Visitors' Book

A walk through Topsham town, the art of architecture in south Devon

While I love long hikes in the countryside, sometimes a short walk can be just as thrilling. The little town of Topsham, just four miles from the city of Exeter, is one of my favourite places to wander around, with its unique architecture and maritime history.

With the first stirrings of Spring in the air, and the debris from the recent floods almost all cleared, I set out to explore just a small straight stretch of less than a mile, from Follett Lodge on Ferry Road, to the start of the curiously-named Goat Walk at the end of the Strand.

Ferry road birdlife

Ferry Road and The Strand run alongside the Exe Estuary, now dotted with sailing and fishing boats, and home to a huge population of wading birds, ducks, geese and swans. It’s hard to imagine that this peaceful and picturesque spot was once a bustling port, the second busiest in the UK by the end of the seventeenth century.

It is in the architecture of the houses that line this thoroughfare that we get a glimpse into Topsham’s more cosmopolitan past. Trade with Holland brought with it bricks and tiles as ballast, and new ways of building that transformed Georgian houses by adding rounded gables, turrets and porthole windows. The rich merchants that built their homes along the Strand embraced the new style, so much so that walking along today you could easily think you were in Holland and not the UK.

Dutch influence

Shell HouseArchitectural interest

An effeminate, beruffled gentleman

Each building has its own little quirks, and I found lots of little mouldings or statues that made me smile. From the aptly-named ‘Shell’ house with its charming porch to the curious beruffled figures that adorn another, there is something unusual to be seen on almost every building if you keep your eyes peeled.

Everywhere old and new combines as architectural alterations over the years have made the buildings into the eclectic treasures we see today. It is nice to see that the current inhabitants are staying true to this tradition, and adding their own personal touches, such as a bicycle plant pot, still standing between two sandbags that tell of the recent floods that filled this road just a matter of weeks ago.Bicycles and sandbags

With eyes thoroughly feasted on architectural gems, it’s nice to sit down on one of the many benches along the route, and watch the birds on the water and bathe in the beautiful light over the estuary and the Exminster Marshes and Haldon Hills beyond. That this has been a much-loved spot for many years is shown by the plaques on the benches. Just like Bill Ware, this is my favorite place too, and perhaps that of whoever tucked this festive floral arrangement into the wall behind Bill’s bench.

Bill Ware's bench

Fancy a wander around the buldings and streets of Topsham? Book a lovely little cottage in south Devon to stay in.


 By Mary Costello (of Molly and the Princess blog
All image credits to Mary

More reading

Grimspound: The Enclosure of the Devil on Dartmoor

Grimspound: The Enclosure of the Devil on Dartmoor

Literally meaning ‘Enclosure of the Devil’, Grim being another word for Odin, Grimspound is a late Bronze age settlement on Dartmoor.

Places to Go 3 years ago Molly and the Princess
Bluebells at Blackbury Camp in Devon

Bluebells at Blackbury Camp in Devon

The flowers are short-lived, and so once they are out, you should grab the opportunity to see them at their best...

Places to Go 3 years ago Molly and the Princess
Murder Mystery family activity in Totnes

Murder Mystery family activity in Totnes

Explore a new town and find things to do with children in Totnes - as we eliminated suspects and weapons we explored places with great names like Warland and Ticklemore Street.

Things to do 4 months ago Philip Eley
Becky Falls family day out

Becky Falls family day out

I read on the leaflet that Becky Falls has been open to the public since 1903. A lot of small feet must have walked its trails in that time but my children really did feel like explorers discovering a strange and magical land for the first time.

Visitors' Book 2 years ago Philip Eley