Tuesday, 25 June 2013


Someone called Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that

Life is a journey, not a destination

and while this may sound profound and poetic I would challenge anyone travelling on a cross country train from Durham to Preston, late at night on a wintry Friday, not to long for the destination and the journey's end. 

But I think it's true that journey's are underrated, even the journey from Durham to Preston which, in daylight, has some fantastic views while travelling through the Pennines. I've blogged about journeys before (here, here and here) and I've been thinking about, and going on, quite a few journey's recently (and there are several more to come soon). 

Last week I did something I've been wanting to try for quite a while, exploring the Exe by public transport. Exeter and the Exe Estuary are lucky to be supported by a very good transport system. There is a train line that runs all the way up one side of the estuary from Exmouth, to Exeter, and then all the way down the other side too. If I didn't live a 40 minute walk or two bus journeys from the nearest station I would travel on this lovely route much more often. But there are buses too and from our flat this is much easier. 

You can (and I did) get the bus from Exeter to Topsham, which is a lovely 15 minute journey. You can either spend it looking out for number 57 buses and guessing which estuary wildlife will be pictured on the side or feeling smugly green about not using your own car and also relieved that you don't have to find somewhere to park it when you arrive!

One of the best things about being car free in Topsham is that as well as exploring the east bank of the estuary you can hop onto one of two foot ferries which take you over to the other bank too. This was what I'd been looking forward to and I took the Topsham Passenger Ferry which is £1 each way and takes about a minute to do the crossing. The ferry man  is lovely, he told us all about his recent holiday scuba diving with manta rays, and the added bonus of a small group of signets was well worth the £1 anyway. 

Once across the river, you can wander along the west bank down to the Turf pub which is only accessible by foot, bike or boat and enjoy a pint of organic, locally produced Avocet Ale. What could be a better, greener, way to spend a summer afternoon? 

If you're tempted by a longer journey (and another pub) the easy walk through the RSPB Exminster Marshes reserve leads to the Swans Nest, and you should see plenty of dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies and birds. You might be lucky like we were and see a fox cub learning to hunt. 

After quenching your thirst again, you have a choice. Catch the bus back into Exeter from this side of the river, or  wander back down the road to the ferry crossing, have another short but lovely boat trip and get the bus back into Exeter from the other side.

A day out wandering is nice, and the journey really is the main event. There's something special about traveling by public transport, I always feel there are so many options and potentials. you could go anywhere. The odd thing is that this is probably much truer by car, but I never feel the same way when driving myself. 

Yesterday I traveled up to Northamptonshire by car, because public transport took longer, costed more and meant you had to travel further. I wish it was easier to do the journey without the car. But I did enjoy counting buzzards as I went. I managed ten over the journey and happily saw two red kites just before the end. A kestrel was an unexpected sight too. This is one species where I do remember there being plenty in the past and fewer now. I'll be entering my sighting into the kestrel survey here so that my sighting can go towards helping solve the problems this lovely bird currently faces. I wonder if I'll see more ore less buzzards on the return trip, although since it will be via Symonds Yat I hope there will definitely be more peregrines. 

I suppose the quote at the start of this blog is meant to remind us to enjoy every moment we experience, to really take it all in rather than rushing to the next big milestone. I think that's important. But if we didn't have destinations to aim for, whether it's the next pub on route, a family reunion or the aim of bringing a species back from the brink our journeys would all become aimless wanderings and that doesn't seem very good either. So, enjoy the journey, and take as many stops as you can, but celebrate the milestones too because they mark the progress we've made, and give us a chance to look back at how far we've come. 


  1. Glad you put Northants in there, as it's were I live. One of the biggest complaints I have is that often public transport isn't better "joined" up. I'm lucky, despite living in the town centre I have some fabolous wild spots on my doorstep and often just walk to them. But if I wish to go further in the county by bus it's made impossible by silly timetables e.g I can get a bus to a nearby village, but there isn't one for the return journey!! The cost is silly too, I have a supermarket about 1 mile from home, it seems to me mad to use the car as the engine hasn't warmed up, more pollution etc, but if I was to use the bus I would travel 3 stops (1 mile) and pay £3.50, it's cheaper to use the car, I don't, I walk instead. As for Kestrels there has been a definate drop in numbers, however I caught the feature on Springwatch and I think the Hawk and Owl trust have stumbled across the solution (they recommended nest boxes) as I noted in areas where Kestrels had gone nest boxes were put up after two years these boxes are now occupied and I noted some were suggesting Buzzards and Kestrels fighting for terriority however what I noted Buzzards often were located in the same areas as kestrels and often it's the Buzzard that has it's prey snatched by Kestrels...sorry for the long comment

    1. Douglas, thanks for the brilliant comment!

      I do sometimes wonder if my excitement about good public transport comes from growing up with such poor public transport on the outer edges of Northants! You were never quite sure if the bus would turn up or not. When public transport is made the easiest, cheapest option people use it, I think that's the only way many people will be convinced to reduce their car use.

      Before humans artificially reduced buzzard numbers (by killing and poisoning) they co-existed with kestrels for hundreds of years as far as I know. I agree that nesting sites seems like a (relatively) easy way to help them. Hopefully we'll see lots again soon.

      Also, I love your photographs! Brilliant shot of the grass snake in the water at Pitsford. Hope you enjoy the blog. :)