Tranquil settings at Axmouth Harbour
- Credit: Archant
Axmouth Harbour sits on the estuary of the River Axe and offers the chance to capture tranquil scenes of boats on the water. Photographer Terry Ife took a walk along the riverside to see what it had to offer.
As the motorist drives towards the coast down the B3172, they will drive through the village of Axmouth, which is separated from the harbour of the same name by some distance.
Many will drive straight past the footpath that follows the line of the River Axe, as they head towards all that is on offer in Seaton, but those wanting to explore could do worse than pull over in one of the parking bays and take a walk along the riverbank that is Axmouth Harbour.
Going back through the centuries, this was an important trading post from Iron Age times up to the Middle Ages.
At the time, the natural harbour was much deeper and wider with the estuary approaching half-a-mile wide.
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The river is thought to have been deep enough for ships to navigate their way up as far as Colyford.
As the centuries passed, so shingle movement along the coastline steadily blocked up the estuary, and efforts to clear the channel in the 15th century were in vain, as the shingle washed in to replace any that had been removed.
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As a result, the silt that had once flowed down the river and out to sea started to build up as deposits along the river banks and created the salt marshes that are so attractive to wildlife today.
Despite the lack of access for shipping to the village of Axmouth, the harbour was reportedly responsible for a sixth of Devon’s trade in the mid-17th century.
In the 19th century, efforts were made to improve the docks, which allowed larger ships to load and unload and regular passenger services to London operated.
With the arrival of rail services in Seaton, so the docks went into decline and the development of a toll bridge to replace the ferry in the latter part of the 19th century ended any thoughts of shipping projects further up the river.
Walkers can still use the former toll bridge to cross the river and the structure itself is of note, being the oldest surviving concrete bridge in the country.
So if walkers care to explore this quiet corner of East Devon, they can take in the sights offered by what was once a busy trading port, but is now a harbour that is dependent on the tide for the small fishing boats and pleasure craft that make use of it to be able to enter and leave the estuary.