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Turf Lock (Exeter Canal)

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Overview





Turf Lock is the entrance to the Exeter Ship Canal which is approached from the River Exe estuary on England’s south coast. It offers deepwater marina pontoons in the basin, moorings and the possibility of anchoring off clear of the fairway. Low airdraft vessels also have the possibility of visiting the city of Exeter.

Turf Lock is the entrance to the Exeter Ship Canal which is approached from the River Exe estuary on England’s south coast. It offers deepwater marina pontoons in the basin, moorings and the possibility of anchoring off clear of the fairway. Low airdraft vessels also have the possibility of visiting the city of Exeter.

Tucked away inside the river estuary and locked-in, Turf Lock offers protection from all conditions. Daylight approaches are straightforward and although the Exe entrance is challenging, it is well marked with lateral marks, some of which are lit. However, as it has to be approached near high water and in daylight, and the lock only opens when high water occurs during working hours, some planning is required for the timing of the approach.
Please note

The entrance of the Exe should not be approached in any developed southwest around to southeast conditions, particularly on the ebb. Once inside the river mouth, the body of water in the estuary is largely protected.




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Keyfacts for Turf Lock (Exeter Canal)



Last modified
November 1st 2018

Summary* Restrictions apply

A completely protected location with attentive navigation required for access.

Facilities
Water hosepipe available alongsideWaste disposal bins availableShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationRegional or international airport within 25 kilometres


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationMarina or pontoon berthing facilitiesAnchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityA secure location

Considerations
Restriction: access via a channel with a lock or enclosed by a lockNote: could be two hours or more from the main waterwaysNote: harbour fees may be charged



Position and approaches
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Haven position

50° 39.797' N, 003° 27.971' W

This is the head of the pier leading into Turf Lock where a light is exhibited, 2F.R(Vert)7m4M.

What is the initial fix?

The following River Exe Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
50° 35.860' N, 003° 23.790' W
This is the position of the 'Exe' Safe Water Light Buoy Mo(A)10s from which the first lateral marks of the entrance channel can be seen.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southwestern England’s coastal overview from Portland Bill to Start Point Route location, Exmouth Click to view haven for seaward approaches from the River Exe Initial Fix and Topsham Click to view haven for the River Exe.

  • Berthing by prior arrangement with Exeter Canal Office.

  • The lock is operated ±0200 of high water and only when high water falls within working hours, 0700-1600.


Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Turf Lock (Exeter Canal) for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Topsham - 0.6 miles N
  2. Starcross Yacht Club - 0.7 miles SSE
  3. Starcross - 1.5 miles SSE
  4. Exmouth - 2 miles SSE
  5. The Bight - 2.1 miles SSE
  6. Teignmouth - 4.7 miles S
  7. Watcombe Cove - 6.3 miles S
  8. Babbacombe Bay - 6.9 miles S
  9. Anstey’s Cove - 7.1 miles S
  10. Hope Cove (Tor Bay) - 7.4 miles S
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Topsham - 0.6 miles N
  2. Starcross Yacht Club - 0.7 miles SSE
  3. Starcross - 1.5 miles SSE
  4. Exmouth - 2 miles SSE
  5. The Bight - 2.1 miles SSE
  6. Teignmouth - 4.7 miles S
  7. Watcombe Cove - 6.3 miles S
  8. Babbacombe Bay - 6.9 miles S
  9. Anstey’s Cove - 7.1 miles S
  10. Hope Cove (Tor Bay) - 7.4 miles S
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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What's the story here?
Turf Lock and the Exeter Ship Canal
Image: Michael Harpur


Turf Lock is situated near the head and on the west bank of the River Exe estuary. It provides access to the Exeter Ship Canal which runs for 5 miles from the lock to the Exeter Canal Basin. The canal has two locks, including the tidal Turf Lock, and it provides a depth of 3 metres all the way to Exeter. Access to the city is restricted to low air draught vessels as an M5 Motorway bridge crosses the canal, about 3 miles downstream from Exeter, reducing the clearance to a maximum of 11 metres.

