These are observations from around the Exe estuary and coastline which have been shared by you. The Almanac aims to show the variety of life in and around the Estuary and helps build up a picture of how we experience the Exe Estuary – what we notice, do and observe. These observations can also provide important information over time. We are currently working on an exciting interactive design for displaying the Almanac entries together on the website.
May 28 2020
At approximately 4pm with a low tide, close to RNLI.The kids located a grass snake 2 feet long swimming towards the shore. From there it slithered up the beach. Rescued & taken to the Maer dunes. Andy Beake
April 24 2020
Thousands of school bass at Sowden End, Lympstone around high tide. According to a local fisherman they come there for shelter.
April 13 2020
Estuary playground closed. Tinkling and gurgling of life in the seabed, birds and bees in full glory Covid 19 halts our playtime for now
May 6 2020
First swim of the year (for me). Past Orcombe point. Sea state: wavy. 11 degrees. Wetsuit family near by keeping distant. No wetsuit for me!
Nov 23rd 2019
I was walking my dog down by Orcombe point early one morning. As I came onto the beach I could see there was lots of water run off from the recent storm but I could not believe my eyes as I turned the corner and saw what seemed to be Niagara Falls in Exmouth.
I had to film it!
May 9th 2020
At the end of Camperdown Creek, a white large bird( larger than a seagull) with grey/black long legs & beak sitting on a wheel tyre.
March 20 2020
line fishers at exmouth harbour catching wrasse, and earlier in the day someone had caught a mackerel. Early for mackerel? Fishing boat landing cuttlefish, squid, sole and cod.
October 16 2017
Lots Portuguese man o’ war (Physalia physalis) washed up on Exmouth Beach and Esplanade after Storm Ophelia. Simon Pardoe
July 9th 2020
I placed the hull of a model boat in the River Exe to commemorate the leaving of the artist Bas Jan Ader from Cape Cod, to cross the Atlantic in a tiny sailing boat in 1975. Graham Rich
Nov 5th 2020
Lots of froth around the Marina and Pirate’s Cove this morning (Thursday 5th November 2020). I wonder what causes it and if it’s just natural? Simon Pardoe
Mar 8th 2021
We set off in the canoe up river and arrived at the site of ‘Hut’ where Graham had discussed the homeless man’s home in 2006 – it was the first time we had been there since learning that it had once been an Iron Age Dock. The river is 26 feet deep there – A Scandinavian artist had identified it – she was mapping seeds that had arrived with cargoes over centuries – I looked at the shore from the canoe and suddenly realised that the rocks had been put there – Assembled by Iron Age people. We moved to this house by The River on April 3rd 1975 – it was very cold there was snow. I got up one morning and looked down at the river – there were two very large very beautiful brightly carved boats anchored below – they had great prows were they Greek fishing boats or even Indian? They were fairground colours – who has arrived in them? Was I dreaming? It turned out that they belonged to the Maritime Museum in Exeter and had been anchored for some reason – such an exotic and evocative vision.
The Whirlpool – At the bottom of our garden is the River – just to the right of our back gate is a whirlpool. It is very fast –
The children made a ritual for Good Friday – I would make hot cross buns- they would sit in a canoe or dinghy and go round and round in the whirlpool – I think there was a song that went with it.
Archaic Perhaps it was 1985 – A boat arrived and anchored just beyond the large island. It was a small cruiser. We thought it was a summer visitor – but it didn’t move on it just stayed there for a year. We were both working in education and had very busy lives. Shutting the curtains at night we would see the oil lamp on ‘Archaic’ – They were seen walking on the towpath with haversacks. An elderly man and woman – Their parallel life intrigued us. We were envious of them. On New Year’s Eve we decided to first foot them – A piece of coal was found. Graham and Nick – my brother in law – put on wet suits to cross the mud – Suddenly, their light went out. So we abandoned the idea and never met them.
