Exe Estuary Trail: Bowling Green Marsh and Topsham

Easy Access Guide – routes around the estuary

A downloadable PDF version of the guide can be accessed here.

Route length

3.1 miles / 5km (approx.) – detour to viewpoint approximately 300m

Grading of route / Accessible wheelchair and mobility scooter suitability.

The whole of this route, using the Exe Estuary Trail and adjoining paths, is accessible for wheelchairs, small mobility scooters (4mph), power chairs and larger mobility scooters (8mph).  It is also suitable for families and pushchairs.

Users can choose to do the whole route or part of the route.

The Exe Estuary trail runs from Exmouth to Exeter Quay and then on to Dawlish Warren.  The whole Exe Estuary Trail is wheelchair and mobility scooter accessible on tarmac paths, pavements and wooden boardwalk.

Site description

Bowling Green Marsh is a freshwater nature reserve owned by Exeter City Council and managed by the RSPB. Along the route you will pass the Lookout hide, an ideal spot to watch birds up close, including spring and autumn migrating birds, and winter flocks of waders, ducks and geese feeding and resting.  The route also takes you through the historic port and shipbuilding centre of Topsham with its distinctive 17th century Dutch-style merchant houses and attractive museum.

The Exe Estuary is an internationally important site for wildlife. Please take care not to disturb the birds and other wildlife as this can impact on their health and survival.  Keep to the trails and please keep dogs on a lead.  Find out more at https://www.exe-estuary.org/.

Route description

This route joins a section of the Exe Estuary Trail through Bowling Green Marsh, a nature reserve managed by the RSPB and passes the bird hide and viewpoint.  It then takes you along quiet lanes to Topsham, an historic port on the River Exe, before re-joining the Exe Estuary Trail. The Trail is a shared cycling and pedestrian route and parts of the route are on narrow pavements or quiet roads so please be aware of traffic.  The route also includes some wooden boardwalk and passes along the historic ‘Goat Walk’* a very narrow section immediately adjacent to the estuary.

*Please note, some scooter users have experienced difficulty with the Goat Walk.  This is a very narrow path with a 1-2m drop down to the beach on one side which has no rail (see section 7).  In places the path has benches on one side which further narrows the path.  Users may feel more secure with an able bodied walker to accompany them and walk on the outside of the path.

Toilets

There are toilets, including wheelchair accessible toilets, at Darts Farm Shop and on Topsham Quay (radar key required for accessible toilet at Topsham Quay)

Parking

Parking is available at Darts Farm (EX3 0QH / 01392 878200), along with shops, café and toilets (shop.dartsfarm.co.uk).

Alternative parking is also to be found at Holman Way (EX3 0EN) and Topsham Quay (EX3 0JB), both of which are free to blue badge holders.

Refreshments

There are food shops, a café and restaurant at Darts Farm as well as a number of pubs, shops, cafes and restaurants within Topsham itself.

Public transport

Rail links to Topsham Station: nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/top.aspx

There are buses* from Exeter, Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton (Route 57 & 58). Find travel information at traveldevon.info.

Scooter and other facilities

Countryside Mobility South West have helped set up a number of locations (60+) where you can hire a ‘Tramper’ (all terrain class 3 mobility scooter), including at the near by Powderham Castle for example: countrysidemobility.org/locations/powderham-castle

Exeter Community Transport Association also have a Tramper for hire and will also hire scooters depending on the area it is to be used in: exetercta.co.uk

Route Map

A route map of the Bowling Green Marsh accessible route.