The small non-tidal dock is now a marina providing berths with 3 metres of water. Vessels of a maximum length of 37 metres, beam 7.9 metres, a draught of 3.0 metres and no more than 20 gross tons can enter the lock. Multihull craft may be accommodated by special arrangement. The minimum permitted stay, for a lock opening, is two days and the maximum stay is for a month.

The canal is administered by the Exeter Canal Office P: +44 1392 274306 / 265791, E: river.canal@exeter.gov.uk, with whom lock entry and exit can be arranged. The lock is operated ±0200 of high water and only when High Water falls within working hours, 0700-1600. However, the canal staff are more than helpful and will go out of their way to accommodate vessels where possible. There is no charge for the lock, just the marina berthing fee.

Weekday fees, as of 2018, (min period 2 days) £20.60 per day inclusive of locking. Turf 'weekend' (in Friday / out Monday) inclusive of Locking £41.20.


How to get in?
Approach channel to the lock at low water
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use southwestern England’s coastal overview from Portland Bill to Start Point Route location, Exmouth Click to view haven for seaward approaches from the River Exe Initial Fix and Topsham Click to view haven for the River Exe up to the No. 37 starboard buoy close south of the approach channel.


The entrance to Turf Lock at low water
Image: Michael Harpur


Depth in the southern approaches to Turf Lock is 0.9 metres where one yellow visitors' buoy is located. Turf Lock's chamber is 37.3 metres long.


Pontoon berths alongside the basin
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Enter the lock and berth as directed by the Dock Master. The visitors' buoy just outside the lock may be used at the discretion of the lock keeper.

Moorings in the approaches
Image: Michael Harpur


It is also possible to anchor off Turf Lock and depths of 1.5 metres can be found clear of the fairway/entrance but expect a very strong ebb tide. Land at the Turf Hotel pontoon, clear of the ferry landing area, where visitors ashore are very welcolme

Visitors Buoys below the entrance
Image: Michael Harpur



Why visit here?
Turf Lock was first recorded as Le Torffe during the 14th-century when the Alice was recorded to be discharging her cargo there. Torf in German, is the word for peat, indicating the beginning of the name for this soft landscape. Even in the Middle Ages, the shifting channels of the estuary prevented ships from reaching its primary port of Topsham and forced them to unload at Turf. But it would be 1566 before the beginnings of the Exeter Ship Canal would commence and it would be centuries later before it arrived to create Turf Lock.


Turf Lock
Image: Michael Harpur


Historically the river was navigable to the Roman quays of Exeter but it was complicated in the upper reaches of the estuary on account of its tides, countless shoals and fishing weirs. This was further frustrated in 1284, when Countess Isabella De Fortibus, the Countess of Devon, built a partial weir across the river just below the town to run her mills. This weir effectively cut off Exeter to larger boats and, in 1300, Hugh de Courtenay, 9th Earl of Devon (Isabella's cousin), built a further weir that completely cut off the town, this time in an effort to bolster the fortunes of Topsham where his interests lay - see Topsham Click to view haven.

Exeter Quays during the 16th-century
Image: Public Domain
In 1539, after the de Courtenay family had fallen out of favour, King Henry VIII granted Exeter powers to remove the weirs. But by then they proved too difficult to dismantle and it was too late in any event because the river channel had silted up above them. Following the execution of Henry de Courtenay in 1556 and the transfer of his estate to the crown, a 1563 Act was passed to overcome the problem by constructing a barge canal from Exeter to just below Countess Weir at Matford Brook. John Trew, from Glamorgan, was commissioned to build the canal, that was then called the ‘Haven’.

The canal was built down the softer western bank of the river, and he constructed a weir to feed river water into it at Countess Weir. It used three vertical guillotine sluice gates that the barges had to pass which were the first pound locks on any British waterway. When completed in 1566 it was 2,850 metres long, 5 metres wide and a metre deep. Once again Exeter could take vessels of 16 tons alongside its quays. But vessels approaching the canal continued to be impeded by shoals and it could not be entered at all states of the tide. Its shallow draught meant that seagoing vessels were forced to unload into smaller vessels and the double transfer of cargo, over such a short distance, made it uncompetitive when compared to the straight road from Topsham. Trew made little profit from his venture and over time it silted up from disuse, cutting-off Exeter once again.

