© Friends of Exeter Ship Canal

All rights reserved 2016-2019

 

For work parties and volunteering, contact Jack Nott, Volunteer Co-ordinator:  jack.annenott@gmail.com

or 07444 144707

 

For membership and general enquiries, email Nick Hawker, Secretary: nick.hawker@yahoo.co.uk or phone o7802 479033 or John Monks, Chair: jbmonks@btinternet.com or 01392 49355

 

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Cruising the Exeter Ship Canal - an account by Sue Weston

I’d driven over the Exeter Ship Canal so many times. An intriguing and a very beautiful resource, right on our doorstep. 

I have been trying to organise a trip for a few years and had all but given up because the ‘powers that be’ actively discouraged it. Having successfully cruised the River Parrett, I met up with Ray Alexander of the I.W.A who put me in touch with John Monks – Friends of the Exeter Ship Canal. He advised that the Canal Office were now more accommodating and gave me the necessary contacts.

We wanted to travel up one day, stay in Exeter overnight and then come back down on the following day. The time constraints were quite difficult to get around as we had to lock in, and out, of Turf Lock, at the entrance to the canal in Exmouth, on a neap tide, in the morning, with enough time to be at the Countess Wear Road Bridge before lunchtime rush hour.  Furthermore, because we had to be accompanied by canal staff to operate the locks and bridges, the two days had to be weekdays. There are only about two possibilities per month and typically, most were not convenient for myself or the two friends who also wanted to come.

On Sunday 30th Sept we set out from Brixham, joined up with my friends in Smugglers Blues 2 at Thatcher’s Rock, Torquay and blasted across to Exmouth. We’d decided to err on the side of caution, in case of rough seas in the morning and spent the night in Exmouth Marina. We were due at Turf Lock at 10 a.m. and, as this is very much tide dependent, we couldn’t afford to be late.

We awoke to a beautiful sunny day and navigated the River Exe to Turf Lock where we met our other good friend on Seagull 3.

At the appointed time, the canal staff were there to greet us,  the lock gates opened, in we went and the rising waters carried us up to the level of the canal. Such a sight to behold - the serene and peaceful canal stretching away in front of us. 

On through a swing bridge, opened for us by the canal staff, under the M5 (it’s amazing how quiet it is underneath) and then Double Locks, a huge lock built to take two ships side by side.

The Countess Wear Road Bridge was opened just for us. The northern lane is a vertical lifting bridge whilst the southern roadway is a swing bridge. A marvel of engineering. As we went through we could see the traffic stacked up as far as the eye could see. We did feel just a little bit guilty.

We saw swans, boats and ships, some derelict, along the way and some kayakers who were surprised to see boats on the canal! The River Exe was beside us most of the way, 10 metres below. 

Two more swing bridges and into Exeter Basin. Lunch was an all day breakfast at one of the cafes on the quay then a short bus ride into the City Centre.

After our evening meal at a quayside restaurant we retired to the boats for drinks and a chat, watched over by the alternating colours of the 25 metre Haven Banks tower.

 

The next morning we were all up bright and early to catch the Countess Wear bridge again and the tide in Exmouth.

The return was a reverse of the journey up and we all felt blessed that we were able to do it all over again.

Out through Turf Lock, down the windy Exe and a final blast home, across the sea to Brixham and Torquay. 

Apparently, nothing can be perfect and my only gripes were the lack of facilities but until more people use the canal, it is probably not worth the cost and it would have been nice to be able to stop along the way for tea and a toasted teacake. We have visited, by road, the Turf Lock Hotel and the Pub at Double Locks and both were within a few yards but unattainable because of the strict timings and it would have been rude to keep the canal men waiting, although, on reflection we could have invited them to join us.

The cost is not prohibitive if you can find a few of you to go. £103 for the journey up and back plus £20 per boat for Turf Lock and plus £20 overnight in Exeter basin. There were only 3 of us and it worked out at £67 each.

When you realise what you get – three men who accompanied us for two half days and operated the locks and swing bridges, the opening of the Countess Wear road bridge, twice (that in itself was worth the money). The canal staff were so helpful and friendly and positively added to our enjoyment of the trip. 

