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Barnstaple Attractions - The River Exe

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The River Exe is more than 50 miles long and stretches almost all the way from the Bristol Channel in the north to the English Channel in the south. The source of the Exe is near Simonsbath on Exmoor - and it reaches the sea at Exmouth. En route, it passes through many communities, including Tiverton and, of course, Devon's county town Exeter.

Historically, the river has played an important role. For example, the Romans reached Exeter in 50AD and turned it into a stronghold because this was the lowest point where the river could be crossed.

Over the centuries, Exeter developed as an important trading port and the quay was really the hub of the city. But the Countess of Devon threw a strop in the 13th century, having fallen out with the port of Exeter. So she built a weir, thus preventing big boats from reaching the city!

Which was why the Exeter Canal was built in 1566 - making it England's oldest Ship Canal. It was built so that boats could again navigate their way to Exeter Quay from Turf Lock - where it rejoins the River Exe. During this era, Topsham was also a important port.

Further up the river, the Exe also helped with the development of Tiverton, where water power was used for the booming wool industry. The Exe has caused some major flooding in its time, regularly bursting its banks.

Some of the floods proved devastating, destroying churches and other buildings in Exeter and wreaking havoc in other towns such as Tiverton and across farmland. Flooding remains a problem along some stretches of the river, but a flood defence scheme built in Exeter itself in the 1970s has prevented major incidents in the city.

Where the river reaches the sea, there are important nature sites on each side of the estuary - at Exmouth and Dawlish Warren. Exmouth has a local nature reserve and Dawlish Warren is a national reserve as a result of the birdlife attracted by the estuary habitat. The entire estuary is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI). Many species flock to the area, including avocet, curlew, teal, Brent geese, oystercatchers, dunlin, redshank, grey plover, and godwits. At the right times of the year, the estuary is a birdwatcher's paradise.

All the way along the Exe there are places to canoe, and the river these days is important to the holiday and leisure industry. It's traditionally been a favourite place for anglers, and in 1924, a salmon weighing 64lb was caught by fisherman Richard Voysey. It became known as the famous Exe Salmon. Because of the decline in salmon populations in Devon's rivers - including the Exe - the relevant authorities have launched an action plan to reverse the decline. But it's unlikely we'll ever see another 64-pounder!

The Exe's other role is providing water for Wimbleball Reservoir on Exmoor. Up here on the moor, the Exe passes through wet moorland, woodland and steep-sided valleys, in an environment which is a complete contrast to that found at the other end of the river.

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Abbeyford Woods, Near Okehampton, Tel: 01409 221692
Big Sheep (The), Abbotsham, Bideford, EX39 5AP Tel: 01237 472366
Bradworthy Transport Msm, Higher Alsworthy Farm Tel: 01409 241597
Braunton & District Museum, Braunton, Tel: 01271 816688
Brocklands Adventure Park, West Street Bude, Tel: 01288 321225
Broomhill Art Hotel & Gardens, Muddiford Tel: 01271 850262
Burton Art Gallery & Msm, Kingsley Road, Tel: 01237 471455
Castle Hill, Filleigh, Barnstaple, EX32 0RQ Tel: 01598 760 336
Clovelly Court Garden, , Clovelly , EX39 5TA Tel: 01237 431
Clovelly Village Visitor Centre, Clovelly, Bideford, Tel: 01237 431781

Cobbaton Combat Collection, Chittlehampton, Tel: 01769 540740
Cheristow Lavender, C Lavender Farm, Hartland, Tel: 01237 440078
Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park, C.Martin, Tel: 01271 882486
Dartington Crystal, Dartington Crystal, Torrington, Tel: 01805 626242
Docton Mill Gardens, Spekes Valley, Hartland, Tel: 01237 441369
Dovetails Gallery, 60 High Street, Ilfracombe, Tel: 01271 864769
Dragon Archery Centre, Westcott Cott, Holsworthy, Tel: 0800 0372466
Eggesford Forest, Eggesford, Tel: 01409 221 692
Eggesford Garden & Country Centre, Eggesford, Tel: 01769 580250
Exmoor Zoo Park, South Stowford B. Fleming, Tel: 01598 763352

Gnome Reserve, West Putford, Nr Bradworthy Tel: 01409 241435
Halsdon Wood, Great Torrington, Okehampton, Tel: 01392 279244
Hartland Abbey & Gardens, Hartland, Nr Bideford, Tel: 01237 441264
Hartland Peninsula, Hartland, North Devon, Tel: 01237 431504
Hartland Pottery, Hartland, Nr Bideford, EX39 6DE Tel: 01237 441693
Heddon Hall Gardens, Parracombe, EX31 4QL Tel: 01598 763541
Holsworthy Community Woods, Holsworthy, Tel: 01409 221692
Ilfracombe Aquarium, Ilfracombe Harbour, Tel: 01271 864533
Lundy Island, The Quay, Bideford, EX39 2LY Tel: 01271 863636
Marwood Hill Gardens, Marwood Hill, EX31 4EB Tel: 01271 342528

Milky Way Adventure Park, Clovelly, Bideford, Tel: 01237 431255
Plough Arts Centre (The), 9-11 Fore St, Torrington, Tel: 01805 624624
Queens Theatre, Boutport Street, Barnstaple, Tel: 01271 324242
Quince Honey Farm, North Road, South Molton, Tel: 01769 572401
RHS Garden Rosemoor, Rosemoor, Torrington, Tel: 01805 624067
Tarka Cruises, 20 Market Street, Appledore, Tel: 01237 476 191
Tarka Garden Tours, Barleycott Blakewell, Barns, Tel: 01271 375002
Tarka Line (The), D & C Rail Pnership, Plymouth, Tel: 01752 233094
Torrington 1646, Castle Hill South St, Torrington, Tel: 01805 626146
Tropiquaria, Washford Cross, Watchet, TA23 0QB Tel: 01984 640 688

Tunnels Beaches, Bath Place, Ilfracombe, Tel: 01271 879123
Watermouth Castle, Ilfracombe, EX34 9SL Tel: 01271 867474
Westcountry Nurseries, Donkey Meadow, Bideford, Tel: 01237 431111


Serious Shopping: Dartington Crystal, Green Lanes and of course Atlantic Village.

And finally for the active ones: Loads of Golf, Cascades, North Devon Karting and Skern Lodge.


Going out tonight? Then why not make an evening into a party... Visit Exult for all your fancy dress and costume hire....



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