Horse towing an 19th-century ship in the canal
Image: Public Domain
In the 17th-century Exeter was the fourth largest city and port in England and a renewed effort was required to redress the problem. So in 1667, the canal was extended and the entrance was moved downstream to Topsham. A larger entrance for 60-ton craft was built there with a single pair of gates that was known as ‘Trenchard's Sluice’. With this, the use of the canal continued to increase, and it showed the city what possibilities it possessed.

Then in 1724 the canal was lengthened to 4 miles, widened to 18 metres and brought to its current depth of 3 metres. The three old pound locks were removed and double locks were built to provide a greater rise in one lock. At the same time, the number of locks on the canal was reduced to one. Soon after a pair of floodgates were built at Kings Arms Sluice to help reduce the silting-up problem. These modifications allowed the passage of ocean-going ships of up to 150 tons all the way up to Exeter quay. These improvements led to the canal being highly successful and in the 1750's some 500 craft used it annually. Exeter flourished and trade with the continent expanded, beyond wool for the Dutch, and now included continental ports in Portugal, Spain and Italy.


Exeter Custom House on the quays built in 1680
Image: Michael Harpur


In 1827, the canal was again finally extended to Turf where the new lock enabled all vessels that could cross the bar at Exmouth to enter the Canal and reach Exeter. The 131 feet by 30 feet wide Turf Lock proved difficult to build at the time because of soft ground. But once completed it allowed craft of 14-foot draught and 350 tons to enter Turf Basin where they often lay awaiting fair winds to exit the estuary having offloaded into lighters for transhipment to Exeter. The large lighters were moved the final five and a half miles between Turf and Exeter by pairs of horses towing from pathways on either side of the canal as the setting of sails was against the canal bylaws.


Boat alongside Exeter's historic quay today
Image: Michael Harpur


The canal continued to be a total success until the arrival of the Bristol and Exeter Railway in 1844. The railway seriously affected the Canal and it quickly started losing trade. It was not until 1867 that a railway branch line was built out to the Exeter Canal Basin which was too late to make a difference. Coasters continued using it until the late 1960’s but the canal was doomed as a commercial project. The last ship to use the canal was in 1972 when the 'Esso Jersey', now known as the 'Kieler', left the canal basin, carrying oil to its terminal in New Jersey. The City sludge boat, 'The Countess Weir', remained until 1999.

Turf Lock and Turf Hotel
Image: Michael Harpur


Today the Canal remains very much as it was redesigned in 1827. Having being commenced in the 1560s it is the first canal to be built in Britain since Roman times and is one of the oldest artificial waterways in the UK. The weir that maintains the water level in the quay is still named Trew's Weir after the man who built the first stage of the canal. It is enjoyed today by recreational vessels, whilst both people and wildlife enjoy the unique environment. Along the towpath are two notable inns that are thriving, especially in the summer months.

View from the Turf Lock Hotel
Image: Michael Harpur


The Turf Lock Hotel, above the lock and basin marina, is one of them and it is a simply beautiful location. There are extensive views across the estuary to Topsham and down to Exmouth from its extensive garden, and DIY barbecues make the most of the time there during fine weather. The hotel has a wonderful interior and has an excellent choice of food and drink.

The extensive grounds of the Turf Lock Hotel
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating perspective this is a location where a boat can be moored afloat so that the estuary may be fully enjoyed, and is also a bulletproof location where the vessel may be left for up to a month with complete peace of mind. Two days in this little pocket of tranquility will be scarcely enough and there is plenty at hand.

