the country. "The photo shows the unique countryside we have here in the town and the surrounding areas." Devon County Councillor for Tiverton East Des Hannon added: "I'm so pleased for Phil and the Canal Company, Sarah has done all an enormous service. "Tiverton is actually a heritage town and people here often forget that, and this gives us something to help encourage people to come and visit the town." Cllr Lewis Clarke of Tiverton's Cranmore Ward added: "I've grown up with the canal on my doorstep and always make sure to tell people to come here if they are visiting the area. "This is a brilliant day for everyone in Tiverton and I would like to congratulate Sarah on her hard work in capturing such a magnificent photo."