Walk - Cofton - Exe Cycle Trail to Turf Locks

4.2 miles (6.8 km)

Cofton Country Holidays Cofton Country Holidays

Easy - Flat!

THIS IS A CYCLE ROUTE FOR COFTON COUNTRY HOLIDAYS

Take to your bikes for an enchanting trip along the flat lanes and footpaths of the Exe Estuary. Your destination is a pub that cannot be reached by cars. Enjoy spotting the wildlife of the Exe Estuary. Take care between Powderham and Turf Locks.

There are a range of wonderful places to lay your head near the Coast Path for a well-earned sleep. From large and luxurious hotels, to small and personable B&B's, as well as self-catering options and campsites. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

The Croft Guest House

Set in an acre of gardens overlooking Cockwood Harbour and the Exe estuary, 1 miles from Starcross and 2.3 miles from Powderham Castle

Cofton Holidays

A stunning park with camping, caravans & cottages with year-round facilities, a short stroll from Cockwood (Starcross).

Langstone Cliff Hotel

64 room 3 Star hotel with wide range of facilities in 19 acres overlooking sea and Exe estuary. Perfectly situated as a base for walking the local sections of the South West Coast Path.

Quentance Farm Bed & Breakfast

Halfway between Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton, our comfortable farmhouse offers local food,log fire and free wi-fi in the cosy guest lounge. Well behaved dogs welcome.

Sea Light

Relax in a oasis of calm with organic drinks, delicious health-giving food, cream teas & licensed bar with original oil paintings

The Blenheim

The Blenheim is an 18th century building sitated on the seafront in Dawlish with 11 ensuite rooms enjoying sea views.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From Reception cycle along the level Cofton Lane past St Mary's Church into the village of Cockwood.

Cockwood is a charming olde-worlde waterfront community, separated from the River Exe estuary by the South Devon Riviera Line. The village with some 17th century character cottages is built up and around a small tidal harbour (known as Cockwood Sod). The Sod, being tidal, is fed from the Exe under two historic railway arches, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Pass the Ship Inn and Cofton Parish Hall before turning left at the harbour. Follow Church Road out to the main A379 Dawlish-Exeter road. This road can be very busy so take care. Cross at the pedestrian lights and with the golf course on your left follow the wide pavement/cycle route alongside the railway, river, coast path and road northwards into Starcross.

Starcross offers great views across the Exe Estuary, an internationally important site designated for its special birdlife. In the past Starcross was known for its “cockles and oysters” During the 19th century “many persons resort to it (Starcross) who cannot bear the stronger sea air of the coast”.

When the railway station opened in 1846, Starcross was one of the villages along Brunel's famously ill-fated 'Atmospheric Railway'. The redbrick church-like building by the ferry stance is the last remaining pumping house from Isambard Kingdom Brunel's atmospheric railway. Numerous technical issues plagued Brunel's ingenious scheme to drive trains using vacuum power to 'suck' them along the rails, instead of the traditional steam engine. The trains failed to run on time – in fact a lot of the time they failed to run at all. A shame-faced Brunel refused his salary for the year's work and the line was turned over to steam trains after all.

Take care cycling through the middle of Starcross. The road narrows and often becomes congested. Cross the road at the pedestrian crossing and pass the railway station footbridge leading to the ferry and the toilets before reaching the foot/cycle path alongside the railway, leave the grassy area by the metal gate.

  1. Turn right on to the minor road, back towards the railway and estuary. Continue north. This is a shared road with no pavement and is populated with cars, bikes and walkers.

The mud and sand of the Exe estuary's riverbed, swept here from the source of the Exe high up on Exmoor, are rich in nutrients for invertebrates such as cockles and lugworms, which in turn provide a valuable food source for birds. The estuary is a traditional stop-off point for migratory birds, including Brent geese travelling from as far away as Siberia. In the middle of winter there may be as many as 25,000 birds in the middle of the river, thousands of them having flown from Northern Europe to join the native wildfowl and waders roosting and feeding in this internationally important habitat. Birds to be seen in large numbers include the avocet, with its long spindly legs and its upward-curving black beak. It was once rare but is now increasing in number and can be seen in its hundreds on the Exe Estuary. Other species regularly spotted include godwits, black-tailed wigeons, long-legged curlews with their down-turned beaks and black-and-white lapwings with twitching legs designed to disturb the invertebrates in the soil.

  1. At Powderham Church, where the road swings away from the estuary, take the footpath straight ahead. Carefully cross the railway and continue alongside the estuary to the Turf Lock Hotel at the end point of the Exeter Canal. This part of the route is not yet designated as a cycle route on the Exe Estuary Trail. Plans are currently in place to develop this section so great care must be taken.

At Turf Locks stop to enjoy a rest and refreshment at The Turf before turning around and following the same route in reverse!

The Exeter Ship Canal was the first canal to be built in Britain since Roman times with the first section dating back to 1566. It enabled vessels to navigate to the wharfs at Exeter Quay. The River Exe was obstructed by shoals and fishing weirs, purposely enlarged by the Countess of Devon, Isabella De Fortibus, so trade would be diverted to the Port of Topsham from which she derived an income!

In 1824 it was recommended that the canal should be extended a further two miles down the Estuary to Turf. In 1827 the extension was opened along with The Turf Hotel providing accommodation for the Lock Keeper, and the crews of the many sailing vessels that were to enter the Canal.

The canal remains very much the same today as it was then except that the towpaths are no longer used by horses to tow craft the five miles from Turf to Exeter.

During the 1970s Exeter City Council wished to close The Turf. However, The Exeter Maritime Museum obtained a listed building order and set about its restoration. The present owners have continued to improve this slate hung, timber framed building and have retained its many interesting features, helping to ensure it is still a “proper pub”. Turf Locks is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Exminster and Powderham Marshes are a vital feeding and resting area for large numbers of birds which come here on their migration and to spend the winter. Large flocks of Brent geese and wigeons can be seen. Look out for the black and white lapwing and the distinctive orange-red legged redshanks. This is also one of the last remaining places in the south west where they still nest.

The Turf is one of the few pubs in the country that cannot be accessed by car. To get here you need to walk, cycle or arrive by boat. There are two ferries from Topsham and one that operates along the Canal from Double Locks. The pub enjoys a huge beer garden bordered by the Exe Estuary on one side and Turf Locks on the other.

A short extension to this ride would be to cycle up to the Topsham ferry landing before returning back to the Turf.

  1. When you are ready simply retrace your route back thorugh Starcross and Cockwood to Cofton.
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