The Topsham Turf Ferry landing its passengers at the pub jetty
Image: Michael Harpur


Exeter is available for vessels with a low air draft or indeed a dinghy run up the canal. The more active may even consider a walk on the towpath taking in the spectacular scenery along the way, and with the option of visiting the canal’s other excellent watering hole ‘Double Locks’. Likewise if drying out alongside at Topsham presents a concerns, the ferry from Turf Lock offers the perfect solution to visit this unique location. Alternatively, if provisioning is a required take the ferry to Exeter Quay.


What facilities are available?
There are no facilities outside those provided by the Ferry Inn. Small ferries operate between Turf Lock and Topsham and/or Exeter Quay which have excellent provisioning capabilities.


With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, eOceanic.


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Please zoom out to see the 'initial fix' for this location.
The above plots are not precise and indicative only.




Turf Lock (Exeter Ship Canal), Exe Estuary, Devon, England
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


Approaches to Turf Lock
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


Turf Lock entrance at low water
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


Turf Lock
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


The marina in the basin above the lock
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


The extensive grounds of the Turf Lock Hotel
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur




Turf Lock Aerial 1




Turf Lock Aerial 2


About Turf Lock (Exeter Canal)

Turf Lock was first recorded as Le Torffe during the 14th-century when the Alice was recorded to be discharging her cargo there. Torf in German, is the word for peat, indicating the beginning of the name for this soft landscape. Even in the Middle Ages, the shifting channels of the estuary prevented ships from reaching its primary port of Topsham and forced them to unload at Turf. But it would be 1566 before the beginnings of the Exeter Ship Canal would commence and it would be centuries later before it arrived to create Turf Lock.


Turf Lock
Image: Michael Harpur


Historically the river was navigable to the Roman quays of Exeter but it was complicated in the upper reaches of the estuary on account of its tides, countless shoals and fishing weirs. This was further frustrated in 1284, when Countess Isabella De Fortibus, the Countess of Devon, built a partial weir across the river just below the town to run her mills. This weir effectively cut off Exeter to larger boats and, in 1300, Hugh de Courtenay, 9th Earl of Devon (Isabella's cousin), built a further weir that completely cut off the town, this time in an effort to bolster the fortunes of Topsham where his interests lay - see Topsham Click to view haven.

Exeter Quays during the 16th-century
Image: Public Domain
In 1539, after the de Courtenay family had fallen out of favour, King Henry VIII granted Exeter powers to remove the weirs. But by then they proved too difficult to dismantle and it was too late in any event because the river channel had silted up above them. Following the execution of Henry de Courtenay in 1556 and the transfer of his estate to the crown, a 1563 Act was passed to overcome the problem by constructing a barge canal from Exeter to just below Countess Weir at Matford Brook. John Trew, from Glamorgan, was commissioned to build the canal, that was then called the ‘Haven’.

The canal was built down the softer western bank of the river, and he constructed a weir to feed river water into it at Countess Weir. It used three vertical guillotine sluice gates that the barges had to pass which were the first pound locks on any British waterway. When completed in 1566 it was 2,850 metres long, 5 metres wide and a metre deep. Once again Exeter could take vessels of 16 tons alongside its quays. But vessels approaching the canal continued to be impeded by shoals and it could not be entered at all states of the tide. Its shallow draught meant that seagoing vessels were forced to unload into smaller vessels and the double transfer of cargo, over such a short distance, made it uncompetitive when compared to the straight road from Topsham. Trew made little profit from his venture and over time it silted up from disuse, cutting-off Exeter once again.

Horse towing an 19th-century ship in the canal
Image: Public Domain
In the 17th-century Exeter was the fourth largest city and port in England and a renewed effort was required to redress the problem. So in 1667, the canal was extended and the entrance was moved downstream to Topsham. A larger entrance for 60-ton craft was built there with a single pair of gates that was known as ‘Trenchard's Sluice’. With this, the use of the canal continued to increase, and it showed the city what possibilities it possessed.

