A VISIT to the Grand Western Canal in Tiverton will take on a 21st century dimension this weekend with the opening of the new state-of-the-art centre.
Various exhibits are now in place and from Saturday the wooden panels on the circular building will slide back to give the public a first view inside.
At the centre of the new resource is a model of a working horse pulling a cart. The wooden cart was so heavy it took five people to move it into position, while the horse's mane has been cut to look as authentic as possible.
New technology sits alongside reminders of the canal's history, with an interactive touch-screen display with information, film and photographs celebrating the canal's history and local wildlife alongside older photographs of the canal which have been donated to the visitor centre by local people.
The interactive screens allow visitors to pick points along the route of the canal and get 360 degree visuals from the towpath.
With the tap of an icon, the visitor can immerse themselves in the surroundings of the 14th Century Ayshford Chapel and explore from all angles a photograph taken from inside the building.
Around the edge of the round building, various information panels have been developed by Devon Wildlife Enterprises, who have experience of creating educational exhibits at visitor centres across the South West.
Built by Devon-based Skinner Construction to a design by property agents NPS South West Ltd, the outer walls of the building will be closed in the evening to deter vandals but open during the day to allow visitors a view of the canal basin at all times.
A 'green' roof will provide a habitat for a range of insects, and will soak up rainfall to feed it back into the canal.
The project, which cost more than £300,000, has been funded by Devon County Council, with additional contributions from Tiverton Town Council and The Friends of the Grand Western Canal.
Devon County Councillor Des Hannon, chairman of the canal's joint advisory committee and local member for Tiverton East, said: "I urge everyone to pop in while it's quiet. It will be much busier after the official opening at the start of the 2013 tourist season."
The centre will open from 9.30am to 4.30pm.