Sunday, 30 January 2011




On Station Hill I stare astonished -
deep water lies below; the brook
angry at the clogged up sluice gates
has roared and tumbled through houses and shops -

the estuary has kept out of it, being neapish
and near low tide; a man hands me
into a boat and rows me along
the street at window level; a schoolgirl

Cleopatra in her barge; but unlike
the Nile Queen, I have to step out
and trudge homewards, navy hatted
and black stockinged up and up

the village, wondering if an asp
would be preferable to Science prep.

Stephanie Jupp


Sunday, 23 January 2011


Upon the broad estuary of the Exe lies Redcliff” - so writes Eden Phillpotts as the first line of his novel set in Lympstone in the 1920s, “ and the fishermen’s quarters thrust so near its brink that at spring tides, under push of an equinoctial gale, the highways are invaded and ducks swim in the little streets.”

Flooding has always come to the Estuary’s towns and villages at a time of spring tides and the Estuary seems to be making a visit and takes the blame for it. In fact there are never floods without heavy rainfall and our floods tend to come to us at the same time that there is also extensive flooding inland At least when the floods come to the banks of the Estuary there are boats to float in the streets and spare people from getting their feet wet.

We have not had bad flooding for many years. Much engineering work has been done. Time was the Council used to send sandbags so that householders could block their doors against the tide. Before that every house had its floodboards. These were caulked with clay and were surprisingly effective. The fittings for them can still be seen at many cottage doors.

On Thursday 4th August 1938, 1.97 inches of rain fell on the Estuary. The tides were at their highest and there was extensive flooding. Dead sheep and tree trunks floated ashore along the Exe and in Exmouth, Lympstone and elsewhere boats were busy in the streets.

“There was a comic side to the flooding on the Parade, “ thus the ‘Exmouth Journal , “and it was caused by the Council’s traffic sign, “To the Sea,” which was on a veritable island in the middle of the flood.”

The floods of 1960 caused equal chaos. At Exmouth barefooted barmen served drinks at the London Inn while women at the hairdressers' suddenly found themselves sitting in rising, stinking water. There is a photo in the Journal that shows three shopkeepers trying to sweep away the invading waters with brooms and brushes. The spirit of the famous Dame Partington of Sidmouth lives on in these parts!

Sunday, 16 January 2011


Followers of this blog will have noticed that of late I have been reading ancient copies of 'Devon Life'. By and large coverage of the Estuary is disappointing. The 'Devon Life' fisherman generally is one who seems to have an unhealthy interest in flies. But now and again there is a gem of an article for lovers of these waters. One such, in August 1979, is another splendid article by Cyril G Tuckfield entitled "Over the Bar" It starts like this:

"When I was growing up in a small Devonshire fishing village in the early 20’s it was the ambition of every boy to be taken out over the bar. The bar in this case was the sand bank which crosses the mouth of the River Exe at about the latitude of Orcombe and is, I suppose the physical boundary between the estuary of the Exe and the English Channel, or more specifically Lyme Bay. But to us boys it had a much deeper significance.

To go over the bar was in itself an adventure but it was also a landmark in growing up. From our earliest days we had heard the fishermen speak of going “out over”; one didn’t know exactly what it meant but it sounded exciting and adventurous. Part of its attraction for us stemmed from the fact that it took place at night. Certainly it was the ambition of every Lympstone boy in those days to go.”

See also:

Monday, 10 January 2011


In the July./August 1969 edition of ‘Devon Life’ a Mr Roland Richardson wrote about Budleigh Salterton. His article is entitled ‘Eighty Years On’. He remembers seeing the bathing machines on the beach in his early years which would have been well before the turn of the century.

“The beach has altered little, indeed if at all, except for the manner in which those enjoying themselves there have changed. In my youth people coming down to bathe disappeared as soon as they reached the beach, fully dressed, into the shelter of the curious hutments on wheels, painted in blue and white stripes. I never remember seeing these “bathing machines”, as they were known, actually driven down to the water, which no doubt had originally been the procedure, but after the disappearance of the bather, carrying the appropriate roll of towels, he or she would presently emerge, heavily clad in dark navy apparel, to bob up and down in the waves a few times before climbing back again into the shelter of the machine to redress. There indeed is a change from the beach of today with its throng of near naked sunbathers, the more venturesome swimmers boldly striking out for the diving raft moored at a convenient distance from the shore.

How astonished, and not a little shocked, my mother would have been, sitting on the pebbles dressed in her “neat blouse” with stiff collar and cuffs, her long serge skirt well down to her ankles and on her head a hard wide-brimmed “boater”, as she kept an eye on me while I paddled, and saw that I did not venture far enough for the water to wet my rolled up serge knickers.”

In the same article Mr Richardson quotes a ‘West country poet describing the red cliffs of East Devon as being like “anchovy sauce spread upon toast.’ Who was this poet? Does anybody out there know?

More on bathing machines.

Monday, 3 January 2011


We know that smuggled goods that had been landed in Babbacombe Bay regularly came overland from Combe Cellars on the Teign to Lympstone on the Exe. This was a distance of some ten miles, across two rivers and over hilly country. The journey was made at night.

Looking at the map the route they took seems pretty clear. The goods would have been rowed across the Teign to Luxton’s Step and there strapped to ponies that the smugglers led through Bishopsteignton and up across the side of Little Haldon to join the ancient Dort Way that leads by way of Greenaway Lane and so by deep and narrow paths to Kenton. It is hard to see how Kenton could have been circumvented and no doubt there was a good measure of:”Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by.” in that place.

Then somehow the goods were brought to the shores of the Estuary on or near the Powderham estate and there they were loaded into boats and rowed across the tide to Lympstone where, tradition has it, they were offloaded either at Sowden End or Parsonage Stile depending on which route seemed the safer. The smugglers signalled to each other across the river , so it is said, by lanterns shone, on the Eastern side, from the tops of the cliffs. From Lympstone, 'that notorious haunt of smugglers' the goods were carried, with ever more confidence, up-country.

It must have been exciting work, travelling through the night with smuggled goods , over hills and through dark woods, but it would seem these midnight folk carried on their trade largely undisturbed by the Excisemen.