Friday 21 February 2014

The Exeter to Topsham canal path

Today we went for a walk along the historic Exeter to Topsham canal.

Way back when they had tall masted sailing ships and the woollen industry was the backbone of the West Country economy, Topsham, further down the Exe estuary, was the deep water port for Exeter. But slowly, slowly the upper reaches of the river, between the port and the city, silted over and became too shallow to allow the cargo to move through.

As a result they hit upon the brilliant idea of building their own canal. 'Big deal!' I hear you say, but, bear with me, this was back in 1500's. It first opened for shipping in 1566. Can you imagine what an effort of human sweat and tears and blood must have gone into building it? Can you picture the gangs of men, many of them no doubt Irish navvies, my countrymen, with picks and spades labouring in the sandy, red soil with teams of oxen and mules carrying away the earth that they had dug up? I wonder which songs they sang as they worked. I'll bet in winter it was too cold and miserable to do anything other than knuckle down and wish the job done.

We started off at the Exeter quay, and followed the signs for the canal basin. It was a glorious morning with a huge blue sky and loads of sunshine.

We saw lots of swans. These chaps were breakfasting on some scraps that another walker had brought along for them.

I don't know whether you've noticed or not, but there's a beer can floating just beside the bird on the left. I didn't notice it until I down-loaded the photo to my computer. Isn't it depressing how people throw their rubbish around?

And, at the risk of going into full rant, look what I saw floating by the bank ten paces further down river:

Someone's discarded Christmas tree!

How can they possibly have thought that it was ok to just chuck that into the River Exe?

Anyway, we carried on, and took the path along the canal.

We walked on to the double lock...

... where we stopped for coffee and bacon sandwiches at one of the loveliest pubs in Devon, the aptly named Double Locks Pub. Inside was warm and cosy with open fires burning in the grates, and riverside views that made me think of Ratty's riverbank home in AA Milne's Toad of Toad Hall. The coffees were fabulous, and the bacon sandwiches were delicious. There's a deck outside, where some braver souls were enjoying the weak rays of the winter sun. On a balmy summer day this place must really rock for a lazy Sunday lunch by the water.

We carried on downriver to the Exminster Marshes, before turning back. My husband had a work commitment that we had to get back for.

We decided to return via the flood plain of the River Exe. It wasn't flooded, and Maxi had great fun racing around and playing with the other dogs.

And we had some lovely views of Exeter Cathedral in the distance. Looks very regal, doesn't it?

By now the rain was catching up with us, and before very much longer it overtook us. When we finally arrived back at our car we were all a bit tired, slightly soggy and moderately muddy. We were pleased that we'd been able to make the most of the lovely, bright morning. After all that's what its' been all about recently: making the best of the breaks between the showers, and not minding too much when the clouds open.

If you fancy exploring the Exeter canal basin you can download a map showing the walking path here:

Have a great weekend!

Bonny x

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