I would definitely recommend making this trip – there are a few hoops to jump through but well worth the effort

I’d driven over the Exeter Ship Canal so many times. An intriguing and a very beautiful resource, right on our doorstep. 

I have been trying to organise a trip for a few years and had all but given up because the ‘powers that be’ actively discouraged it. Having successfully cruised the River Parrett, I met up with Ray Alexander of the I.W.A who put me in touch with John Monks – Friends of the Exeter Ship Canal. He advised that the Canal Office were now more accommodating and gave me the necessary contacts.

We wanted to travel up one day, stay in Exeter overnight and then come back down on the following day. The time constraints were quite difficult to get around as we had to lock in, and out, of Turf Lock, at the entrance to the canal in Exmouth, on a neap tide, in the morning, with enough time to be at the Countess Wear Road Bridge before lunchtime rush hour.  Furthermore, because we had to be accompanied by canal staff to operate the locks and bridges, the two days had to be weekdays. There are only about two possibilities per month and typically, most were not convenient for myself or the two friends who also wanted to come.

On Sunday 30th Sept we set out from Brixham, joined up with my friends in Smugglers Blues 2 at Thatcher’s Rock, Torquay and blasted across to Exmouth. We’d decided to err on the side of caution, in case of rough seas in the morning and spent the night in Exmouth Marina. We were due at Turf Lock at 10 a.m. and, as this is very much tide dependent, we couldn’t afford to be late.

We awoke to a beautiful sunny day and navigated the River Exe to Turf Lock where we met our other good friend on Seagull 3.

At the appointed time, the canal staff were there to greet us,  the lock gates opened, in we went and the rising waters carried us up to the level of the canal. Such a sight to behold - the serene and peaceful canal stretching away in front of us. 

On through a swing bridge, opened for us by the canal staff, under the M5 (it’s amazing how quiet it is underneath) and then Double Locks, a huge lock built to take two ships side by side.

The Countess Wear Road Bridge was opened just for us. The northern lane is a vertical lifting bridge whilst the southern roadway is a swing bridge. A marvel of engineering. As we went through we could see the traffic stacked up as far as the eye could see. We did feel just a little bit guilty.

We saw swans, boats and ships, some derelict, along the way and some kayakers who were surprised to see boats on the canal! The River Exe was beside us most of the way, 10 metres below. 

Two more swing bridges and into Exeter Basin. Lunch was an all day breakfast at one of the cafes on the quay then a short bus ride into the City Centre.

After our evening meal at a quayside restaurant we retired to the boats for drinks and a chat, watched over by the alternating colours of the 25 metre Haven Banks tower.

The next morning we were all up bright and early to catch the Countess Wear bridge again and the tide in Exmouth.

The return was a reverse of the journey up and we all felt blessed that we were able to do it all over again.

Out through Turf Lock, down the windy Exe and a final blast home, across the sea to Brixham and Torquay. 

Apparently, nothing can be perfect and my only gripes were the lack of facilities but until more people use the canal, it is probably not worth the cost and it would have been nice to be able to stop along the way for tea and a toasted teacake. We have visited, by road, the Turf Lock Hotel and the Pub at Double Locks and both were within a few yards but unattainable because of the strict timings and it would have been rude to keep the canal men waiting, although, on reflection we could have invited them to join us.

The cost is not prohibitive if you can find a few of you to go. £103 for the journey up and back plus £20 per boat for Turf Lock and plus £20 overnight in Exeter basin. There were only 3 of us and it worked out at £67 each.

When you realise what you get – three men who accompanied us for two half days and operated the locks and swing bridges, the opening of the Countess Wear road bridge, twice (that in itself was worth the money). The canal staff were so helpful and friendly and positively added to our enjoyment of the trip. 

I would definitely recommend making this trip – there are a few hoops to jump through but well worth the effort

Sue Weston

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The Friends' of Exeter Ship Canals guide!

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Codes of conduct for the waterways use.

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Explore waterways information at Exeter City Council

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Canal charges

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GapTracker Survey of boaters' facilities

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Read the Waterways World article on the Exeter Ship Canal

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Guidelines for boaters facilities

Views of the Canal