River Exe Estuary

River and Canal Office, Haven Road, Exeter, Devon, EX2 8DU

Tel: 01392 833311

River Exe & estuary


The Exe Estuary is of international importance for wintering waders and wildfowl, supporting 1000s of birds. One of the best opportunities to view the wildlife of the estuary is at the the RSPB's two nature reserves:

Exminster Marshes (SX 957874): an area of wet grassland drained by dykes and ditches, the Marshes are an important breeding ground for lapwings and redshanks.

Ducks, including shovelers and teals, also breed here. In winter, the marshes provide roosting and feeding areas for waders such as curlews and black-tailed godwits, and brent geese graze the drier areas. The ditches have a good dragonfly fauna, including the rare hairy dragonfly.

Bowling Green Marsh (SX 973876): adjacent to the town of Topsham, this is the main high tide roost for the north of the estuary. Large numbers of waders and wildfowl gather here as the tide rises and covers the mudflats, especially in the winter. High numbers of black-tailed godwits can be seen and many widgeon graze on the Marsh.

Otters are also regular visitors to the site – though rarely seen. The Rspb runs a variety of events such as guided walks, children’s nature groups, birding by bicycle, beginners bird watching courses, photography workshops and more. The River Exe is a diverse attraction that can be enjoyed by boat, from the reserves or on a greater scale by using the National Cycle Network which is planned to run along either side of the estuary.

Where: SX 980830

When: Winter for birds, year round for general usage.

Facilities: Bus Stop, Car Park, Disabled Access, Dogs Allowed, Bird Hides, Cycle Paths, Refreshments, Visitor Centre, Walks, Watersports,
Access: Walkway available - links to Dartmoor from the Estuary on the Exe Valley Way and from Exmouth to Uplyme near Dorset by the East Devon Way. There is a cycle path from Exeter that extends partway to the Estuary, which can also be accessed by the South Coastal Path. Bus route also available.

Hints and Tips: The Exe is nationally important as a wintering site for avocets. - the emblem of the RSPB. A maximum of 500-600 of them congregate in flocks on the upper parts of the estuary.

Book Tickets




Children & Infants

  • Facilities for children

Parking & Transport

  • On Bus Route

Opening Times

River Exe Estuary (1 Jan 2024 - 31 Dec 2024)

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