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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

River Avon Moor to Sea 11

Topsham Bridge to Loddiswell Station.


When I first started this project I had no idea that eight months later I would still be making small outings to photograph things that fill a gap in the story. I have made two such trips this week alone.


However, I started all this last July and photos were taken then that are only now fitting in to the river journey. I decided to tell the story in the direction of flow of the river, so something nice has happened, as I am now making pieces of the journey that have been photographed in different seasons, but which appear next to each other.


I have addressed the issue of Satellite Navigation before, right at the start of this journey, but this is one of my favourites. On my way to Topsham Bridge from Diptford I got to this point when my Sat Nav enthusiastically announced.


"Drive straight ahead for one mile."


Topsham Bridge actually was just a mile ahead, I have checked. Sometimes you have to accept defeat, so I didn't drive straight ahead for one mile. Instead I drove about three miles, left, right and right again, and that was challenging enough. But I did eventually arrive at Topsham Bridge.


I have probably said this about some of the other bridges on the way down the river, but this really is one of the most beautiful bridges and locations.


Topsham Bridge, as you may expect by now is another English Heritage Grade 2 listed structure. Also like almost all of the earlier bridges it started life as a narrow packhorse bridge and was widened at a later date. It would have been widened during a period of new bridge and road building improvements at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries. So, probably around 1780 to 1830.


The bridge has quite a steep approach as the original bridge had a very high pointed arch.


In some cases, the later alterations on some of these old bridges are harder to spot, but in this case they are clear for all to see. The 16th century arch of the original bridge has been used aesthetically to create a unique and beautiful feature.


What do we know of the history of this area? Topsham Bridge is in the Parish of Woodleigh, east of the river, mentioned in the Domesday Book.


In 1066 prior to the invasion the local Lord was Aelfric Pike, but by 1086, after the invasion the land along with many other parishes in South Devon was owned by Robert of Aumale. Robert of Aumale was one of the Devon Domesday Book tenants-in-chief of King William the Conqueror (1066–1087). His lands, comprising 17 entries in the Domesday Book of 1086, later formed part of the very large Feudal barony of Plympton, whose later barons were the Courtenay family, Earls of Devon.


In 1086 in Woodleigh there were 15 villagers, 8 smallholders, 7 slaves, and 2 other people. I am not sure who the two spare people were if they were not described as those above. There were also 15 cattle, 16 pigs, 100 sheep and 10 goats. Robert of Aumale raised £2 a year from his tenants. The Parish of Woodleigh was separated from the Parish of Loddiswell by the River Avon which formed the border.


Domesday is Britain's earliest public record. It contains the results of a huge survey of land and landholding commissioned by William I in 1085. Domesday is by the far the most complete record of pre-industrial society to survive anywhere in the world and provides a unique window on the medieval world.


If you have English ancestry and know where they were from, check out the Domesday Book entry for that parish.




Along the quiet road running beside the river here, are dwellings that enjoy the sight and sound of the river from their windows.


There is a footpath starting here which I remember from a walk I did over twenty years ago. Much changed, I had trouble finding it, and what I was searching for was a lot further away than I remembered. On this riverside walk I came across these fallow deer on the other side of the river. The deer at the back are standing on a long earth embankment, the original route of the Kingsbridge Railway Branch Line.


Eventually I found what I was looking for, the solid remains of the bridge where the railway crossed the Avon, once again switching sides of the valley on its twisting route.


The footpath now occupies the old track bed for some distance to Loddiswell station. At this point I was some distance from the car and my camera battery decided to die. A warning, if you always take spare batteries with you everywhere you go, don't leave them in the car, keep them in your pocket. It was pure luck, that by switching the camera off and back on again I was able to muster another couple of shots.


Before we go to have a look at Loddiswell station......


........let's climb up on top of the hill, overlooking the valley, above Topsham Bridge, where we find the unlikely South Devon Chilli Farm. I visited the farm on one of the hottest days of the year in a drought and heatwave. The chillies were celebrating while I was flagging, and I dread to think what the temperature was inside the polytunnels, but I couldn't stay in there very long.






If I had continued on the track walk to the station, without my battery, I wouldn't be showing you any of these photos. In fact I drove around the other way on a different day to complete the story. This is where I would have emerged. I am guessing it was a walk of about a mile and a half, but over three miles in the car.



You suspect something interesting is coming up ahead when you see the former Goods Yard office of the small station. The current owners, have charmingly created, at their own expense a small gallery in the tiny building.


It is here that the public footpath deviates from the track bed to run alongside their property to emerge a hundred yards further along on the main road. They have very kindly installed a small gate to access the gallery. Like everything else on this railway, it was built to last.


Inside is a small treasure trove. There are pictures and postcards for sale, a small exhibition of photographs, an information board showing the history of the station and an honesty fridge full of ice creams on this hot day. All contributions are gratefully received in aid of the local Boy Scouts.


Remarkably this tiny office even had a fireplace and chimney when first built. The railways were never short of coal.


Now we come to the former station itself, which is restored and retains the typical character of an old railway station.


The stone built station opened on the 19 December 1893 when the Great Western Railway(GWR) opened the Kingsbridge branch line. The line had been planned, and authorised in 1882, by the Kingsbridge and Salcombe Railway which was subsequently acquired by the GWR in 1888. The railway never made it as far as Salcombe, probably one of the reasons that ultimately led to its demise.


"After the closure of the line the station buildings quickly fell into disrepair as material of value was stripped. In the early 1970's the station buildings were saved from ruin and converted into a family home. Many locals and visitors alike remember Cream Teas being served from the old platform by the new owners. Further extensive renovations including construction of the present replica Signal Box building were undertaken in the early 2000's."


The Signal Box is let out for holidays and you can stay there if you wish. You can find out more here about staying in the Signal Box and also see some more photos of the station from the track side.

The traditional style platform canopy roof.


As we carry on the walk down the quiet Station Road towards Loddiswell, we eventually walk under one of the few remaining railway bridges over the road. Loddiswell is about a mile away on top of the hill so it is a steep walk.



On the way to Loddiswell we come to the next bridge over the river, and a garden centre at an old mill. That is where I will start Part 12 crossing the river into the Parish of Loddiswell.


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4 Comments


Unknown member
Mar 19, 2023

Really nice post, so serene and peaceful. The photos are really nice especially the one with the deer. I always carry my spare battery in my pocket because I know somewhere in the middle of an excursio it will die. Lesson learned through experience which I see you too have learned.😊

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Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Mar 24, 2023
Replying to

It really happens when you get out of the car, not intending to go far and end up wandering a bit further then a bit further, until you have gone about a mile, the batteries have inbuilt intelligence and know exactly when you have done this.🤣

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Peter Smith
Peter Smith
Mar 19, 2023

Another nice journey, with more sat nav fun thrown in! I like the old railway buildings and the little gallery sounds a nice bonus.

Camera battery? Nearly did the same just this week. Car wasn't too far away but I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of the spare. Just got away with it though.

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Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Mar 19, 2023
Replying to

Those fiendish little batteries, always trying to catch you out.🙂

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