Yesterday I did something that I have been wanting to do for some years. I sailed again to ‘The Bridge Inn’ on the River Clyst. We used to sail there at the least once a year but it is a couple of decades since I last sailed that way. My father and I liked to motor there in his punt, tie up at the bridge, drink our pints and motor home again.
‘The Bridge’ claims to be Topsham’s oldest pub, a claim made because, as I believe, there is some record of a hostelry being there at the time the cathedral was being built in Exeter and of masons being entertained and accommodated there.
But there is also the contention that in the eighteenth century it was the home of Mr Meekin the salt boiler, so perhaps its record as a pub has not been unbroken. You pays your money and you takes your choice.
To sail to ‘The Bridge’ from Lympstone you need a high tide. Yesterday the evening high water was 4.24m. The wind was from the south east, the perfect wind to sail to the mouth of the Clyst. The sail had to be dropped to pass under the railway bridge but when made again I was able to sail most of the way along the little tributary. No one can hope to sail all the way up the Clyst to the bridge because the river is too serpentine but the rising tide spins you along.
It is a delightful sail past Tremlett’s old shipyard where so many amazing hullaballoo boats were built. Thereabouts I found again my black swans, cob and pen, swimming happily together in that imperfect symmetry that seems to be part of their annual courtship. Despite the fact that I was sailing through RSPB lands there was not much other wildlife to be seen.
It seems odd to tie up near the busy A376 but there is a convenient corner to leave a boat and an iron picket to tie to, (or tether to, as we say in Lympstone.) Nor is is difficult to hop over the wall.
‘The Bridge’ is a most satisfying pub. I have been drinking there off and on for 47 years and wonderfully nothing has changed. Predicatably, by the time I had drunk my pint of Branoc at the fireside in the snug and in the company of a couple who had lost their home in Christchurch NZ in the recent earthquake, the breeze had dropped. There was, however, plenty of water and it was an easy starlit row home falling with the tide down the Clyst, along the reed beds, past Exton, past the Marine Camp, along the wall past Nutwell Court and so to Lympstone, there to see the biggest full moon I have ever seen rising gloriously from the commons.