Many of us have questions about the estuary and coastline. This is a space to share these unanswered questions. The questions here have been sent in to open up discussion and potentially find answers. None of us can know everything, no question is too small or too big, and some questions might have a few different potential answers! These questions could also be the subjects of existing or future research. We will look into the best way to investigate and get back to you as well as posting our progress in a blog entry on this website. To contribute a question go to the Things I’d Like to Know page.  If you would like to contribute answers please get in touch by email or send via the contact page.

Q. Are the salmon coming back?

Q. How many seals live in the estuary?

Q. What would it cost to make the River clean enough to swim in?

Q. How fast (or slowly) is the average tide rising?

Q. What fish are still in the Exe Estuary?

Q. How polluted is the water?

Q. Is any raw sewage still allowed to be discharged into it?

Q. I often walk or cycle along the Exe estuary and am fascinated by the lines of wooden structures or some stone you can see at low tide in the mud especially around Lympstone. I have tried to walk out to see better what they are but sink in the mud. Could you please tell me what they are and why they are there.

Q. Please can you tell me more about the shipwrecks along the estuary? Are they all fishing vessels or any exciting stories associated?

Q. Are there otters in the estuary?

Q. How far up the estuary have seals been sighted?

Q. How many different species of birds live in the estuary?

Q. Seahorses do live in our estuary. I wonder what conditions suit them as I picture them holding onto the sea grass with their tails as the tide comes in and out! But the grass dries out at low tide so which environment do they actually live in?

Q. How much actual volume of water comes in and goes out of the estuary every tide? And would a small wooden raft (or large plastic duck) place in the water at Exmouth when the tide is out but turning make it to Topsham by high tide? Is that 2 questions?

Q. How fast is the estuary silting up? I’ve never seen it being dredged but perhaps it is?

Q. How deep is the estuary at the deepest part at high tide? How much does this change with the changing movement of the sand? How often is this mapped and measured?


Q. How will estuary biodiversity adapt/ change with climate change?

Q. What processes are at work causing the huge deposition of sand along the coast near Rodney Point? The low tide mark is now much further out than it was ten years ago.

Heath Nickels

Q. How long will it be before someone is killed by a speedboat on the estuary?.


Q. Are the Spring tides getting higher than before?


Q. How is climate change affecting sea-weed growth?


Q. Where does it (the estuary) end?


Q. When do the various birds arrive and leave


Q. What effect will climate change and sea level rise have?


Q. How can we enhance its ability to support wildlife?


Q. Why is there a green arrow sticking out of Darling Rock?


Q. Why is there so much pottery?


Q. Is there anybody responsible for the water quality? Does anyone measure it on a regular basis?


Q. How do we ensure water quality is protected?


Q. What is the biggest threat to the future of the Exe estuary?


Q. Where do our seals live?


Q. What types of fish and other sea creatures inhabit the sea along our stretch of coastline?


Q. Dredging. Would dredging open up transport possibilities or would it affect visiting and permanent birds?


Q. Will increased watersports and activities affect the birds and wildlife in the estuary and sea?


Q. Has more house building in Exeter and towns along the estuary affected water levels because of increased run off?


Q. Will more trees be planted along the estuary when the sea defences are completed?


Q. How clean the water really is compared to how it has been & how it could be?


Q. Why didn’t the Council realize that all the sand put on Dawlish Warren would get blown / washed away?


Q. How many different types of jellyfish are there?


Q. I would be interested to know more about smuggling exploits in the estuary?


Q. I would like to know more about how the estuary was used commercially in the past?


Q. How likely is it that the sea will break through Dawlish Warren ..& when?


Q. I love living on the estuary. How did people feel about it in the past?


Q. Is there a reference book on the ecology of the mud / sand of our Estuary?


Q. Are hovercraft banned?


Q. Are salmon still returning to the Exe and are any of them caught in nets?


Q. Can you do watersports in all parts of the river?


Q. How many seals have been spotted in the river?


Q. What species live in the reeds?


Q. What is the most common bird found?


Q. Re: Reed beds near the M5 bridge:
When were they last harvested?
What were the problems with harvesting that led to the harvesting ceasing?


Q. Changes in relative strength/depth of the channels around the reed beds: What does one channel always silt up and another get more flow? Storm river flow?


Q. How many different species of birds over Winter here?


Q. What is it that men regularly go to collect on low tide – is it worms for bait?


Q. How deep is the water?


Q. What wildlife is unique to the estuary?


Q. More about how the estuary was used in days gone by – the industries that depended on it. Its invaders, the nature that visits.

Q. Exmouth Beach : Lost Sand (thousands of tonnes) Where has it all gone?

Q. Depths of water in the estuary; on the inter-tidal banks. How often are they checked? Who does it?

Q. Seal sightings: Are they logged, to identify trends (increasing/decreasing)?

Q. Why does the wind strength tend to drop at high tide?

Q. What can be done around the river Exe – yearly planner ‘What’s on’ guide?

Q. Why are there so many small pieces of broken pottery on the strandline, to the west of the railway, north of where Withycombe Brook enters the Estuary?