Treasure Opposite our house behind the large island is a creek – it was the original entrance to the canal – There is a kingfisher up there. We took the grandchildren , Nell and Mack, up there in a dinghy – It’s quite steep with enormous reeds – They discovered a small tin trunk under the water there – It contained a few pieces of jewellery and many strange coins. It was an exciting discovery. Grown up… Nell got a first class degree in Archaeology at Edinburgh University. She was 20 years old when she realised that her grandfather had planted the tin chest for them to discover.
Stuart Line Cruises We are quite high up here, so when the Stuart Line boats come by at high tide, on their evening cruises we are at eye level with revellers on the top deck.
Often the boats are throbbing with music and dancing and party lights flashing as they pass the house. When we see them coming we put on all our lights and dance. So our party looks as good as theirs. The boats turn up river – so we do it twice and any visitors join in. Once the boat pulled us off the mud so we honour their captain. One hot early evening the boat came by packed with so many people; all of them completely naked! By the time they returned Graham reciprocated. Our neighbour was amazed. She said ‘I was glad to see the back of you!’
The Shit Ship Another passing vessel of great beauty was the Shit Ship. Beyond the River along the canal it would make its stately way down to Turf and out to sea. It was lit up like a Christmas tree and, in spite of its function, had a magical methodical processional presence and is much missed drawing that poetic line in space.
The Roman Coin Someone who helped to build our house told us that along here a Roman Mosaic pavement was discarded. They had to ‘cover it with concrete by lunchtime’ so that no-one would find out. Our house is on a bit of a hill so you can see right down the river from it. Our daughter dreamt of a Roman soldier climbing a staircase through her bedroom.
My brother-in-law found the Roman coin in the mud at the bottom of the slipway. It was clearly Roman because you could make out the wolf feeding Romulus and Remus and on one side and a head in a helmet on the other side. It went to the British Museum to be identified. It was found in August 1977. The coin was dated 330AD. The BM said that it was a ‘Votive Offering’. Someone had thrown them in the River for luck! Were they setting out on a voyage? Returning to Italy perhaps.
8.10am August 6th 2005
The Plastic Clock We were invited to participate in a commemorative event – a world-wide artists’ project to mark the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima which was on August 6th 1945 at 8.15am. I think the invitation came through Tom Clark and Roger Ackling.
Unsure of how to deal with such a momentous event we went down to the River at 8.10am August 6th 2005 and there on the bank was this clock washed up on the tide. It was a very strange peach plastic clock that had been in the River for some time. The clock had stopped at two minutes to 8 – just before the bomb had dropped.
24 Feb 2021 about 1.15pm
the wind blows
A visit to the Camperdown Terrace , the duck pond on 24 Feb 2021 about 1.15pm. The tide is very low.
24 February 2021
the wind is blowing
Right over to the other side of the estuary
a huge area ENORMOUS!! the wind is blowing
nestling along the edge
by the harbour
The boats with their double keel upright
in the sand.
The yellow buoys,
Fluorescent pinky buoys,
Bright red buoys,
Blue bottomed boats the wind is blowing
And the hills extending out towards Powderham.
A few dots of people on the low tide sand walking freely.
There’s so much space around us you can get right up close to buoys.
Black writing on them. I’m not going to try and pick this one up.
The clouds lay heavy overtop
But because it’s so expansive here, they are not oppressive
They’re big! A big, heavy blanket….. the wind is blowing
Libby and Jack Libby remembers swinging for ages on the swing boats and Jack on the roundabout fair ride next to the sea, Exe July/Aug 2017. Both on the swings Aug 2018.
All the Hammonds Cycling along the River Exe to Dart’s Farm and back again. We loved watching the trains, the views, stopping for a play and a drink. Great stops were Lympstone and Exton.
Ian and Sally getting the water taxi to The Anchor, Starcross from Exmouth and back again after amazing local mussels. A lot of the wedding party joined us – lovely, enjoyable evening. Spotted ‘Sammy’ the seal!
The Hammonds and family. Paddle boarding on the Exe and having breakfast on the beach, down Orcombe Point end.
Christmas Day 2014
Christmas morning walk on the beach with all the family and our dog! Followed by the Christmas morning swim with friends. Great morning – dry and fresh!
