Monday, 11 June 2012

Tourist in my town: Topsham Day Trip

Topsham is interesting because even though Topsham officially falls within the boundaries of the City of Exeter, residents of Topsham and most of the rest of city tend to agree that it has the sense of being village in its own right. They have their own Fire Station, High Street, Estuary Port and special way of saying 'Topssam' that makes this little hamlet feel like it's a world away from Exeter High Street even though it's just down the road. It is the independent spirit of this 'village' that make it a great attraction for a day trip. The independent character of Topsham make quick an interesting day trip from Exeter city centre - so here's some of the sights that I saw.

Topsham High Street has some great independent, antique and charity shops as well as places to buy art and various nautical bits and pieces. There's more info on Topsham shopping at the Topsham Town website.

MatthewsHall is one of Topsham’s greatest resources. The people of Topsham like to support their creative endeavours an most of these activities pass through the doors of Matthews Hall at one point or another. At any given time, hall can play host to fitness classes, arts and craft fairs, theatrical productions, dances, concerts or almost anything else you can do indoors. The space is always well used and if you’re interested in finding out what is going on in the village it’s a great place to start. They’ve recently refurbished the foyer with a Matthew's Hall CafĂ© and alfresco dining. The new umbrellas and folding seats under the rowan tree canopy make it a beautifully inviting place to pass the time.
Family Swimming
Source: Topsham Pool
Topsham Pool is Exeter’s only public lido (there is also one at Exeter University) open throughout the summer months. The pool is small, 25m long with 5 lanes, but it is heated, welcoming to families and open for all swimmers from May to September.

The Bridge Inn has been one of Topsham’s most iconic buildings since the 16th century. I first came here when I was as student at the University of Exeter and was astounded by the fact that it was older than America. The layout of the pub is complex with lots of small rooms off the main bar area and a large barn like back room that they use for functions and live music. They always have a top quality selection of ales on tap, so it’s a must go for beer drinkers.
Darts Farm
Source: Exeter Shopping

Darts Farm is a fabulously posh farm shop come restaurant that seems to just keep getting more and more awesome every year. I remember when it was just an empty field, and now it's become a real feather in Topsham's cap. Like Daylesford Organic in the Cotswolds, when you visit you can expect top notch grub in their award winning restaurant and a shop full of locally sourced organic vegetables, meat, cheese and fish to take home. Outside they’ve got piggies, llamas, green grass and play park with a climbing tractor for kids to play on. It’s the kind of place that you could easily spend all day in.
Source: Geograph
I’ll be honest, the Quay is not my favourite bit of Topsham, but I think that’s because I’m not lucky enough to have a boat or any sealegs to speak of! Unlike the Exeter Quay, the Topsham Quayside doesn’t have much ambiance for someone who is looking to visit for more than boating, fishing or canoeing. I generally come here to park or to visit Quay Antiques, beyond this I don’t normally stick around very long. But I’ve mentioned it here because it’s something that every Topsham visitor should check out for history's sake and because if you are nautically inclined, you might well be interested in the Stuart Line Cruises and boat hire from here.

Wanna come visit?  Here's the skinny on how to get there and where to park in Topsham
Topsham is located to the South East of Exeter and is one of many villages along the river between Exeter and Exmouth. You can get there quite easily from Exeter by car, bus, train, or bicycle.

Topsham by Train: The best way to get to Topsham from Exeter or Exmouth is by Train. Topsham is part of the Avocet line on First Great Western’s Exmouth to Paignton service and the trains run through the station about every half hour. The walk from the station onto the High Street is about 5 minutes. It’s also cheaper than the bus at around £2.50 for a return and you don’t have to worry about finding a place to park or getting caught in traffic on Topsham Road.

Topham by Bus: Stagecoach runs the T and 57 bus service to Topsham from Exeter City Centre. It’s always been my opinion that this service is slow and over priced (about £4 return), but if you have a bus pass it could work for you.

Topsham by Car or bicycle: If you’re driving or cycling to Topsham from Exeter city centre, you can get to Topsham High Street via Topsham Road from the Countess Wear roundabout. From the M5, take exit towards Sidmouth, and then follow signs to Exmouth and Topsham at the roundabouts. If you miss the turning at The St George & Dragon pub, you’ll need to turn around and come back.

Parking in Topsham is tricky and sometimes nearly impossible. There are four public car parks in Topsham: Matthews Hall, Quayside, Tappers Close and the Holman Way car park near the rail station. I generally head for the Holman Way car park near the doctors surgery as it avoids the Topsham High Street queues that sometimes happen because of deliveries on the one lane street.

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