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 and Two Moors Way.
Salmon Run highlights the iconic Exe river Atlantic salmon, part of our history and culture, and the multiple challenges they now face including climate change, post-industrial weirs and river pollution. The Altantic Salmon population in the Exe is ‘at risk’ along with 84% of UK salmon rivers.

In the photo above you can see the salmon (Samantha) emerging from the ocean, welcomed by the master of ceremonies and delivered with a Salmon invocation to the first relay running team who will be the first to carry her on her journey upstream. Read on to follow that journey:

At 8 am the relay team and 18 Ultras leave Exmouth. The ultras are on a continuous 50 mile run that will take them til dusk. The first leg of the route follows the Exe estuary where the salmon adapt to the change from salt to fresh water.

Relay Team 1 reach Salmon Pool Weir in Exeter and the ultras continue the route through Exeter as the relay team pause to hand over Samantha the salmon to a shoal of 5k runners.

At Salmon Pool weir in Exeter we learn more about the salmon and how to care for the river with the Westcountry Rivers Trust and Friends of the River Exe.  Salmon Run is the final event of the inaugural Festival of the Exe organised by Friends of the River Exe. The shoal play a warm up Weir Leaping game crossing Trews Weir, Blackaller Weir and Salmon Pool Weir. The salmon handover ceremony takes place and Samantha the baton is passed to the 5k shoal (middle picture).

Salmon leapers in teams take on 3 of the Exe weirs.

The shoal leaves Salmon Pool for Exwick. Tony Lidington/Master of ceremonies and sidelick Salmonella.

Some of the 5k runners approaching Exwick

You may see the occasional yellow Salmon Run t shirt and these are likely to be our wonderful volunteer stewards.

Realy team 2, the Cranbrook Runners, recieve Samantha the Salmon from the 5k runners and travel along the Exe through farmland to Thorverton.

Samantha changes teams on the beautiful Thorverton green. Team Finch takes on the next section via Bickleigh to Tiverton.

In Tiverton runners are escorted along the waterfront through the marvelous Tiverton Eat Festival. Ultras stop at a feeding station and then run through.

Relay teams pause to pass on to a team from South West Road Runners. The route follows the Exe Valley Way through beautiful countryside, never far from the river.

The ultras continue at their pace, some incredibly fast (!), speading out along the Exe in ones and sometimes twos. Over the length of the river, the salmon will cross over 14 weirs, 5-10% of salmon are lost at each weir and the weirs become more difficult to cross with fluctuating river levels caused by increasing extremes of flow caused by flood and drought. Westcountry Rivers Trust’s Exe Weirs project seeks to address some of the issues around these barriers to free movement in the river.

The final relay team receives Samantha at Exebridge and start their run through Dulverton, now along the river Barle, a tributary of the Exe, through the woods to Hawkridge. By now the relay has been runnning for 9 hours.
The run completes on crossing the ancient bridge at Tarr Steps where, after a short ceremony Samantha the salmon is returned to the upstream river by angler, conservationist and Exmoor resident Michelle Werrett.

At Tarr Steps ultra runners continue to arrive up to 3 hours after the first ultra salmon home, Adam Fieldhouse (with run manager Ceri Rees in the right hand of the 3 Adam picsa), in an incredible 7 hours and 20 minutes (50 miles!). And here is Dave Forey from First Aid Devon working with Ceri Rees, run manager from Wild Running and watching over all runners til the last salmon comes home.

Listen here to the 27 minute Salmon Run podcast which celebrates this remarkable species, its migratory journey and its ecological and cultural significance for the Exe, Exeter and globally. It features:  Westcountry Rivers Trust; Jamie Stevens, fish genetics at Unversity of Exeter, David Solomon, salmon researcher, Michelle Werrett, fisherman on Exmoor, Andy Chadwick, fisherman at Topsham, Tom Cadbury, RAMM archaeology curator and Holly Morgenroth, natural history curator at RAMM. Listen HERE

We are very pleased to supported by The Westcountry Rivers Trust and RETA the River Exe and Tributaries Association.

PHOTOS here almost all  from Vanessa Miles Photography but also from Carol Jay (mostly from the Salmon Pool event), the photographer from Friends of the River Exe and from runners and audience who kindly contributed their photos.