We moved to Lympstone in 2008 just before we got married. We can see the river from 2 floors of our house. It is the first thing we see when we open the blinds in the morning and the last thing we see when we close them at night.
During the 2020/21 lockdowns our daily walks through the village and along the foreshore gave our days a wonderful rhythm.
The tide would determine where we could walk and the treasure we might find.
We have found jars full of sea pottery and we all delight in finding different colours, designs and patterns.
Alice aged 6.
She has loved the river since she could walk.
At preschool they would do beach school sessions by the river.
Last Summer she took her paints to record a day we spent at Lympstone harbour.
She painted her brother on his favourite place – Darling’s Rock.
Fred aged 10.
During the Summer of 2020 my favourite place to go with my family was down to the river and jump off Darling Rock.
As a family we usually walk down to the village or towards Exmouth but one day 3 of us chose to walk towards Exton instead.
As the tide was very low we found a football, 2 tennis balls and some metal and an enormous piece of wood, more like a tree trunk.
We visited an abandoned boat that we hadn’t seen before.
It took longer to walk home laden with our finds.
I love it when I see the swans that visit the village, usually at high tide.
We also spot avocets and egrets and love watching & listening to them.
We loved seeing the kingfishers on one of our bigger adventures.
Mon 7th Jan 2021
Swam this morning by lifeboat station at 8.00am. Air temperature about 5oC. Water temp ~9oC (?). 1 hour off full tide – water calm; swam to second buoy.
Sun 10th Feb 2021
Air temperature 2oC; water a little colder – tide fully out at 8.00am. Calm water, beautiful sunrise.
Have been swimming here most days since November 2020. Usually at 8.00am in morning. Love the changing landscape of sky, water and beach. No day is the same, always changing, always different. Love the community of fellow swimmers all socially distanced but encouraging of one another.
Love the walks up the estuary from Exmouth to Lympstone on the cycle trail or along the shoreline. Love the views across the river to Starcross from Half Moon island.
When the tide is out, love the wading birds, their business as they forage for food and their cries carried in the wind. Love the phenomenon of all this water in the estuary filling up and emptying twice per day and the life this brings. Feels like a wonder of the world.
I walk along the path above the estuary most days when going into town. I often see a kingfisher at low tide usually sitting in exactly the same spot. How wonderful to be able to get so close to it. It never seems to be bothered by people walking above it.
On other days I walk along the cycle path to Lympstone and back along the shore-line (never the other way round for some reason). Two different views of the estuary. The walk back can be slippery but there’s always different patterns and surprises at ground level.
On a windy day, I love the view from Imperial Park where you can often see kite surfers, windsurfers, canoists having fun.
As the Summer comes along, the sight of dinghy sailing and the unmistakeable noise of the wind blowing through the rigging of yachts means that warm days are ahead.
In the Winter I am always astonished to see fishermen spending hours digging for worms on even the coldest of days. What dedication to fishing.
I am so lucky to have a view of this ever-changing landscape from the house, with a backdrop of the rolling Devon countryside. What a privilege!
Most of my life has been spent close to the estuary – its sight & smells, its special light, its moods and its wildlife.
I grew up in the old boatyard manager’s house at Odams (sic) Wharf, next door to Bidefords Boatyard, where the old clinker boats were still being built.
We played along the river bank and around the railway bridge at Topsham. There was a pathway along the bank of the river, left by the narrow gauge railway that was once used to transport guano, I believe.
We used to turn stones over and watch the crabs run away and we lost many a wellington boot in the thick mud. Sometimes, the men from the boatyard would swim in the river. (a sport that had finished by the 60s).
There was an inlet with tenders and we children inherited one from friends and would row out under the bridge to the estuary at Topsham, or up the Clyst towards the Bridge Inn and its weir. Later we had double canoes and my sister and I would paddle one while our neighbours paddled another.
Huge shoals of mullet used to explore the Clyst at high tide – one local man used to fire into the shoal with a shotgun and then paddle a boat out to pick them up out of the water. An unusual technique!
