Exeter Civic Society

Exeter Civic Society

River, Canal and Quayside

I am keen to hear from anyone with an interest in, or enthusiasm for, Exeter’s waterways. Please join us and get involved with the group.
Peter Nickol, chair (pnickol@phonecoop.coop, 01392 255512)

Civic Society guided walk at Quay
Our exploratory walk from the Custom House across to the canal basin and on to Trews Weir flood channel proceeded as planned on April 7. It was specially pleasing to have two new ECS members present. We were looking at current activity rather than historical aspects, and were rewarded with a busy Saturday morning scene at the basin, with many youngsters on the water. ECS member Jane Evans, who is secretary of the Canoe Club, showed us some of the club’s facilities and the different kinds of boats they use. We also looked in at the old Electricity building, now converted to the Climbing Centre, another thriving hub of physical activity.
For news about the Environment Agency’s flood prevention works, go to:


Friends of Exeter Ship Canal

The Friends of Exeter Ship Canal, launched in conjunction with Exeter Civic Society, is now up and running. Membership is open to everyone who values and loves this historic waterway, whether as a user, for recreation or simply strolling peacefully along its banks. Members can take part in volunteer activities, learn new skills, help conserve the ecology and heritage, or become non-active supporters.

FESC’s volunteer days are well established now, and have accomplished significant amounts of work. On each occasion it has been an enjoyable, sociable couple of hours. Another work day took place on Saturday 14 April, clearing brambles and sapling growth from the canalside. Mike Grayshan, FESC’s volunteer coordinator, will continue to programme further work days: ‘There is a lot more to be done, and during the coming year we will be taking on more projects in consultation with the city council’s waterways team’.

To join the Friends, and learn more about what they do, go to their website, here.

For further information, please contact fesc.membership@gmail.com

Exeter Ship Canal was opened in 1566, built to bypass weirs that had been erected on the River Exe and thus enable goods to reach the port of Exeter – originally in barges, later in ocean-going ships. Following successive enlargements and extensions it reached its present form in the 1830s, when the canal basin was also built. As with canals elsewhere its commercial viability was undermined when the railways arrived. The Friends of this historic canal are determined that it should continue as an active, functioning waterway, as well as a recreational focal point for Exeter’s citizens and visitors.


The River, Canal and Quayside sub-committee was established in January 2014 to preserve and enhance the character of the River, Canal and Quayside and examine and comment on matters affecting them.
We will investigate the future of these important areas of Exeter life and heritage and raise and comment on questions that concern them. A large geographical area is involved, covering the whole lengths of the river and canal through the city, and issues range from conservation and development to flood prevention and management of the canal.

Our report, A future for Exeter’s River, Canal and Quayside is available here. It summarises our thinking on many aspects of Exeter’s waterways, and calls for:

  • Joined-up thinking and planning, recognising the special qualities of the waterways and their surroundings.
  • More boats of different sorts on the river and canal, with better facilities.
  • Continuation of the historic link between the canal and the quay and basin, with quayside development used to secure funding for the canal.
  • Openness and public involvement in arrangements for ownership and management of the canal.
  • Care to avoid crass development around the Quay. Retention of open views of the canal basin, and establishment of continuous public access around it.

Last updated on 23.04.18