Coast and Country
The River Torridge at Bideford
Devon's rivers: The Torridge
The River Torridge is in the north west of Devon and travels in a loop before joining the River Taw at Appledore and flowing into the Bristol Channel.
The River Torridge starts its winding journey near Hartland, in the north western corner of Devon.
The river is 48 miles long and rises at Baxworthy Cross before hurrying down to the estuary at Bideford.
It goes in a loop, at first heading south east and then north west where it joins with the Taw estuary and flows into the Bristol Channel.
The Taw-Torridge estuary forms a part of the Tarka Trail, a walking and cycling route taking in a section of the rivers featured in Henry Williamson's novel, Tarka the Otter.
The Torridge in North Devon
At the other end, so to speak, a major tributary of the Torridge, the River Okement, rises amid the granite tors Dartmoor.
Its catchment area is almost entirely rural and the places it passes through are mostly villages and hamlets.
The main towns are Great Torrington and Bideford, and the latter has suffered greatly from flooding down the years.
A multi-million pound flood defence scheme was recently built at Bideford Quay, so it's hoped major flooding is now a thing of the past.
Bridge with a history
Spanning the river, with its 24 arches, is the Grade 1 listed Long Bridge in Bideford. The bridge was originally built of wood in the 13th century but has since been strengthened and altered and is now made of stone.
There's also a newer bridge across the river at Bideford, which was built to take the load of modern, heavy traffic.
The Long Bridge at Bideford
The river played a big part in Bideford's development centuries ago, helping the growth of the textile industry, with much of the wool and silk being shipped out from the town's quay.
At Appledore, on the estuary, boat building has taken place for centuries.
The Torridge continues to play an important environmental role. A large portion of the Taw-Torridge estuary is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), because of the wading birds, wildfowl and other wildlife which can be found there.
The river also has salmon, sea trout and brown trout. However, the salmon population has decreased alarmingly in recent years, prompting the Environment Agency to introduce a Salmon Action Plan.
The plan also covers several other rivers in Devon, including the Taw.
And then there are the otters, as made famous by Tarka. The Torridge catchment supports one of the best otter populations in England.
Not only that, but the population is growing and is of international importance.
This largely unspoilt part of Devon attracts thousands of visitors each year, and the Torridge is one the big draws for sightseers, canoeists, anglers and bird-watchers.
last updated: 06/02/2008 at 13:41