Early in our week in South Devon, we were enjoying a spell of settled, calm weather, much more Spring-like than we had expected for mid-March. For once, the whole family wanted to go out, but not everyone wanted to paddle, so we hatched a plan to walk or paddle from Countess Wear along the Exeter Ship Canal to its outfall in the Ex estuary at Turf Lock. A pub lunch was planned before the walking and paddling companies made their own way back.
Conditions on the water couldn’t have been better as I, the dog, and my sons set off. We were two-up (and the dog) in the outlander, with one was in his kayak.
Before long we were heading towards the M5. Trees hid it from view for some time, though we could hear it before we saw it.
Once clear of the motorway, the landscape opened up, under the influence of the estuary running close by the canal. Reed beds dominated now, the March sunshine catching on the winter stems.
Before long we were approaching Topsham Lock, now disused and no longer giving access to the estuary. An attractive lock house sat between the canal and the river, near the jetty for the Topsham ferry.
As we came by the lock, we could see the village of Topsham on the horizon, although the river was hidden below the banks of the canal. A swing bridge crosses the canal here, but it doesn’t obstruct passage by canoe.
The canal continued straight and true towards Turf Lock, across the low plain of the estuary. A stand of masts on the horizon marked the moorings by the lock, and our turning point.
There was quite a collection of boats moored in the small basin above the lock, but we found our way to a small slipway by the lock gates and hence to the Turf Lock pub, to join the foot party.
After a very pleasant pie and pint, we returned up the cut to our starting point at Countess Wear. The clouds had closed in a bit, and a bit of a chill entered the air towards the end of the afternoon, but we kept a steady pace to stay warm, and made good time on the return leg.
The view back along the canal from the pontoon now looked more wintery in the overcast.
Once back at the start, I spent a few minutes playing solo in the canoe, just for the joy of moving on the water before loading the canoe and kayak on the car and returning back to the cottage.