Lockdown Topsham

From the start of lockdown in March 2020 until the end of July, I walked a two mile circuit around Topsham very early almost every morning. I set out usually before 7.0 and sometimes as soon as 5.30am, when it was light enough to see my way. It was a spontaneous urge to be up and out before the day got busy, and the pathways too crowded for social distancing.

The images and reflections which follow are my personal experience of this, as homage to the great beauty of the area, and as keepsakes from what we will surely look back on as a very strange time. They are just what I chose to photograph on my walks, rather than a comprehensive diary, and are not arranged here in date order. I hope you will enjoy this excursion through dawn scenery and the curiosities of lockdown Topsham.

The Goat Walk, still deep in shadow at dawn over a high tide on the River Exe

My usual route took me along the River Exe from Ferry Road to the quayside, then up the Strand with its historic, Dutch-styled houses to the Goat Walk, a narrow path which runs above the river bed. At the end of this spit of land, I would turn into the two community-owned fields to have a taste of the countryside, before continuing down Bowling Green Lane, with the bird reserve in the marshes on the right.

A frieze of geese, in the nature reserve

From the end of the Lane, a sharp uphill turn led to the top of Monmouth Street, and back down to the quayside. There I often walked home past the shops on Fore Street to reach our own front door.

The images below show the emergence of spring and into early summer in the Bowling Green Lane area


Sometimes I had a change, walking first through the town and out again past the Bridge Inn, crossing the River Clyst towards Darts Farm, but turning off first on the track back to Topsham.

The road past the Bridge Inn, then Dart’s Farm fields, and a figure appearing out of the mist
This was taken at 7.06 am on April 21st. It’s the ‘Dart Fresh’ crew, getting ready to take their fresh food supplies to grateful customers all over the area. I can testify to how far afield they travel, since when we took a break on Exmoor at the beginning of August, their van was the first thing we saw arriving at the remote moorland village of Simonsbath!

All this time, I marvelled at the changing seasons, with the first green of spring, and the growth of flowers and leaves into summer. I noticed the light changing too, as dawn grew later.

Dawn over Bowling Green Marshes – and what are those strange trails in the sky? So few planes were flying then, in April, that any sign of them caught our attention.

I did not set out to keep a record of lockdown, but I always took a phone or camera with me, and snapped what was beautiful or interesting, which means I do have some images directly related to the lockdown itself, which include those taken out and about in the town later in the day.

Upended tables at the closed Passage Inn look like a strange invasion of stick insects. Below, our cat Zaq and Rupert the bear in lockdown (the town organised a ‘Bear Hunt’), and a cheerful message on the walkway over the River Clyst.
June and July – The barber’s shop re-opens at last! The Art Shop opens its doors, with a new display to tempt people in, and moving house is allowed again.


There was a camaraderie about those walks. We were a scattered band of people who loved the peace and freshness of the early morning, and who wanted to beat the risk of finding ourselves in crowded places later in the day. Some faces were familiar, others new to me. I often exchanged greetings with our friend who takes weather photos for the BBC, and with another who plays the church organ, and I also became acquainted with a lady who always walks when she comes off night duty at an emergency call centre. Although the circumstances were harsh, there was something very special about those walks, and about the changing beauty of the scene. The weather was exceptionally good during those few months; bird song was crystal clear, roads were quiet, air unpolluted.

Suddenly, it was wisteria time!


From August, everything changed, both with the easing of restrictions and my own circumstances. The early walks came to an end. Perhaps I will begin them again this spring – but this time I hope it will be on the basis of wanting to do so, rather than from the pressures of lockdown.

You may also be interested in:

The Tidal Town of Topsham

Hidden Topsham Part One

Hidden Topsham Part Two

Hidden Topsham Part Three

Hidden Topsham Part Four

Topsham Celebrates

7 thoughts on “Lockdown Topsham

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