Route Description

  1. Starting at Darts Farm Car Park, exit by the main entrance and turn right onto Topsham Road. Cross the road at the crossing and turn almost immediately left onto the path sign posted to the Exe Estuary Trail.  The turning here is quite sharp and with the cycle barriers in place turning onto the path can be awkward (but achievable) for larger trampers. Please be aware this is a shared path with cyclists and walkers. An image if a road with a pavement and a traffic lights crossing.
  2. This path leads to the start of the Exe Estuary Trail.  At one point it does get very narrow and passes close to several houses (and almost feels like you are passing through a garden).  Scooters and trampers are able to get through. Follow signs to the Exe Estuary Trail. A path between a brick wall and a hedge. A path with a brick pillar on the left and a white wall on the right
  3. When the path meets the Exe Estuary Trail turn right onto the Trail and across the bridge.  At this point the trail is over a wooden boardwalk.  Some scooter users have reported that the sensation of driving over the boardwalk can be unpleasant as it is uneven and creates a rumbling sensation, however most of our access group did not find this a problem. Follow the Exe Estuary Trail to where it meets Bowling Green Marsh Road. A path next to a hedge with a wooden fence. There is a signpost with four blue signs.
  4. Along the boardwalk there are numerous places to stop and view the birdlife through holes in the fence panelling.  These viewpoints are placed at various heights so that wheelchair users and smaller children as well as standing adults can view comfortably. People using disability scooters by a fence with holes for wildlife watching.
  5. Where the Exe Estuary Trail meets Bowling Green Road turn left onto Bowling Green Road.  Please note this road is open to traffic so take additional care along this section.  There are some tight bends with a wall on one side of the road which reduce visibility in some sections. Follow this road to the where it ends at a slip way and the start of the Goat Walk. People using disability scooters going through a wooden gate.
  6. Along Bowling Green Road is the RSPB Lookout hide and sensory garden which is wheelchair accessible. Further along the road through a gate off to the left there is a gravelled track to the viewpoint over the Exe Estuary.  While the gravelled track to the viewpoint is accessible with a scooter, access to the viewpoint itself is up steps. At this point if you do not wish to use the Goat Walk section of the route you should turn back.  Topsham can be accessed by turning right and completing steps 9-11 in reverse. People using disability scooters on a path with trees in the background. People using disability scooters on a path near to a hedge and trees.
  7. Bowling Green Road ends at a slipway onto the beach, along the road there are some very narrow sections with a high wall on one side which reduces visibility for any traffic.  Please use caution in these narrow sections.At the beach our path continues along the very narrow Goat Walk to the right.  There is a sharp corner with little visibility at the start and this narrow path has no barrier or handrail on the estuary side. Trampers may be able to access and cross the beach rather than the Goat Walk at low tide, but this is done at your own risk, the path can be muddy and rocky in places with a risk of getting stuck.  The slope out is a bit steep at the Topsham side and can be muddy and slippery. People using disability scooters on a slipway onto a beach. People using disability scooters on a road with high hedges on the sides. People on a path by the sea.
  8. At the far end of the Goat Walk we exit onto The Strand in Topsham.  This road is open to traffic and has narrow pavements so please take care if using the roadway.Halfway along The Strand on the left hand side is a small, quiet garden which belongs to Topsham Museum.  This is open to the public and is a nice quite spot for a picnic.Continue along The Strand to Topsham Quay where there are pubs, cafes and toilets, including an accessible toilet access with a radar key.  This is also an option for parking and starting the route. A road with a white house on the left and a low wall on the right. People using a lawn area with a bench and trees. From Topsham Quay you can access the rest of Topsham village by continuing along The Strand and then Fore Street, however, here our route turns back.
  9. From the Quay entrance, cross the road near the roundabout and take the narrow lane to the right (Monmouth Hill).This is another narrow street with narrow pavements and the drop curbs are a little bumpy.  Take care if using the roadway instead of the pavements as this is open to traffic.Continue to the end of the street to the junction with Monmouth Street. A road junction by a pale yellow building and a brick building.
  10. Turn right onto Monmouth Street and continue to the junction with Bowling Green Road.  Note there is no pavement on Monmouth Road so please keep in and be aware of traffic.  Take particular care at the junction when turning right onto Bowling Green Road. People using disability scooters on a road.
  11. At the bottom of the hill on Bowling Green Road turn left to re-join the Exe Estuary Trail where we left it (at section 5).  From here we re-trace our steps to return to Darts Farm.Return along the Exe Estuary Trail until you cross the bridge and then take the path to the right to return to Darts Farm. A road with a lay-by area and a path leading into a wood.