Using the Tidal Road
On spring tides (high water in early evenings and early mornings) the tidal road may start to be covered about two hours before high tide, and remains covered for about two hours after high tide; in bad weather, particularly if there are strong onshore winds, this may be even longer.
On neap tides (high water just after mid day/night) the tide may barely cover the road. Visitors to the area will be able to enjoy walks and picnics on the tidal road, but just be aware that it is possible to get cut off; the tide can come in very rapidly, and its rate varies – if in doubt ask a local!
When the road is covered with water, even when not deep, the edge of the road may not be visible, and it is easy to drive off into soft mud.
And finally – don’t trust your sat nav!
Albert Harvey was a well known village personality, for many years living on boats on the river here. He was born in Dartmouth in 1924, one of 8 children, and became an apprentice shipwright before serving during the war in the Black Watch. He then worked in the Merchant Service travelling all over the world before returning to Devon, and living here for over 20 years. He died one night in 1999 returning home to his boat on the banks of the river below what is now South Efford Marsh.
A bench has been erected in his memory at the far end of the Tidal Road overlooking the river towards the site of his old home. It has become a popular place for walkers and picnickers to sit and to enjoy the beautiful view.
Duchy of Cornwall
The bed (comprising foreshore and fundus) of the river Avon at Aveton Gifford is part of the Duchy of Cornwall estate. To be precise, from the mouth of the river at Bantham right up to the highest tidal point upstream (the weir), the bed of the river including tributaries is part of this estate, and has been so since 1337 when Edward III created it to support his eldest son and all future heirs to the throne. The one area here in other ownership is the leat from Marsh Mills which runs down to the main river. Along the banks of the river Duchy estate ownership extends up to Mean High Water, and this means that some areas of foreshore are included.
The Duchy of Cornwall estate holds property in 24 counties, but the majority is within the South West of England. The Avon estuary forms part of the Water of Dartmouth which also includes the Dart and the Kingsbridge Salcombe estuaries, and is a Several Fishery.
A Several Fishery is “a private fishery founded upon ownership of the underlying soil”. In practice this means that the Duchy estate owns the fishing rights on the river from the estuary mouth up to the weir, and this includes all shellfish and crustaceans. All fishing on Duchy waters requires a licence to fish or use nets in this part of the river; commercial fishing and any netting is prohibited, and the estate does not anticipate granting licences for commercial netting purposes in the foreseeable future. There is no automatic public right to fish because it is a Several Fishery, however, anglers using rod and line for recreational purposes may fish here without a licence provided they do so responsibly.
There are also restrictions on the collection of bait from the river bed for commercial purposes, and on the commercial collection of samphire; however licences for both of these are negotiable, and interested parties would need to contact the Duchy estate (tel; 01579 343149).
The weir is the highest tidal point on the river, about ¾ mile upstream, and the upper limit of the Duchy of Cornwall’s estate here. There has been a weir and salmon “hatch” here for several hundred years, even mentioned in the Domesday Book. It was built to channel water down the adjacent mill leat to Marsh Mills; the hatch was used to trap fish and its sluices controlled the flow of water to the Mill. It was originally constructed out of oak, but when it was rebuilt in the 1980’s elm was used instead. The weir and hatch remained in private ownership and continued to be used until well after WW2, but both are now owned by the Environment Agency.
Moorings are available in the river with the consent of the Duchy. In practice this is by arrangement and by payment for an annual licence.
Moorings are administered on behalf of the Duchy by three different representatives. Moorings on the lower reach are managed by the Bantham Estate, in the middle reach by Will Grey, and on the reach upstream from the lower stakes by Eric White.
To contact Eric – Telephone: 01548 550 301
Foreshore moorings are administered by the parish council with an annual registration. In May 2019 the Avon estuary was granted MCZ status, and in accordance with consequent estuary management the areas of secondary saltmarsh alongside the river must be preserved, so there is now much reduced space for moorings. Because of high demand and less availability of suitable space, moorings can be allocated to parishioners only.
There is a small slipway in the village at the start of the Tidal Road. Use of this slipway is very much dictated by the height of the tide and the size of your boat.
Other slipways can be found at Bantham, but please by prior arrangement with the harbourmaster – tel: 01548 561 196 and also at Bigbury on Sea.
Digging for bait for commercial purposes requires a licence from the Duchy of Cornwall (tel; 01579 343 149)
There is no restriction on bait digging for recreational fishermen.
Please do backfill the holes though, as the worms regenerate much more quickly if you do.
Also for several days afterwards all those holes can be a hazard for unwary walkers, as they take some time to fill up naturally.
There is a maximum speed limit on this river of 8 knots for boat users.
This is because excessive wake can swamp nesting birds and young chicks, can cause a great deal of damage to the banks, and is often a hazard to swimmers, canoeists, paddle surfers and other river users.
Aune Conservation Association
This is a local environmental conservation charity with an interest in the river “from source to sea”. The ACA is presently involved in various projects to monitor and improve water quality on the Avon, and has several beach and riverside clean ups during the year to collect rubbish and plastic waste. The ACA sponsored an ecological schools project in 2011 for four schools in the Avon catchment, and at the presentation of their findings the children at Aveton Gifford Primary School were pronounced the winners. There are plans for a further project involving the Primary School in a study programme using the new wildlife reserve at South Efford Marsh in the coming year. For further information about the ACA’s work and interests, and how to become a member please see their website – auneconservation.org.uk
We are very lucky to have a wide diversity of birds on and around our estuary. Visiting dog walkers are always very welcome at any time, and unlike some of our local beaches there is no restriction on walking them here, but this is an environmentally sensitive area where bylaws and the Wildlife and Countryside Act applies – dogs must be kept under “close control” (Kennel Club advice on “close control” if you can’t rely on your dog’s obedience, it should be on a lead.) During the breeding season they can easily disturb nesting birds, many of which will be unseen until at the last moment, and at all times of the year there have been occasions when birds, even as large as swans, have been chased and even killed.