In Exeter: the Exmouth Ferry loop - The Seven Year Itch - CycleBlaze

May 31, 2024

In Exeter: the Exmouth Ferry loop

It’s almost shocking to look out the window this morning and see a clear blue sky.  Excellent!  Warm, low winds, blue skies, perfect conditions for the play date we have planned.

Scenes we like to see.
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It's been awhile since I've been able to tempt Rachael into forgoing a walk for the chance to take a bike ride with me on one of our layover days, but I present an irresistable package today: a loop ride down to Exmouth at the mouth of the Exe (obviously). We'll bike down the east bank to Exmouth, have lunch on the waterfront there, catch the ferry to Starcross on the other side of the river, and bike home up the west side.  It’s too seductive a package to resist, but to be on the safe side I sweeten the pot by promising to not hold us up too often for camera stops.  

It’s enough, and she takes the bait.  We leave not long after ten, planning to arrive in Exmouth around noon when Saveur, the restaurant she’s scoped out, opens for lunch.  It’s only open for a couple of hours so we want to be sure of arriving in plenty of time.  Afterwards the plan is to stall around for awhile in Exmouth and maybe bike east along the coast for a ways before catching the ferry, which runs roughly hourly.

The ride down is great, once we make it through Exmouth’s somewhat confusing streets to the waterfront.  We’re on an NCN route the entire way to Exmouth, and it’s a delightful ride.  After a few miles on the east bank following the canal and then down the park on the island formed between the river and canal we cross the river to the east side of it for the rest of the way south.

The east side is complex for a few miles as we pass through a string of riverside neighborhoods, following a quiet route we’d have had difficulty teasing out on our own if the NCN hadn’t gotten here first and branded the way for us.  At one point we come to a crossing and are approached by an energetic, enthusiastic young man with a clipboard - he’s a volunteer or employee with Sustrans, touting the NCN network and plans for its continuous improvement, and soliciting sponsorships.  We have an extended lively chat before it’s time for us to move on and for him to approach another of the many riders sharing the route with us today.

The last several miles are a real delight as we pass the last of the villages and bike across the estuary on a series of wooden elevated boardwalks.  It’s great fun for both of us, as I can tell from the frequent enthusiastic comments from behind.

And true to my word for a change, I stop for only one photo - of Exmouth coming up at the end of the bay.  Rachael takes up the slack though, returning to our room later with a few miles of video and a smattering of stills.

South along the Exe on the NCN. Today it’s pavement all the way, on small roads like this or neighborhood streets or dedicated bike and walking paths.
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We pass through a series of riverside villages. Not sure what this one is. Topsham maybe, or Elton or Lymstone.
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Well, it’s not quite all pavement. As we near Exmouth there are long stretches of our route on elevated boardwalks across the estuary. This one includes wildlife viewing windows so you can check out what’s on the marsh today.
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Here’s my one shot, looking down the wide mouth of the river. It opens up into a wide way here, but near the sea it’s enclosed by long arms from both sides. The channel is where all the boats in the center are clustered, and Exmouth is on the left - you can see the tower of its Holy Trinity Church standing tall.
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We get to town not long past lunch and stop at the marina to check for restaurants.  In a rare daft oversight I’ve forgotten to bring a lock with us so we need a place to eat outdoors where we can keep a good eye on our bikes.  Fortunately we’re standing right by one that looks perfect, Rockfish.  They give us a seat on the deck and let us wheel the bikes in and park them right next to us.   A minute later our server comes by, breaks out a sharpie, and starts circling the items on their fish of the day list that are available at the moment.

Today’s catch. As Rachael noted but I’d overlooked, the available items are marked with fish outlines.
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Lunch is brilliant.  It’s warm but not hot when the sun breaks through, and cool but not cold when it doesn’t.  Anrd the servings are brilliant too - a perfect playdate lunch.

I think I took fifteen beer shots, but trying to get the one that catches the sun at its brightest so the shadow of the glass and its contents are clearest.
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Lady’s choice: Chargrilled Sea Bream with Greek Island Salad.
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And mine, one of the circumscribed items from the fresh catch list: RAY WING: (a wing of ray, grilled to perfection, served with caper and parsley butter).
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Our plan after lunch was to hang around Exmouth for awhile until our hourly ferry departed, but when we biked the two blocks to the departure dock we were surprised to see it just pulling in; so of course we dropped the plan and boarded this one.  It’s a small boat, pedestrians and bikes only.  No charge for the bikes, but the one way fare is £8.  The boat has two access points - a walk-on to the lower deck, and a ramp for the bikes that doesn’t make it down to the level of the pier - you lift it up to the pilot, who finds. Place for it on the upper deck.