Occasionally the family would take the ferry from Topsham over to Double Locks (it ran from the same place as it does now), and walk down to Turf along the path between the estuary and the canal.
In the early 60s our house was flooded after a big storm – I came downstairs in my bare feet and found the bottom 2 steps sodden. In the front room the carpet had been rolled up and balanced on top of the piano.
I moved back to the estuary as an adult with 2 children, into a house on the post-war housing estate in Lympstone.
The children would climb Darling Rock in the harbour, with its teetering slab of rock (now eroded away) on the top. My son learned to sail, igniting a lifelong passion.
The estuary is home to me in a way that no house could ever be. I can see the mood of the estuary and the state of the tide from my distant view. Living so close to the estuary means that skeins of Canada geese sometimes fly over my garden at dusk, and that iconically seaside sound of gulls is ever present.
I love to watch the waders feeding in the outgoing tide – oyster-catchers used to be prolific, but are more scarce now. The sound of the curlew – at once mournful and nostalgic – is one of my greatest pleasures.
The train journey between Exmouth and Exeter is a bird-spotter’s delight, and sometimes I would take the train to work, relishing the journey, often made at dawn and dusk.
Since March 2020
Lympstone in Covid times
Since March 2020 I have walked around Lympstone almost every day, and my walk inevitably incorporates the estuary – walking the foreshore when the tides permit.
I have felt very fortunate to live in a place which offers me so much, with its country lanes and footpaths, its open spaces and its beautiful foreshore. With its iconic harbour, where the old fishing net lines are now hung with laundry drying in the breeze.
I carry my camera with me, and have photographed many of the birds I have seen, and tried to capture the estuary in its many moods and lights.
Your entry here…
March 3 2020
On the beach near the swimming pool where the sea defences workers were digging a really deep hole with an excavator, clearly hoping for something particular to turn up
April 30 2020
Lots of seabirds diving in the waves breaking on the sandbanks opposite the bunkers.
July 5 2017
Largish seal on top of blue bouy near mussel boat moorings (off Dawlish Warren estuary side). Conditions: Light winds, sunny
May 9 2020
cycled down to Belshers slipway and sat beside the groynes for a brew before having my first paddle this year. It was really warm and quiet apart from occasional cheers from a family aiming pebbles at a buoy and lots of birds on the water.
May 21 (pm) 2020
Noticed a lot of washed up plastic debris in the reed beds just next to Exton Station including two very large brown storage containers.
June 2 2020
I saw three white egrets flying down the tributary on the Goosemoor nature reserve side.
June 9 2020
Several clusters of squid eggs located on seaward beach of Dawlish Warren – near distal end. Alun Morgan
November 2nd 2020 @3pm
I was walking at the end of the estuary end of Camperdown Creek, & saw in the small pools of water, a small gathering of what I think was Sandpipers…Actitis hypoleucos. Deborah Bailey
Gorgeous reflections on the dinghy ride today – high tide + dead calm so the sky was reflected back to itself.
We watched as two black swans chased off a group of 30+ young white swans near the Turf, surprised they caved in so easily.
Seal popped up right by our boat at Turf today. He looked us right in the eyes as we climb into the dinghy!
Woke up to find a big salmon had jumped into our dinghy overnight. Its flapping had knocked the bung out and let water in so he had stayed alive a long time flapping around. Scales everywhere!
The black swans have been coming to our boat for food during lockdown – they make a lovely high squeak noise.
Noticed the white trawler aground near the bank by Lympstone has sunk. 🙁
THE VERY BEST SUNSETS in the world!!
A memory from early 1970s ….Sitting on the ‘Idler’s Bench’ by Lympstone Harbour and watching at least 3 fishermen come in with a ‘gurt big’ SALMON in each hand. (These men had a licence to fish in the Exe, with seine nets)
A little fisherman’s COTTAGE by the Estuary was under £10,000 in 1969. Now in 2021 it would cost £600, 000!!!
I have lost count of the times that I have painted the LYMPSTONE WATERFRONT scene. What a PRIVILEGE!