Then in 1724 the canal was lengthened to 4 miles, widened to 18 metres and brought to its current depth of 3 metres. The three old pound locks were removed and double locks were built to provide a greater rise in one lock. At the same time, the number of locks on the canal was reduced to one. Soon after a pair of floodgates were built at Kings Arms Sluice to help reduce the silting-up problem. These modifications allowed the passage of ocean-going ships of up to 150 tons all the way up to Exeter quay. These improvements led to the canal being highly successful and in the 1750's some 500 craft used it annually. Exeter flourished and trade with the continent expanded, beyond wool for the Dutch, and now included continental ports in Portugal, Spain and Italy.


Exeter Custom House on the quays built in 1680
Image: Michael Harpur


In 1827, the canal was again finally extended to Turf where the new lock enabled all vessels that could cross the bar at Exmouth to enter the Canal and reach Exeter. The 131 feet by 30 feet wide Turf Lock proved difficult to build at the time because of soft ground. But once completed it allowed craft of 14-foot draught and 350 tons to enter Turf Basin where they often lay awaiting fair winds to exit the estuary having offloaded into lighters for transhipment to Exeter. The large lighters were moved the final five and a half miles between Turf and Exeter by pairs of horses towing from pathways on either side of the canal as the setting of sails was against the canal bylaws.


Boat alongside Exeter's historic quay today
Image: Michael Harpur


The canal continued to be a total success until the arrival of the Bristol and Exeter Railway in 1844. The railway seriously affected the Canal and it quickly started losing trade. It was not until 1867 that a railway branch line was built out to the Exeter Canal Basin which was too late to make a difference. Coasters continued using it until the late 1960’s but the canal was doomed as a commercial project. The last ship to use the canal was in 1972 when the 'Esso Jersey', now known as the 'Kieler', left the canal basin, carrying oil to its terminal in New Jersey. The City sludge boat, 'The Countess Weir', remained until 1999.

Turf Lock and Turf Hotel
Image: Michael Harpur


Today the Canal remains very much as it was redesigned in 1827. Having being commenced in the 1560s it is the first canal to be built in Britain since Roman times and is one of the oldest artificial waterways in the UK. The weir that maintains the water level in the quay is still named Trew's Weir after the man who built the first stage of the canal. It is enjoyed today by recreational vessels, whilst both people and wildlife enjoy the unique environment. Along the towpath are two notable inns that are thriving, especially in the summer months.

View from the Turf Lock Hotel
Image: Michael Harpur


The Turf Lock Hotel, above the lock and basin marina, is one of them and it is a simply beautiful location. There are extensive views across the estuary to Topsham and down to Exmouth from its extensive garden, and DIY barbecues make the most of the time there during fine weather. The hotel has a wonderful interior and has an excellent choice of food and drink.

The extensive grounds of the Turf Lock Hotel
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating perspective this is a location where a boat can be moored afloat so that the estuary may be fully enjoyed, and is also a bulletproof location where the vessel may be left for up to a month with complete peace of mind. Two days in this little pocket of tranquility will be scarcely enough and there is plenty at hand.

The Topsham Turf Ferry landing its passengers at the pub jetty
Image: Michael Harpur


Exeter is available for vessels with a low air draft or indeed a dinghy run up the canal. The more active may even consider a walk on the towpath taking in the spectacular scenery along the way, and with the option of visiting the canal’s other excellent watering hole ‘Double Locks’. Likewise if drying out alongside at Topsham presents a concerns, the ferry from Turf Lock offers the perfect solution to visit this unique location. Alternatively, if provisioning is a required take the ferry to Exeter Quay.

Other options in this area


Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Alternatively here are the ten nearest havens available in picture view:
Coastal clockwise:
Starcross Yacht Club - 0.7 miles SSE
Starcross - 1.5 miles SSE
Teignmouth - 4.7 miles S
Watcombe Cove - 6.3 miles S
Babbacombe Bay - 6.9 miles S
Coastal anti-clockwise:
Topsham - 0.6 miles N
The Bight - 2.1 miles SSE
Exmouth - 2 miles SSE
Beer - 9 miles E
Axmouth - 9.7 miles E

Navigational pictures


These additional images feature in the 'How to get in' section of our detailed view for Turf Lock (Exeter Canal).




































Turf Lock Aerial 1




Turf Lock Aerial 2



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