thumb|right|The Exe Estuary with Powderham Castle
in the background.
The River Exe ( ) in England rises
at Exe Head, near the village of Simonsbath
, on Exmoor
, from the Bristol Channel
coast, but flows more or less directly due south, so that most of its length lies in Devon
. It flows for 60 miles (96 km) and reaches the sea at a substantial ria
, the Exe Estuary
, on the south (English Channel
) coast of Devon. Historically, its lowest bridging point
was at Exeter
, which is the largest settlement on the river, but there is now a viaduct for the M5 motorway
about south of the city centre.
The river's name derives from *Iska, a Common Brittonic
root meaning "water" or "abounding in fish", and a cognate
of ''pysg'' the plural word for "fish" in Welsh
. The same root separately developed into the English Axe
, the Welsh Usk
, though not, as some have claimed, the word ''whisky
'', this latter being from the Classical Irish/Gaelic
"water" (the fuller phrase being ; ga|uisce beatha; gd|uisge beatha; "" ("water of life")).
The river gave the name of Exeter
("fortress on the Exe") and many other settlements along its course, including Exford
, Up Exe
, Nether Exe
, and Exebridge
, where it is joined by the River Barle
. The seaside town of Exmouth
is at the east side of the estuary mouth, and Dawlish Warren
is at the west, with its long sand spit extending across the mouth.
The river fuelled Exeter's growth and relative importance in medieval times. The city's first industrial area was developed at Exe Island
, which was created in the 10th century by digging a series of leat
s into the sandy and marshy land bordering the river. The island became home to numerous watermill
s producing paper and textiles.
Tides on the river are limited at Trews Weir in Exeter, two kilometres upstream of Countess Wear
, the site of a former weir
commissioned by the Countess of Devon
in the 13th century.
The Exeter Canal
bypassed this weir to enable ships to reach Exeter Quay
. At high tide, the estuary forms a large body of water that is heavily used for water sports especially sailing, windsurfing and water skiing.
Railways run along both sides of the estuary. The Avocet Line
from Exeter to Exmouth on the eastern side, and the South Devon main line
on the western. The latter is on a causeway, the South Devon Railway sea wall
to Dawlish Warren. The Exmouth to Starcross Ferry
carries passengers across the mouth of the estuary during the summer months, linking the harbour at Exmouth with a pier adjacent to Starcross railway station
on the South Devon main line.
At low tide, extensive mud flat
s are exposed, and these are an important feeding source for wading birds. Along with other ria
s in South West England
, the Exe estuary is an important site for wintering waders. Dawlish Warren is a favoured site for birdwatching. The river has a low pH but does not suffer from a serious acid rain
problem. It is populated with wild brown trout
, and in the lower reaches coarse fish including dace, chub, perch, roach, pike and bream and some grayling
, the average size being . There is a run of Atlantic salmon
and a sparse run of sea trout. Just below the union of the River Barle is Black Pool, which is one of the best, and highest salmon pools on the river. The smaller fish species present include stone loach and there are good reasons to assume others are present.
2008 cleansing operation
In 2008 the Environment Agency
embarked on a project to clean the river from vegetation forming. In order to do so the water level decreased to its lowest level – lower than during the droughts the city has suffered.
*Rivers of the United Kingdom
* Lawrence, Rod (1999). ''The Exe: A River for Wildlife''. Bradford-on-Avon.
RSPB reserves: Exminster & Powderham MarshesDawlish Warren Nature Reserve
Category:Rivers of Somerset
Category:Rivers of Devon