Pleasant afternoon walk along the Exe between the train station and the end of the park.
Lots of locals treating themselves to a hot drink from the new coffee hut.
Weather extremely cold and sharp, but enough to put colour in your cheeks!
Tried to find a house we had seen on Rightmove. It was a failure. Back home for a hot chocolate!
Back in another lockdown!
Lovely walk from Double Locks to Exeter Quay and back.
Big swell on the estuary today from the rain last night!
Beautiful swans and geese out also.
Beach: At low tide: walk to Sandy Bay.
One person kayaking in shallow water.
Sand surface: firm in places, soft in others.
R. P. Moseley
Powderham: Another visit to shoreline; with concrete slipway for launching boats.
A hungry heron close to waters edge, looking for lunch….
R. P. Moseley
Shelly Beach at Low Tide.
What’s that moving in the water? It’s a seal!
Keep quiet. Don’t disturb him. .
R. P. Moseley
27 January 2021
Paddleboarding at Imperial Slipway. Shallow water.
Lank on a sandbank and take a rest. Very light winds.
R. P. Moseley
Walk on beach near RNLI station. Ancient pipework now visible above the sand. RNLI slope now high & dry.
R. P. Moseley
View from Exmouth Beach: Large ghost ships (cruisers)
Who is on board, manning these vessels? What are they doing? What are they thinking?
R. P. Moseley
Topsham: Flotsam floating down river: (Tree trunk)
R. P. Moseley
New Years Eve 2020
1 degrees C Set off at 7.25pm for a Swim in the Estuary. Worked my feet into the cold, wet swimming shoes as I ran up the Strand to the harbour.
Bright full moon with an orange Winter halo and frost on the ground. Arrived to find 5 others. With lockdown rules we stood apart – a couple were only visible from their head torches.
Entered the black, glassy water. Can’t think of a better place to be on the last night of The Year.
New Years Day 2020NE!
Set off for a high tide 8.30am swim. The green fishing nets on the slip-way were white with frost. As I swam out a cormorant settled on Darling’s Rock. Its craggy black silhouette set against the sunlit castle fully at Powderham – made me pause and marvel. So calming to be in the presence of this creature – oblivious to our ways of marking Time. A mist hovered all along the estuary. Swimming by the boat shelter wall I realized I couldn’t touch ground – in this usually shallow area.
Jan 2nd 2021
9am swim today. Another frosty walk to Ted’s Folly. A flock of dunlins swooped across the horizon. Their wings catching the light of the rising sun. Breathed out as the shock of the cold hit my body, then that inevitable creeping warmness as I swam.
I offered up this swim for my 100 year old uncle who is fading fast in his care home. I closed my eyes and felt the sun’s warmth on my face. A born + bred villager was washing down his fishing clinker built dinghy.
Jan 3rd 2021
2oC 9.30am arrival at Ted’s Folly. Apart from a few herring-gull cries, little bird sound today. Jason had just brought a catch in on his fishing boat, The Compass Rose. His crew were helping unload the creels after a night’s fishing out at sea.
I swam six lengths of the boat shelter wall. Thinking about doing some kind of cold swim-sponsored activity. Chatted with a villager scraping his dinghy on the way home – Ayers family (generations of fishermen).
Jan 4th 2021
3oC 8.30am, went for a neap tide today so had to wade in some way before swimming.
A lot of bladder-wrack seaweed along the shore – then nearer water, mulched up eelgrass.
Hands felt particularly cold – probably due to the ICY NORTH WIND!
Flock of small birds in the distance – could have been oyster-catchers or dunlin – like white pepper speckles on the grey horizon.
Came home to news that Uncle Anton had died at 8am (100 years old)
Jan 5th 2021
3oC As I arrived at Ted’s Folly and entered the water, a WHITE HERON ->CORRECTION EGRET! flew across from the red Breccia cliffs and over me – legs outstretched behind. Swimming deeper in, the black CORMORANT settled into its favourite place on Darling’s Rock. Sat sunning itself. It turned and watched me swimming.
