Exmoor's Gift - The River Exe

Tony French

Dedicated to The Exmoor Society

Clouds sculpted by Atlantic winds
sail towards land
their harbour
smuggled over
Devon’s Wistlandpound
to barrows on the highest moor

here Bronze Age hunters knew
the plateau’s morning mist
now ponies graze
– gorse and heather
laced by a hundred streams
united like uncertain warriors

from here one tiny rivulet
no bigger than the rest
trickles insistently
a stone-built bridge
then shyly turns beside a road
its pulse soon measured day and night

escaping now past scattered trees
a wooden fence or two
braved by rucksacks
boots and hardy souls
in worlds ignorant of time

shouldering its anxious way
through postcard villages
past cottages
and thatch
– joined
by the Haddeo
and the River Barle
where counties meet

Somerset’s gift to Devon
the teenage River Exe
ambles through
past wooded slopes
slides over sparkling weirs
sweeps around wide shingle banks

challenged by Tiverton
sweet revenge
railways arrived railways departed
down to Bickleigh
troubled waters toss a tree trunk
narrow bridges fight the current
where a heron on its vigil…

…darts for silver flashing scales…
here in the widening valley
space to turn…
…time to yawn
Bickleigh Castle… Dandyland

weirs and shallows
farms ripe for flooding
Exe in Exeter

strengthened by the Culm and Creedy
by a final wood and railway
milked of strength by man-made channels

Exe Bridges
canal, ships (for the use of)
(the Double Locks)
Trews Weir, Ducks Marsh
Countess Wear (bridges, swinging)

a whiff of sea
the tidal limits
motorway above a boatyard

fresh water from the Clyst at Topsham
mud and worms and snails and shellfish
swept by tides
dined on by

Brent geese winter from Siberia
spindly avocet and curlew
paradise of cockles, lugworms
crossed at high tide by the ferries
admired from passing trains
sliced by windsurfers

a final bar to salt and freedom
sandy warren
Dawlish Warren
golf and beaches
dunes and nesting
resting till the tide retreats

fresh water from the Exe
is funnelled
past Pole Sands
to open seascape

Sea Area Portland…
…where the summer sun is forecast
to lift, distil, refresh the water…
gathered far above the coastline
clouds are born
which smuggle cargoes…

Author's Note: You might like to use this poem about the River Exe, which rises in the county of Somerset in the UK but is most closely associated with the county of Devon - flowing through the once Roman city of Exeter before reaching the sea.

See other Poetry Atlas poems about Somerset and poems about Devon.

We also have lots more poems about rivers.

Read more of Tony's work at www.poemsplease.me.

Mist over the River Exe in Devon

The River Exe in Devon