Exeter – a tidal city

Feb 2, 2021 | Blog

M5 bridge. Andy Thatcher

Exeter – a tidal city.

The tide sneaks in and out of Exeter. To catch it, you have to be around the Exe between Trew’s Weir and the Medieval bridge at Bridge Road, and pay close attention. A high tide can spill amongst the pylons through Riverside Valley Park’s wet meadows, fill the flood relief channel and flood the car park at Bridge Road. I often wonder how many people have got caught out there, and pity any overnight campers who’ve woken up to a sodden van.

Of course, the Exe is more than capable of doing its own flooding, as it draws down downpours from Exmoor, swells with the Culm and Yeo. It’s sometimes difficult to work out if it’s freshwater or salt that’s getting my running shoes soggy as I cross the flood relief channel’s little bridge. But there’s always that simple corrective: is there a high tide mark in amongst the grass, or is the water still, slowly, hopefully pushing its way towards the Quay and beyond, as it did before the coming of the weirs in the Fourteenth century? If not, then it’s not tidal, just gravity, rather than gravitational pull.

At ground level, the tide is an occasional guest but from the hilltops around Exeter, looking down toward Exmouth, it’s a daily event. Climb up to the field at the top of Ludwell Valley Park, the hedgerow at the very top of Mincinglake Valley Park, emerge from the ancient drover’s track at Barley Valley Park, and the estuary commands attention. From such a distance, it lacks fine-grained subtlety; it’s just that sometimes it looks very full, like a bath ready to spill over, sometimes it looks rather depleted, and at other times it’s just an expanse of water, neither one thing nor the other.

I’ve also got to know the edgelands between Bridge Road and Topsham, where the tide speaks much louder. A longstanding fascination with the M5 bridge has seen me clamber into Newport Park, cut off by the tide as it inundated the reed beds nearby. (Though I did get a great shot that evening). I’ve been chased out of the same reed beds by a king tide, one I knew was coming, though wasn’t quite prepared for it to sneak up on me from different directions simultaneously.

Flooded paths. Andy Thatcher

On the opposite bank, I’ve got to know the Old Sludge Beds, a nature reserve managed by Devon Wildlife Trust. The site of an old sewage works, the freshwater wetland is slowly turning salt from a breached embankment, flooding just a little bit more year on year, an inevitable sign of rising sea levels.

Surely Exeter’s best spot to watch the tide is tucked away beneath the new housing estate at Tumbling Hills. There’s no official footpath to it and you have to know how to spot your way down, but atop a red cliff is a small, naturally flat and grassed platform, the view across the river to the sewage works framed by a couple of twisted oaks. At the highest of tides, these oaks dip their lowest branches into the water, while at the very lowest, the cliff plunges down towards the silt. It suits Exeter’s relationship to the tide perfectly: it’s something unobtrusive, something in need of seeking out, but once found, is an element of the city that subtly but unalterably changes one’s way of thinking about it.

Intertidal edge. Andy Thatcher

https://andyjthatcher.com/

 

 

Do you visit a particular place on the Exe to observe the tides? Is there an aspect of the estuary you could share? We would love you to contribute to our knowledge of the estuary by writing a blog or making a map or taking part in some of the activities available on the website or in the Exe Estuary Box.  Please get in touch and explore the website.

High Water: Tides, Climate, Oceans and The Exe estuary

High Water: Tides, Climate, Oceans and The Exe estuary

HIGH WATER EVENT: 30 March 2021 Sarah Cameron Sunde Tidelines partnered with Art-earth and Low Carbon Devon to run the High Water event where 60 artists and scientists and others from all round the Uk and the world talked about their work and relation to the oceans,...

read more
Big Thanks You to boxers!

Big Thanks You to boxers!

Thank you so much to everyone around the estuary who has responded to the Exe estuary box challenge and returned boxes to us! We are so grateful for the time you have taken to share your maps, your questions, your thoughts and your creativity all about the estuary...

read more
Topsham to Lympstone Part 6 of Jon Seal’s 7 part film.

Topsham to Lympstone Part 6 of Jon Seal’s 7 part film.

  Film 5 of 7: Turf to Exeter https://youtu.be/7EFDs1wwt_I Jon's 6th film starts with a drenching and brightens up as he follows the little-trodden shoreline of the Exe estuary. This section of the Exe has forgotten boats and crackling reed beds that collect enormous...

read more
Birds on the Exe tide line

Birds on the Exe tide line

Matt Knot writes about the birds he sees on the Exe estuary and surrounding area on his website: http://gobirdingexmouth.blogspot.com/. Here you can find out not just about the birds but also much more besides including moths, butterflies and wildflowers. His...

read more
Reading Water

Reading Water

  We've been talking for a while with Naomi about her ideas to create a project around the HMS Terror and its history and how its stories finds resonances today weaving into climate narratives and stories that connect us through the oceans to other parts of the world....

read more
High Water March 30, Free event tickets now from Eventbrite

High Water March 30, Free event tickets now from Eventbrite

High Water: sharing our connections to the tides Tuesday March 30, from 08.45 - 22.00 BST/UTC, online Over 50 people are sharing stories about the sea and in particular the high tide connecting Exmouth to others around the UK and the world.  There will be readings,...

read more
The Last Salmon Boat

The Last Salmon Boat

The Last Salmon Boat by Lesley Kerman   The Last Salmon Boat For almost fifty years I could look out of my kitchen window and watch the salmon fishermen casting their net in the River below. In rain, in sun, by day and night the rhythmic sound of their boat being...

read more
The Map Room

The Map Room

This is a a gallery of maps submitted as part of the Mapping the Exe invitation or from the Exe Estuary Box.  Please draw your own and upload them to me and I will put them on the gallery. Maps can be anything. It is about how you experience the Exe estuary or...

read more
Tidelines Around the Exe Estuary: A new film in 7 parts

Tidelines Around the Exe Estuary: A new film in 7 parts

Around the Exe – a series of short films. Around the Exe is a series of short films which attempt to capture images and sound from Dawlish Warren to Exeter and back down to Exmouth. Every two weeks a new film will be added and a kind of journey around this remarkable...

read more
The Exe Estuary Box

The Exe Estuary Box

  https://youtu.be/ZiG5Fhd2atY Welcome to the Exe Estuary Box! What is it?The Exe estuary box is a place to share thoughts, experiences, ideas and questions on the Exe estuary and coastline, in your own time, from your own home. You could do these activities on...

read more