Clyst Valley park is part of Exmouth to Exmoor national trail vision

Seaton Wetlands

Seaton Wetlands - Credit: Jason Sedgemore

A view from East Devon District Council leader Paul Arnott.

East Devon District Council leader, Councilor Paul Arnott. Picture: Paul Arnott

East Devon District Council leader, Councilor Paul Arnott. Picture: Paul Arnott - Credit: Archant

Last week I wrote about the nature reserves that come within the Wild East Devon envelope, and joked that I’d better list them all at the risk of being berated for leaving one out. There followed a list, always a risk in any writing. Of course,

I then left one out, the very one I go to more than any other, the Seaton Wetlands which runs from the marshes west of the Axe estuary to Colyford Common. Thank you to the many good-humoured local emailers who set me straight.

However, this tees me up to write about another highly promising recent development at the council in the natural world. We have put our shoulder behind the new masterplan for the Clyst Valley Regional Park.

Having just written that, I am painfully aware that many readers in my part of the district may be saying, “the Clyst what –“

So, for all those who may not know, the river Clyst rises near Cullompton and winds for 23 miles through many settlements which include its name. Clyst St Lawrence, Broadclyst, West Clyst, Clyst St Mary, Clyst St George and all the way south into the Bowling Green Marsh at the back of Topsham. In Old English, Clyst means literally Clean Stream –and that’s how we’d like it to be.

It’s a complex landscape, featuring large country estates, a couple of major roads, and a terrain which is not always easy for people to access. The vision for the future includes a Clyst Valley Trail linking the Exe Estuary Trial to the Exe Valley Way – with the dream of a potential Exmoor to Exmouth national trail.

Most Read

Of perhaps more immediate necessity is the potential to link the still relatively new community of Cranbrook into Exeter by bike along a quiet route.

And fitting with the council’s Climate Action agenda, it is hoped for a 20% increase in trees through planting and regeneration, as well as great increases in water quality and the consequential bio-diversity. I

t’s not the full-blown wilding I wrote about at Knepp in Sussex last week, but it’s a terrific start, and the officers who have diligently planned and advocated this are to be congratulated.

The hard yards bit is that we approved this through our Strategic Planning Committee last week and it will become a Masterplan idea to fit within our Local Plan process which will keep us busy for the next couple of years.

Bureaucratic stages may not make the pulse race, but the devil is always in the detail with these kind of ambitions. It all needs money and without an agreed plan that is harder to raise.

But the much more interesting consequence strategically is that it gives a clear statement of intent from our council committing itself to a changed approach to challenging stretches of landscape. Dartmoor, frankly, is Dartmoor shaped but to bind together the Clyst Valley under one identity is a taller order. I’d love to see more similar work around the river Axe too.

Meanwhile, for those for whom a nature ramble is not enough, some good tidings from the LED operations. For the last few weeks, gyms are open again for training, as are Exmouth, Honiton and Sidmouth pools.

Outdoor exercise and tennis are open too. Plans are in place with fingers crossed, if Lockdown lifts further after 17th May, for further expansion of activities. I want to put on record here my thanks, and those of all councillors, for the really great work LED staff have performed in a perfectly awful fourteen month period. The strains have been awful from exec level to fitness trainer.

The only fly in the ointment is that despite LED’s valiant attempt to cut costs, East Devon District is almost certain to be left with a one million pound deficit for the last year. The government promised it would cover things like that …

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter