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Starcross

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Overview





Starcross is a small village on the west bank of the River Exe estuary on England’s south coast. It offers the possibility of anchoring off close to the village or perhaps picking up a vacant club mooring.

Tucked in under the western shore, Starcross provides good protection in all westerly conditions. Daylight approaches are straightforward as 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 some planning is required to time the approach appropriately.
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 Starcross
Facilities
Top up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway 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 locationCashpoint or bank available in the areaBoatyard with hard-standing available here; covered or uncoveredBus service available in the areaTrain or tram service available in the areaRegional or international airport within 25 kilometres


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderJetty or a structure to assist landingSailing Club baseSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pier

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
2.2 metres (7.22 feet).

Approaches
3 stars: Attentive navigation; daylight access with dangers that need attention.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.



Last modified
November 2nd 2018

Summary* Restrictions apply

A good location with attentive navigation required for access.

Facilities
Top up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway 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 locationCashpoint or bank available in the areaBoatyard with hard-standing available here; covered or uncoveredBus service available in the areaTrain or tram service available in the areaRegional or international airport within 25 kilometres


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderJetty or a structure to assist landingSailing Club baseSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pier



Position and approaches
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Haven position

50° 37.494' N, 003° 26.554' W

This is in 2.2 metres about 300 metres southeast of the pierhead.

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?

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.

  • Break off the Topsham directions to pass to the west of the Port No.16 buoy for Starcross.

  • Steer north by northwest to pass inside Shaggles Sand.


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 Starcross for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Exmouth - 0.5 miles SE
  2. The Bight - 0.5 miles SSE
  3. Starcross Yacht Club - 0.8 miles N
  4. Turf Lock (Exeter Canal) - 1.5 miles NNW
  5. Topsham - 2.1 miles NNW
  6. Teignmouth - 3.5 miles SSW
  7. Watcombe Cove - 5.1 miles SSW
  8. Babbacombe Bay - 5.6 miles SSW
  9. Anstey’s Cove - 5.8 miles SSW
  10. Hope Cove (Tor Bay) - 6 miles S
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Exmouth - 0.5 miles SE
  2. The Bight - 0.5 miles SSE
  3. Starcross Yacht Club - 0.8 miles N
  4. Turf Lock (Exeter Canal) - 1.5 miles NNW
  5. Topsham - 2.1 miles NNW
  6. Teignmouth - 3.5 miles SSW
  7. Watcombe Cove - 5.1 miles SSW
  8. Babbacombe Bay - 5.6 miles SSW
  9. Anstey’s Cove - 5.8 miles SSW
  10. Hope Cove (Tor Bay) - 6 miles S
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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Chart
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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What's the story here?
Starcross
Image: Michael Harpur


Starcross is a small waterside village situated on the west bank and about halfway up the River Exe estuary. It has a drying pier and jetty and a good beach to dry upon. It is possible to anchor to the southeast of the pier in depths that range from 0.6 to 2.2 metres.


The drying harbour area behind the breakwater
Image: Michael Harpur


Starcross Fishing and Cruising Club, based around the historic Brunel Tower, provides berthing facilities and a pontoon for members, and has one visitor's mooring. It is a large yellow buoy marked 'SFCC Visitors' and there is a £5 per night charge. It can accommodate boats of up to 11 metres, with ample water or two smaller boats of less than 10 metres rafted up together. Land at the club's Ashes Quay, which offers a landing point at all stages of the tide. The club may be contacted by P: +44 1392 891996 for advice, best in the evenings, e: bruneltower@aol.com.


Starcross Fishing and Cruising Club jetty
Image: Michael Harpur


If the visitor mooring is occupied it may be worth applying at the club to see if there are any other vacant moorings.


How to get in?
The approaches to Starcross
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 Port No.16 buoy, unlit.


Shaggles Sand drying out to the south of the floating cafe
Image: Michael Harpur


Pass west of the Port No.16 buoy, to starboard as the route to Starcross exits the main channel, and continue northward to pass to the west of Shaggles Sand and a detached drying bank to the south of it. The southern bank commences opposite the main channel's Starboard No.17 buoy. That buoy should be kept about 250 metres eastward to account for the main channel, the bank and a comfortable margin to the centre of the channel, whilst progressing up to Starcross. Continue steering north by northwest for a ⅓ of a mile to pass inside Shaggles Sand and into the deeper of the mooring areas off Starcross.


The tall red tower of Brunel's engine house makes a prominent mark for Starcross
Image: Michael Harpur


There are no buoys after the Port No.16 buoy but the line of deep-draught yachts on moorings make the path of the deeper water readily apparent. Likewise, the historic atmospheric engine chimney, a tall and conspicuous red tower, makes Starcross readily identifiable on the shore.


The deepwater area southeast of the pier
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Pick up the club moorings or anchor according to draft making sure to use a trip line in this historic anchorage and mooring area. As Starcross is out of the main run of the channel the tidal streams are moderate. Land at the Starcross Fishing and Cruising Club jetty. No landings may take place on the Ferry Jetty.

The underpass, left, and the club jetty, right
Image: Michael Harpur


Anchoring vessels can land on the beach. Aim for one of the underpasses under the railway line. The northernmost underpass is close to the foot of the pump house and the club has laid down a layer of pebbles on top of the mud to make it more workable. A better landing can be had on the firm beach fronting the southern of the two underpasses about 300 metres southward.


Starcross
Image: Michael Harpur


The best positions are usually taken up with moorings, unfortunately. If a deep water location cannot be found loop back around Port No.16 buoy and rejoin the main channel up the east side of Shaggles Sand. In the area between the floating cafe, the water skiing area and the starboard No. 19 buoy it is possible to anchorage clear of the fairway in excess of 2 metres. Holding is good in sand but it is more exposed and can be uncomfortable in strong winds against the ebb.

Beach to the south of Starcross pier
Image: Michael Harpur



Why visit here?
Starcross was first recorded as Star Crosse in 1689 and the origins of its name are uncertain. Some believe it is thought to have derived its name from starlings, in Old English stare and 'cross' referring to where the starlings gathered and crossed the estuary.


Starcross' First World War cenotaph
Image: Michael Harpur


Others believe it originated when an old ferry service was plying its way between Exmouth and Starcross in the 12th century. At that time a cross stood above where a flight of steps lead up from the landing area, over time the ‘Stair Cross’, became Starcross. The rights for the historic ferry service were the property of the Abbey of Sherborne and hence a cross was used to mark the landing location. The city of Exeter had always been jealous of the lucrative and important ferry service feeling that it deprived the city of income by luring traffic away from its toll system. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, they finally had the chance to seize the rights to it, which they kept control of it until the middle of the 19th-century.


St. Paul's Church was built in 1828
Image: Michael Dibb via CC BY-SA 2.0


Starcross pier started to develop beyond its ferry service in the 17th and 18th centuries. It marked the end point of the deeper channels in the lower estuary and during this time it was often used as a location for trans-shipping cargoes from the larger ships that were unable to reach Topsham or Exeter. Outside of this, and until about 1820, it was a small hamlet that drew a living for cockles and its oysters.


The harbour area with the water away
Image: Michael Harpur


Starcross was then largely built out by the Victorians. Its church was built in 1828 and the school built in 1839. The coming of the Brunel-engineered South Devon Railway between Exeter and Teignmouth, in 1846, involved extensive land reclamation in and around Starcross. The railway company then took over the ferry service in 1848 where it remained a vital link to Exmouth until the Exeter/Exmouth line was constructed in 1861 which somewhat diminished its importance. In 1864 the asylum was established at Starcross becoming its dominant feature and major employer until its closure in 1986 when it was demolished. Almshouses were established under the will of Henry Drew in 1901. Starcross retains much of its Victorian heritage in its buildings but its most notable feature is Brunel's Italianate pumping engine house on the shore that was built in 1845.


Starcross retains much of its Victorian heritage
Image: Michael Harpur


In about 1840-1845 there was great interest at the prospect of propelling railway trains by a system of atmospheric (vacuum) traction. The idea was to suck air out of 15-inch pipes laid between the rails with the locomotive being pulled along by the vacuum. The vacuum was created by a series of stationary pumping engines along the line. On top of the pipes was a continuous sealable slot which allowed a piston to pull the train. Under the first carriage hung a 15-ft long piston, shaped like a dumbbell, with small wheels outside the pipe and before and after the piston, that opened and closed a leather valve. In 1843 it was installed on about 2 miles of the Irish line between Kingstown and Dalkey and it was also being trialled in Paris and in London at Croydon.

Starcross' Italianate pump house
Image: Michael Harpur



Intrigued, Brunel decided to adopt the system for the South Devon Railway from Exeter to Torre and Totnes. At stations along the route, including Exeter, Turf, Starcross and Dawlish, pumping houses were built and steam-driven pumping engines were installed in them. The first train ran on the system in September 1847 and at the system's peak, it ran nine trains a day between Exeter and Teignmouth. Trains ran at approximately 20 miles per hour (32 km/h) but speeds of up to 70mph were attained (112 km/h). Theoretically clever, the system in practice quickly proved to be a shambles and immediately ran into difficulties.

Remains of Brunel's piping at Didcot Railway Centre
Image: Chowells via CC BY-SA 2.0


The leather valves used to seal the air pipes had to be kept supple by the use of tallow, and this was attractive to mice and rats. The result was inevitable, and the systems were drawn to a halt all too frequently by rodents getting sucked into the tube where they would jam the piston. In addition to this, the pumping engines used far more coal than expected. The accounts of the SDR for 1848 suggest that the atmospheric traction cost 3s 1d per mile (£0.10/km), compared to 1s 4d (£0.04/km) for conventional steam power. On account of these costs and its many operational problems, the air-powered vacuum service lasted just less than a year and came to a halt in September 1848. Likewise, all other such systems, including the long-running Kingstown to Dalkey system that ceased as late as 1855, were aborted.

Brunel's pump house as seen from the moorings
Image: Sarah Charlesworth via CC BY-SA 2.0
Starcross' pump house was one of three built for the Atmospheric Railway and is the best surviving building from Brunel's unsuccessful endeavour. The tower and chimney were reduced in height by fifty feet after storm damage in the late 19th century. It nevertheless remains a striking landmark for the village and is home to the Starcross Fishing and Cruising Club. Brunel's endeavours are still commemorated in the village pub the 'Atmospheric Railway Inn', which is located opposite the pumphouse and the present-day railway station.

The pump house building and its surrounds are today home to 'Starcross Fishing and Cruising Club' which is also a fork of the United Kingdom's oldest sailing clubs. On the 8th July 1772 Lord Courtenay with his friend Sir Lawrence Palk of Haldon, along with twenty-seven other members of the nobility, gentry and clergy formed what was then the Starcross Club. It was founded for the purpose of organising annual sailing regattas, the first of which being held that year with races being recorded as early as 1775. The club became known as Starcross Yacht Club in 1827 and it moved upriver to Powderham in 1959 where it built a clubhouse in 1966. A small group remained at Starcross who found the location was more convenient to the sea. This group were the beginnings of Starcross Fishing and Cruising Club. Being the founding stone of these two clubs Starcross can fairly claim to be the cradle of English yachting - see Starcross yacht Club.

The Exmouth ferry today
Image: Andrew


Today, Starcross is a popular commuter village for Exeter with a population of just under 2000. Light industry contributes somewhat to the economy of the village, but it is essentially a residential community with the river the key to its attraction. This makes the village popular in summer with leisure craft, along with the comings and goings of anglers and walkers. From a boating perspective, it is another interesting cruising location to explore on this pretty and sheltered estuary.


What facilities are available?
The club's bar and facilities are available to visitors. The small village has a general store, Post Office, surgery, pharmacy, fish and chip shop and two public houses. The local garage can provide fuel by jerry cans. A seasonal ferry runs from Starcross station to Exmouth. There are frequent bus services back to Exeter from here, and there is also a station where you can catch a train back to Exeter.


With thanks to:
eOceanic.


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Starcross, Exe Estuary, Devon, England
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


The harbour at high water
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Dibb via CC BY-SA 2.0


Starcross Railway Station
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


Brunel's Italianate style more prominent on the northern building
Image: eOceanic thanks Geof Sheppard via CC BY-SA 2.0


Brunel Italianate style corbels
Image: eOceanic thanks Geof Sheppard via CC BY-SA 2.0


The club jetty
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


The underpass as the foot of the engine house
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


The southern underpass
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


Boat-park above the southern underpass
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


Starcross' convenience store
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur

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