The Starcross-Exmouth ferry is bike friendly.
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It’s about a fifteen minute crossing to Starcross, up the river a short ways on the other side.  It’s pleasant sitting on the top deck taking in the view, but time goes fast also because of our conversation with the other biker on board: a local, taking the same day ride we are while he’s in town visiting his mum.  He’s an interesting man, a serious cyclist and well traveled - an attorney in the tech industry, he biked from England to Croatia once and has spent time in a number of locations his work has taken him.

On the ferry.
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Keith AdamsTraveler's tales being exchanged, presumably? It's not as though you've none of your own to offer up.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsThat and commentary on the politics of the world. We have a few thoughts on that to share too.
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3 weeks ago
I briefly provide shelter for this foot warmer. It reminds me of that photo of the lamb hiding underneath its parent from back in the moors. He’s safe while I’m on watch!
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Looking back at Exmouth.
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Looking back at Exmouth.
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When we arrive in Starcross our friend starts to walk off the boat until we call him back, reminding him that he should wait until his bike gets handed down to him.  After he’s gone the pilot tells us he’s lucky - some bikers make it all the way to the top of the ramp before realizing they’re missing something.

As there was on the east side of the river, there’s a passenger rail service running down this side too.  Were at the Starcross station, and fortunately there’s an overpass to get across the tracks; but unfortunately it’s not ramped and there are no elevators.

Foop.
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Keith AdamsAnd Fridays are especially unwieldy to carry.
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3 weeks ago
Twice the fun. And I caught a train arriving at the station, making it well worth the pain.
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The ride south down the east side was fun.  The ride north up the west side is even funner - flatter, quieter, more rural.  I stop for a few photos this time, and would have stopped for more except that I’ve decided I’ll bike back this way tomorrow on an out and back to the spit at Darwish to look for shorebirds.  And Rachael thinks she might come back as well, taking the train down and walking home.

Heading north.
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Even Rachael thought it a good idea to stop for a shot of this spot.
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We loved biking across this bridge. It rises in a series of ripply plateaus, reminding us of that bridge on Lake Coeur d’Alene we loved from a few years back.
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Rich FrasierI’m loving that bike jersey you’re wearing. It’s a great color for pictures like this. Nice choice!
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Rich FrasierI’m really happy with it too. I was sorry to part with the Bike Gallery one for sentimental reasons but this one is fine. Probably has a safety edge from better visibility too.
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3 weeks ago
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It’s really a fine ride, and appreciative chirps are heard from behind me as we bike north into a mild headwind.  Rachael congratulates me on finding such a good plan for the day, and requests more like it.  It’s a big success all around, and it’s even bigger when we come to the north end of the island formed by the river and canal.  I look across and see that there are maybe a hundred herring gulls floating on the river or standing on oil drum floats.  I point them out to Rachael, and then am lucky enough to see that one stands out, larger and obviously different than the others.  We’re only a mile from the room now, so I stop and shout ahead to Rachael that I’ll see her there.  Might as well stop and see what this bird is.

Looking across the Exe, where it splits from the canal just south of Exeter. That’s the steeple of Saint Leonard’s Church above, and a raft of herring gulls below. And exactly one darker one, off the frame to the right.
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#247: Great black-backed gull, the largest gull species worldwide.
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Video sound track: Everyday, by Classic Dream Orchestra

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Today's ride: 22 miles (35 km)
Total: 1,812 miles (2,916 km)

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David MathersGreat video of a wonderful looking ride! I think I might have trouble getting used to riding on the left side though 🤔
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo David MathersIt just took a couple of days to reprogram, but then we’ve made this switch several times before by now. What’s surprised me this time is how uncomfortable it looks now seeing photographs of folks like yourselves riding on the wrong side.
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3 weeks ago
Suzanne GibsonWhat a beautiful ride, great to see a video of it!
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3 weeks ago