Q. There is evidence of estuary-dependent past industries such as rows of poles in the river. Which industries have the river/estuary supported in the past and why have those industries died out?

Roger Gibson

Q.  What is the extent of the protected area (for nature), if any? Who owns this, and is there a record of what management for nature takes place (maybe a kind of map of nature areas)?

Q. Can Dawlish Warren survive sea level rise? 

Q. Where  along the river Exe does the water stop being salty sea water and become river water?

Q. More research on temperature & salinity clines in the estuary and how these impact on habitats. For example, can mussles exist in freshwater? why are there fewer mussles?  

Adrian Toole

Q. How much sediment (notably top soil) is carried out by the river Exe and typically where is this deposited (how far out at sea)? Currently (11.2.2021) the river is looking very red, presumably high levels of topsoil and sediment run off. Are there any impacts of this on wildlife in the Exe? And what, if anything, is being done in the catchment to reduce run off – beavers, landowners upstream??

Christina James

Q. What is the glittering path of sunlight or moonlight on the water called?


Q. How can we protect the living treasury of nature from the selfish greed & carelessness of people? – Is there hope?


Q. There used to be lots of eels in the Estuary at Lympstone. Do they still inhabit it and if so, when? (older villagers tell of The Brook ‘wriggling with them’ when there was a butcher’s abattoir.)


Q. I have anecdotal accounts of fish caught in Lympstone Estuary but would like to know of all current fish breeds there.


Q. What effect does a full moon have on the wildlife of The Estuary?


Q. I haven’t noticed any dredging of the main river course. How often does this need doing? Is there a risk of the sea breaching the sandbanks at Dawlish Warren; would this be allowed to take its natural course?


Q. Are there any maps available of the estuary at low tide? Would love to explore it but don’t know where to walk or what to look for.


Q. Is there any merit in thinking about some form of protection status for the estuary which acknowledges and looks after the interests of its users, both human and animal?


Q. Will increased residential building in the area increase RIVER POLLUTION?


Q. Will the Harbour Master ensure that navigation marks will be maintained and improved?


Q. Should changes to the channel – particularly at the southern ends of the Reed Islands at TOPSHAM be a cause for concern?


Q. Should the “IRON AGE – DOCK SITES” on the river be identified and investigated?


Q. How do the numbers of birds differ now from 12/40/60 years ago?


Q. Where exactly did the narrow gauge railway between Odams (sic) Wharf and Exmouth run?


Q. The estuary was once a major source of free food for villagers (mussels, shellfish, salmon, etc,). Are stocks ever likely to recover?


Q. How the tides & currents work?


Q. How / where is at risk of sea level rise; does Dawlish Warren protect us?


Q. Best swimming spots?


Q. Whether to worry about the tides of jellyfish that sometimes wash up on shore?


Q. I heard they used to do whaling years ago around Topsham / Exton; is this true?


Q. What was the role of the river in days gone by?


Q. If the sewage boat that used to come down the Exeter canal + out to sea, has now stopped, how will the Estuary not silt up?


Q. Will the entrance to the river end up moving to the corner of Dawlish Warren?


Q. What species of crab are caught in the tides and who catches them?


Q. What has created the long striations of small stones on Bull Sands?


Q. Where do the crabs go in Winter?


Q. Litter pickers and bags were available at one time for general public use. Will these be rolled out again in future or even increased? They were very useful, especially in being able to educate young people – my grandson would always pick a bag before we left the beach.


Q. How far up the river is it classed as an estuary?


Q. How many different species are living in the river?


Q. What will the estuary look like in 10 years time?


Q. How safe is it to swim in the estuary? Tidal? Health-wise?


Q. Can dogs get any diseases from the river?


Q. How many boats are moored on the estuary during the Summer months?


Q. Apart from seaweed, which is the most common plant growing in and around the estuary?


Q. Why are the little cowrie shells only found in the Spring and Summer, and usually most plentiful at one place on the beach (more or less opposite the Octagonal cafe at Exmouth)?


Q. What I would like – the local authority to plant many more sea pines, the big lambden? shaped ones – think of Bournemouth – the promenade would be so much more attractive. Pavements in the town are wide enough for more trees anyway.


Q. I’d like to see a map plot of The Estuary which shows the varying degrees of salinity at each plotted point at different times of year and different fresh water and tidal flows.


Q. I’d like to know what % of the Brent Geese visiting the UK are typically to be found on the Exe.


Q. What is the land called that is underneath the water in the estuary? Who does it belong to?


Q. How wide is it from Starcross to Lympstone?


Q. Where does the Exe start – ie the source? + how long is it?


Q. Your question here….


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