Saturday, 5 February 2011


The Topsham names for the Exe salmon hauls, “salmoning holes”, are well documented by Sara Vernon in ‘Talking about Topsham.’ On page 99 there is even a chart of the Estuary mapping some of them. Bill Pym tells Sara Vernon:

“ These are the names of the salmoning holes, starting from Church Causee on the right hand side: West Mud, under the Drifters; The Bightway; Black Oar Mud; Ting Tong; The Cupboard just above the Turf; Jan’s Cove; Range Banks; Out Over the Neck; the Drain of the Neck; Scot’s Pool; Pool Mud; Canal Hard and down to the Warren.

Then if you start the other side, from Shapter Street and the Goat Walk, the first one is Withies Mud, then Black Oar Hard; The Reach; The Spit; The Nob; then Eastern Side; the Sands; the Hookers and down to Bull Hill.”

There’s poetry for you!

In ‘Devon Life’ for January 1979, some ten years before Sara Vernon’s book was first published, Marc Millon wrote about his day out with a salmon crew. The skipper is called Pym:

“Undaunted, the long net is regathered into the boat, and Pym heads further downstream, through the main channel to one of the many bends in the river where the salmon range – bends which have strange names centuries old – Black Ore , Ting Tong, the Spit, the Stile, In through the Mud, Out through the Drain, the Clock, and many others.”

Strange names indeed, but centuries old? That’s a guess. Some of them might yield to research. Scot and Jan and Withie would appear to be men's names. I doubt if the names of the hauls were ever written down before 1979 but would like to be proved wrong.

To me “Ting Tong” is the strangest name of all. There is of course the hamlet up on the commons near Budleigh Salterton. The name would seem to be ancient and to do with parliaments, but then it would have to be Danish, wouldn’t it?, and that seems unlikely..

When I was young and foolish I used to say that I hoped one day to live in one of the big houses at Ting Tong and rename it ‘Far Ting’.

I think I prefer Ore to Oar, but am not sure why. 'Black Haw' would make more sense, the Old English 'haw' being a fence, hedge or enclosure.

1 comment:

  1. Strange names indeed, but centuries old? That’s a guess.

    Yep. Around here it's kind of sacrilege to want verification of these anecdotal accounts of names and locations, but there have been some quite radical changes in the river course over (historically) recent times.

    For instance, this article mentions changes to Dawlish Warren and the "Bull-hill" and "Shilley" features in the 1800s. The ports of the Exe Estuary, 1660-1860: a study in historical geography mentions others, such as how the main estuarine channel near Starcross shifted in the mid-1700s (see snippet). The 1743 and 1761 charts would be interesting to see.

    The general trend is for river loops to migrate downstream.