Explore the patchwork of RSPB and Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserves at the head of the Exe Estuary. Thousands of wading birds rest and feed on the mudflats at low tide. As the tide rises, the birds are pushed closer to the many viewing points on the network of footpaths and cycle-ways connects these havens of wildlife to the centre of Exeter. The RSPB hide at Bowling Green Marsh is a great place at high tide, hundreds of ducks and waders visit the site during autumn and winter.

Havens of Wildlife

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Devon Wildlife Trust

Established over fifty years ago by a small group of volunteers, Devon Wildlife Trust is the only charity that exists to protect all wildlife in Devon and to safeguard Devon’s unique natural environment. https://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/ 

Riverside Valley Park

Stroll through buttercup-filled meadows alongside the winding River Exe with wonderful views across the city to its cathedral. Its 40 hectares sit between Clapperbrook Lane and Bridge Road. This is an easy Valley Park to visit: it is close to the city centre and just a short walk from the historic Quayside. It offers river views, excellent walking and cycling paths and flood plain meadows giving way to the wilder estuary. https://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/nature-reserves/riverside-valley-park 

Old Sludge Beds

Paths and boardwalks allow you to get among the reed beds and ponds of this wetland reserve. We probably could have come up with a better name for this often over-looked nature reserve! But the 'Old Sludge Beds' does at least hint at the history behind the place. https://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/nature-reserves/old-sludge-beds 

Exe Reed Beds

Great views across reedbeds and the spectacular Exe Estuary. One of the largest tidal reedbeds in Devon and one of the best for birds. Situated in the attractive upper reaches of the Exe Estuary, this site offers wonderful views across the Exe Valley and river. https://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/nature-reserves/exe-reed-beds 

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

The RSPB South West office in Exeter covers the counties of Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire, and Wiltshire. https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/get-in-touch/rspb-offices/england/#South-West 

Exeter & District Local Group

The aim of the group is to promote an interest in birds and other wildlife in Exeter and the surrounding district, and to support the activities of the RSPB in giving nature a home. https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/groups/exeter 

Matford Marshes 

This small site, located halfway between Exeter and Exminster, is an excellent vantage point for watching wildfowl and waders. Cyclists, walkers and joggers regularly use the track which leads to it, sharing this quiet reserve with green and common sandpipers, mallards and mute swans. https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/matford-marshes/ 







Exminster and Powderham Marshes

Just five miles from Exeter city centre, Exminster and Powderham Marshes are great places to see birds all year-round. Enjoy a lovely walk here in this fascinating landscape, where flocks of geese, ducks and waders are numerous. Regular visitors include lapwings, redshanks, wigeons and warblers. 

Find a range of tasty refreshments on sale in the car park from Hope Coffee Wednesday - Sunday, 9am - 5pm every week. From drinks to cakes, be sure to share what wildlife you see with Hope Coffee to add to their sightings board while you visit! You can also get refreshments from the Swan’s Nest Inn and the Turf Hotel (closed in some winter months).  



Bowling Green and Goosemoor

You'll find Bowling Green and Goosemoor on the confluence of the River Exe and the River Clyst, close to the town of Topsham. It's an ideal spot to watch birds up close, including spring and autumn migrating birds, and winter flocks of waders, ducks and geese feeding and resting, from the comfort of the Lookout hide. https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/bowling-green-and-goosemoor/ 







Dart's Farm 

Located on the outskirts of Exeter, Darts Farm is home to a large variety of wildlife. These include flocks of linnets, fieldfares and redwings during the winter, dragonflies, skylarks and kingfishers in summer. There's also a popular shop and tearoom here, part of a larger shopping complex.



Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RSPBExeEstuary/ (1k)

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RSPBExeEstuary (2.5k)

https://www.dartsfarm.co.uk/lifestyle/rspb https://www.dartsfarm.co.uk/whats-on/bird-hide-wetlands 


The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. https://rsis.ramsar.org/ris/542 

Exe Estuary

The Exe Estuary is a site of international importance for wading birds, which feed on the estuary mudflats at low tide, and roost at high tide at the adjacent Dawlish Warren. Over 10,000 wildfowl and 20,000 waders winter on the estuary. Exminster Marshes, a series of fields drained by dykes and ditches, carry several plants rare in Devon including parsley, water dropwort, flowering rush and frogbit. Dragonflies are also found here, such as the ruddy darter and hairy dragonfly. The marshes are bounded by the Exeter Canal. Both are fringed by beds of common reed, providing important habitat for warblers. Burrowing invertebrates are found in the sandbanks and mudflats.


Railway Stations

 Topsham railway station is on the Avocet Line from Exeter to Exmouth.

Bus Routes



DWT River Exe Wild Walk

This walk includes Devon Wildlife Trust's headquarters at Cricklepit Mill with its riverside garden. a walk through the outskirts of Exeter from the lively Quay area along the canal to the quiet of the Old Sludge Beds nature reserve. 

The route offers tranquil stop-off points in the heart of the city, good views of the river as it winds its way to the sea and some great opportunities to spot the many wild birds and wetland creatures that make the River Exe their home. 




Exeter COSY Routes

Eight circular routes around the city, making one full 26.2 mile marathon distance.

The Exeter COSY Route project is a community wellbeing and dementia awareness initiative created for Exeter Dementia Action Alliance to signpost people of all abilities to routes on the edge of the city where they can walk and run. Whether you take on this challenge over months, weeks, days or in one strenuous go, you’ll see the city as never before, and complete a marathon in doing so.




