A visitors guide to Topsham
PUBLISHED: 16:14 25 April 2016 | UPDATED: 16:14 25 April 2016
A day would not be enough to make the most of a visit to Topsham - but here are seven ideas for enjoying the historic riverside town
Take your binoculars and walk or cycle down to the RSPB’s Bowling Green Marshes on the edge of Topsham, a wildlife wonderland. In the spring watch out for lapwing, colourful shelducks, swifts, swallows and sand martins. You might even see elusive garganeys as they start arriving for the breeding season, or even a resting spoonbill. The RSPB – which also has a shop at nearby Darts Farm – is also creating a wildlife garden at the Bowling Green birdwatching hide. Funding from Viridor Credits Environmental Company will also provide electricity, lighting and heating in the hide, so it can be used all year.
Walk and learn
Discover more about Topsham’s rich history on a free 90 minute guided walk around the riverside town. Volunteers lead the fascinating walks every Wednesday and Saturday between May and September. You don’t need to book – just meet by the notice board at Holman Way car park at 2pm. Angus McNicol, one of the team of volunteer guides, says the tours are entertaining as well as informative, pointing out interesting features and revealing quirky facts about the town’s history which includes wool trading, ship building and rope making. At one point Topsham was one of Britain’s most prosperous ports. Learn about the town’s links to Admiral Lord Nelson and the 1685 Monmouth rebellion. And did you know there were around 47 pubs in Topsham in 1785? Bespoke tours can also be arranged. Search for Topsham Guided Tours on Facebook for more details and check out their Tripadvisor reviews.
Take a dip
Unlike most public swimming pools, the Topsham Pool wasn’t provided by the local council but was paid for by a determined group of local fundraisers in the 1970s. The result is an outdoor open-air 25 metre pool bang in the centre of the town, open to locals and visitors alike. The water is virtually chlorine-free and heated to 28 degrees. For early birds there’s even a ‘Nutters Club’ which runs from 6am and there’s adult swimming until 9pm on several evenings a week. Learn more at topshampool.com
See the river
The Sea Dream II sails from Trout’s Boatyard on Ferry Road and takes passengers across to Turf Locks on the other side of the river Exe. You can either take a half hour round trip and enjoy the estuary views and a chance to watch the local wildlife, or get out at Turf and explore the riverside and canal side walks. Cyclists exploring the Exe Estuary Trail can take their bikes across for an extra £1. The Turf Hotel is a popular pub. Alternatively take the Topsham Ferry directly across the river to Topsham Lock for a great riverside walk.
Hunt for a bargain
There are 75 dealers selling vintage and antique items of all kinds on the three floors of the Quay Antiques Centre, an imposing waterfront building that is open every day of the year except Christmas Day. The building itself has an interesting past – it was built between the wars to store grain at a time when the government feared food riots and insurrection, but was never needed for that putpose. It later served for years as the Tuborg Lager warehouse – barrels would be unloaded from Dutch cargo ships and stored before being loaded onto a rail line that once ran outside the building. The antiques centre has been in business since 1993 and attracts dealers from London and abroad as well as bargain hunters. It has featured on several television shows including Bargain Hunt. Manager Beverley Cook, who has been at the centre for 20 years, says many shoppers appreciate the value of well-made items from the past. quayantiques.com
Get some great exercise and fantastic estuary views by hiring a bike from Route 2 Bikes, down by the quay. Liz Hodges originally started hiring bikes out a few years ago from the Route 2 café she was running. Now a fully trained cycle mechanic she’s developed the business into a cycle shop as well as cycle hire. And the café still operates next door. From her shop you can choose from a range of routes, mostly on traffic free paths. If you have a lot of energy to burn off why not ride down the estuary path to Exmouth, take the ferry over to Starcross, ride up the other side of the Exe to Exeter and then back down to Topsham. It’s pretty flat, family friendly and will make you feel great.There are electric bikes for hire too, if you think you’ll need a little extra help along the way. route2bikes.co.uk
Enjoy a pint
How many pubs in Britain today have been kept by the same family for 119 years? Caroline Cheffers-Heard is the current licensee at Topsham’s Bridge Inn, where her great-grandfather became landlord in 1897, and her daughter who works in the pub is the fifth generation. The pink pub itself is much older and its listed interior has changed little over the past two centuries. Caroline describes herself as “the custodian of an ancient monument in constant need of repairs”.
In 1998 the pub enjoyed what’s thought to be the first ever official visit to a pub by the Queen – and in June the pub will mark the Queen’s 90th birthday with a celebration lunch. The beer is great – the list of ales changes frequently – and there’s a small lunch menu. But beware, talking on a mobile phone might incur a small penalty!
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