In this month’s blog, Michael Dart explores the wonders of our very own Exe Estuary...
Our Exe Estuary is so beautifully unique; from city to sea, there is so much to discover and for me, the best way to explore all of it is by bike. Here at Darts Farm, we seem to have found ourselves in the perfect location, at the start and finish of the 26-mile loop. I think it may because people love starting their day of exploring with a hearty breakfast and local coffee in the restaurant, the fact that we offer bike hire from the Farm Shop and of course, the free parking!
Along the trail there are so many different routes you can take; all varying in length and difficulty. There are plenty of places to stop for refuel along the route; The Turf Locks, River Exe Café, Mickeys, the list goes on! Also, there are plenty of little shortcuts and ferries you can jump on; from Starcross to Exmouth and Mike’s Ferry at Topsham.
A hive of birds and wildlife at this time of year, it’s the perfect place to reconnect with nature and enjoy a bit of ‘me time’. Along the trail there are 6 different nature reserves to visit; our wetlands here on the farm, Goosemoor, The Bowling Green, Rivers Meet, Exminster and Dawlish Warren. Here, you’ll be able to see the Swifts, Swallows and House Martins skim along the waters, Sandwich Terns dive fishing for Sandeels and if you are really lucky you may get a glimpse of the Spoonbills and Glossy Ibises – both Mediterranean birds that visit our unique habitat during the summer months.
It’s also home to our own native Ruby Red Devon Cattle; has acres of parkland at Powderham Estate for roaming venison and a unique topography and climate across the Exminster Marshes that enables sheep farming to thrive; allowing us to produce some of the earliest Spring lamb in the country. These animals are so important to our unique eco-system and are farmed in harmony with nature to increase bio-diversity whilst helping the land around the Exe flourish. They offer important food for insects and birds and keep the soil fertile with their dung; and through rotational grazing, encourage a new growth of grass which helps to lock in a reduce carbon.
The coastal fields also provide the perfect positioning for beautiful vineyards (Pebblebed, Lympstone and Kenton to name a few), and as a result of climate change over the past 20 years, the Exe now produces some of the best English still and sparkling wines available. If you’re a wine fanatic, I would 100% recommend going on one of our Pebblebed tours; you will discover the secrets behind crafting amazing English sparkling and still wine with a tour of the picturesque Pebblebed Vineyard and award-winning winery. Of course… it wouldn’t be a vineyard tour without an opportunity to taste the wine too! To finish, tuck in to a selection of delicious Darts Farm artisan cheese and charcuterie, put together by our award-winning Deli team; whilst looking out over the beautiful views of the vineyard.
The Estuary is also brimming with some of the most incredible, fresh seafood; whether that’s lovely Moules handpicked from the river (it always fascinates me how these help to keep the river clean) or fresh fish that have come off the Exmouth day boats. I may be biased, but if you want to sample the best Fish & Chips, you can’t beat our Fish Shed here on site. You'll find the catch of the day within 12 hours of it leaving the sea. And, if you're feeling lazy after a busy day of cycling, Dave and Ondine will cook it for you. It’s not just battered cod and chips; they do the best grilled seasonal fish and of course, chowders, curries and of course, Ondine’s renowned Poke Bowls!
We are thrilled to announce that our expert florist, Anna Slade, was awarded a Silver medal at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Come and join us and pick our Sunflowers for Charity!