Jan 6th 2021
3oC Absolutely NO BIRD SOUNDS as I went for my swim at 10.45am. Possibly due to high tide, all the waders have gone elsewhere. Not even gull cries. Calm water. Gentle tide still coming in.
Jason, the village fisherman went out on his motorised dinghy. As he passed, said that he would be happy to accompany any swimmers if they wanted to cross the estuary – he’d look out for a suitable tide. Really appreciated the offer – something to aim for!
Jan 7th 2021
1oC outside temp. 12.30 Swim today – a neap tide. Very calm water.
A dunlin, or possibly a turnstone swooped low nearby – bright orange legs.
Water felt particularly chilly, but sun shone brightly. I swam 10 lengths of the boat shelter wall, which took me 16 minutes.
Sunlight dappled and flickered across the Breccia red cliffs – lit up by water reflections.
20th Nov 2013 – 21st Sept. 2017
“Regarding the Spiritual in Art”
I was visiting Topsham Quay in 1998, at a time when my friend Andrew Voysey was restoring an old wooden boat called ‘Woodwind’.
Andrew knew that I was an Artist who made work from found wood, and as I was leaving the Quay, he handed me a piece of wood from his boat – so that I could work with it.
I scratched the image of my boat, a Cornish crabber, onto the wood, and showed it to my, then dealer, Gordon Hepworth.
“Wow!” said Gordon – “That will sell!” We exhibited the work on the Gordon Hepworth stand at the Royal College of Art at the London Art Fair in 1999, and it sold within twenty minutes.
We didn’t think anything more about the sale until the following year, when we returned again to the Annual Art Fair. A woman arrived wanting to exchange the work that she had bought the year before.
“What’s up?” asked Gordon. She apologised but explained how her husband “didn’t like the drowning men in the picture”.
There were no “drowning men” in the picture, so we all realised that the “drowning men” must have been a figment of the man’s imagination. Gordon winks at me and refunds the woman her money. Twenty minutes later the work has sold again to another woman…
We didn’t think about the incident again until a year later when we are preparing a Gordon Hepworth Exhibition at Gallery 27, in Cork St.
The second woman walks in with a brown paper parcel, and wants to exchange her Art Work for another piece, or for a cash return. To our astonishment it is the same work that the first woman returned to the RCA the year before.
“What’s wrong with it?” asks Gordon. “It’s my husband” the woman said, “he doesn’t like the drowning men, and when he looks at it, he says he can hear screaming.” This is Husband No. 2
The woman exchanges the work, and leaves.
Later that year – I’m on the Quay, when Andrew asks me how I had ‘got on’ with the piece of wood that he had given me from ‘Woodwind’, two years before?
I repeat the story for him about the two mysterious women and their husbands’ responses to Andrew’s wood. “That’s very interesting” said Andrew “because I’ve discovered that ‘Woodwind’ went to DUNKIRK…”
The two incidents could be coincidental, but they raise the question regarding the Spiritual in Art, and traditional beliefs amongst fishermen and sailors that sometimes abandoned or broken boats contain the spirit of their past within them….
20th Nov 2013 – 21st Sept 2017
As an artist who works with ‘found materials’, I am occasionally given materials by friends, by collectors and by collaborators.
Early in 2013, someone that I had known from my school days, DICK HOOK, gave me some wood that he had found on a beach in North Devon.
Later that year Dick was tragically killed in a motor car accident, and later, I was to learn that his ashes had been placed somewhere in the River Exe.
As my house backs onto the River Exe, I made a piece of work, for DICK HOOK, from the wood that he had given to me, and placed it in the river, to join his ashes, washed out to sea.
Four years later, I was asking the Topsham Ferryman where DICK’S ashes had been placed? and the Ferryman explained they were put into the river at the exact place where I was standing!
I looked down and there on the slipway was a piece of driftwood. To my astonishment it was the ART WORK for DICK HOOK, that I had thrown into the river FOUR years previously!
Four years later my ART WORK had returned to the exact place where Dick’s ashes had been placed.
Four years later my ART WORK had returned to me….