Exe Estuary Trail

This newly constructed cycle trail offers an almost entirely traffic-free, wonderfully level route which forms part of the South Coast NCN No.2.

The trail takes you right around the Exe Estuary from Dawlish to Exmouth, passing through the pretty villages of Starcross, Topsham and Lympstone to name a few.  The estuary is of international importance for wintering waders and wildfowl, supporting 1000’s of birds.  RSPB reserves near Topsham and Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve offer some of the best opportunities to view wildlife along the estuary. 





 Exeter Ship Canal

The historic Exeter Ship Canal first opened to shipping in 1566 and was the first canal to be built in Britain since Roman times. The Canal runs through an area of outstanding and protected natural beauty and is a fantastic site to tie-up for a few days. The canal basin and quay are an historic gateway to the city and provides ample parking with easy access to sports, recreation and shops. This area is a mix of old and new building and provides moorings for a wide range of vessels. A walk or cycle along the tow path brings you to the Double Locks pub, or the Turf Hotel at the furthest reach of the canal.

Discover Exeter's historic canal with three different walks:

  • Canal Basin to Double Locks Pub (1½ Miles), 
  • Double Locks Pub to Topsham Lock Keepers Cottage (2¼ Miles),  
  • Lock Keepers Cottage to Turf Hotel (1½) 


Exe Valley Way

This route from the Exe Estuary to the steeply wooded valleys on Exmoor follows, for the most part, quiet country lanes and footpaths along the Exe valley through Bickleigh, Tiverton and Bampton, Exebridge, Dulverton, Hawkridge and Withypool, then leaving the Exe Valley to reach Exford to which the Exe flows from its source at Exe Head. Mostly valley scenery, ranging from the broad estuary through pastoral landscapes and narrower, heavily-wooded valleys to open moorland landscapes.

An additional described section links Withypool to the source of the Exe to make a 'source to sea' route using the Two Moors Way (TMW), north, to Simonsbath, then following the TMW waymarkers for about another 3km/2miles high up on to the moor to Exe Head. Exe Head is the source of the River Exe, an area of marshy ground high up on Dure Down.


Cycle Hire


At Co Bikes, we want to change the way you move and, together with Co Cars and Co Delivery help reduce congestion and pollution to make our towns and cities better places to live, work and thrive. 

Our electric bikes make cycling a breeze – even uphill – so you don’t end up hot and sweaty, just refreshed and invigorated.

This means they are not only great fun but also ideal for commuting or for getting to meetings around the city. We are proud to be a not for profit social enterprise and that we are powered by Good Energy. 


Find our Co Bikes across Exeter and now also in Falmouth 




Route 2 Bikes

Named after the wonderful cycle route (NCR2) and the Exe Estuary Trail, Route 2 Bike shop has expanded and moved into new premises next to Route 2 Cafe and Apartments in Topsham, Exeter. We are in the centre of this small estuary town, close to the Quay. We offer Cycle Hire, New Bike Sales, full servicing and of course a shop to buy all your bike "stuff"! https://www.route2bikes.co.uk/ 

Darts Farm

Our commitment to Devon is strong, with roots deep in the countryside. It’s what drives us to make sure that everything is done properly – the way that it has been done for generations. Our bikes are handmade British classics. If you see yourself on a heritage model such as a Pashley or a Dawes tandem, you’ve come to the right place. https://www.dartsfarm.co.uk/whats-on/bike-hire 

Ferries from Topsham

 Topsham to Topsham Lock Ferry

Exeter City Council Topsham Ferry (by Passage House, Ferry Road). Our ferry runs across the river Exe, between the landing in Ferry Road at Topsham, and Topsham Lock on the western bank of the river. The weather forecast may lead to postponement or cancellation of ferry service. If in doubt please ring the ferry phone during the advertised times: Topsham Ferry - Exeter City Council

 Topsham to Turf Locks Ferry

The ferry runs from Trout’s Boatyard, Topsham EX3 0JJ. Please wait outside the gate, preferably by benches, to be collected nearer departure time. In Turf you can find us at the very end of the garden. Please wait on the top of the pontoon, by the information board. Booking in advance is strongly recommended. Looking forward to welcoming you on board! http://topshamturfferry.com/ 

One Bus From Exeter

How far can you travel on One Bus From Exeter? In about an hour you can get to Honiton, Sidmouth, Exmouth, Dawlish, Teignmouth, Newton Abbot, Bovey Tracey, Moretenhampstead, Chagford, Okehampton, North Tawton, Chulmleigh, Witheridge, Tiverton, or Willand. You won't need to find a parking space - and you won't have to return to your car. You can walk along the East Devon Way, or the South West Coast Path, or the Exe Valley Way and return by another bus. Find the quiet places. Avoid the traffic congestion of last year. Step more lightly on the Earth.

Back in the early 2000s, I walked the Tarka Trail and the North Devon part of the South West Coast Path in sections. I would get a bus to a town or village on the Tarka Trail, walk 5 to 10 miles and then return on another bus. One Bus from Exeter is a return to that idea. 

One Bus From Exeter was to going to start with step 4 out of national lockdown, however infection rates are still high. Use this site to plan your walks, look at the Covid19 data on the Devon Dashboard, listen to the science and exercise your personal responsibility. 

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