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.

Salmon Run 2024

Salmon Run 2024

SALMON RUN 2024 !! The Great Exe Salmon Run is happening again on September 29th 2024, World Rivers Day It is:a 50 mile Ultra from Sea to Moor, from Exmouth to Tarr Stepsa team relay in sections of approximately 10 miles also following the same route and starting at...

read more
overwintering

overwintering

Overwintering I   public rehearsals and performances late Feb/early March Community rehearsals: Thursday 29 Feb, Sunday 25 Feb Community performance Saturday 2 March all 6.30pm (Performance will include time on the estuary. Please contact us if you have any access...

read more
Alive Alive O! Part 2

Alive Alive O! Part 2

Mud is really the lungs of the river – Jason Ingham, inshore fisherman on the Exe Marine Larvae are attracted to sounds when they are looking for habitat – sound travels really well under water, it’s the best available cue. There is research that show that blue...

read more
Salmon Run 2023

Salmon Run 2023

SALMON RUN 2023 In one day, World Rivers Day, runners aged from 3 (on pushbike) to 72 took on a variety of challenges to empathise with the epic journey of the Atlantic salmon against the flow up the river Exe to the spawning grounds on Exmoor following the Exe Valley...

read more
Sea Temperature Part I

Sea Temperature Part I

We are delighted to share this blog post from Louise which weaves together threads of felt experience, citizen science, craft and care around the increasingly critical story of sea temperature. Jon Tinker from the Met Office who co-faciliated an online event with us:...

read more
Exe Trail Plankton Mural

Exe Trail Plankton Mural

Exe Trail plankton mural near Lympstone Back just before lockdown Tidelines worked with the Exe Estuary Managment Partnership to deliver a workshop at Lymsptone primary school. The kids looked at images of plankton and tiny creatures from the oceans and used a variety...

read more
Alive Alive 0! Part 1.

Alive Alive 0! Part 1.

ALIVE ALIVE O! Calling the Blue Mussel The mussel beds in the Exe are now badly depleted and many are wondering how we can restore the natural habitats of the Estuary. Adult mussels cannot move, but their larvae disperse through the water and can travel. Many species...

read more
The Salmon Run Day

The Salmon Run Day

The SALMON RUN DAY 8 relay sections, 7 changeover locations, 9 ceremonial invocations, many dates slices, several pubs by several lovely bridges, 74 runners and 50 miles over fields and down roads up and down hills and by the river, the salmon (Samantha) was passed...

read more
Singing the Sea & Alive Alive O!

Singing the Sea & Alive Alive O!

Singing the Sea & Alive Alive O!   Image: Plymouth University 2nd year Illustration students - Tidelines project Two projects connected by sound. Sound is different under the water. Water can carry sounds far further than air. What sounds can we hear? What...

read more
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