Cockwood village lies on the west side of the Exe estuary, roughly opposite Exmouth, between Starcross and Dawlish Warren. It has a fantastic little drying harbour which is completely peaceful and un-developed, mostly due to the ruddy great rail bridge that Mr I.K.Brunel thoughtlessly plopped down across the entrance in the 1840’s. Before this act of industrial vandalism, the little harbour had experienced the same nationwide rise and fall in trade that all other shallow river ports suffered. Must have been perfectly suitable for the smaller boats of its day, able to take the ground to load or unload along the low harbour walls. Eventually though, shipping grew bigger, small cargoes grew less profitable and the railways took over most freight haulage, leaving little harbours like Cockwood to silt up and go derelict. A great shame.
Despite Isambard’s low rail bridge blocking the entrance to anything taller than medium sized motor boats, a small gang of dedicated folk formed the Cockwood Boat Club and they put a lot of effort into keeping the place organized. I keep my tender there for a very reasonable fee and love the fact that it’s so quiet. As the tide slowly shimmers in over the mud, you can sit with a pint from the excellent Anchor Inn and watch the waders retreat against the advancing fish. What better way to kill a bit of time, waiting for enough water to row out. It can be a magical place on a quiet day.
There is a slight problem with theft from the harbour which is annoying. I’ve been a member for two years now but I’ve already lost a (virtually worthless) dinghy, two anchors and a few ropes. Sad fact is that people’s morals these days seem to reason, if something isn’t locked away then it’s up for grabs. These thefts seem to take place at high season when the road along the harbour wall is busy with countless holidaymakers doing odd things. I’m guessing a sneaky thief would be very easy to spot in bleak mid winter when there’s generally nobody else around! You simply can’t lock up everything though so I’ve left nothing of value there since. I’ve been told that the harbour needs more moored boats in order to create currents which should keep the silt down. It really is a lovely spot so, as long as you don’t leave equipment on your open boat, it makes perfect sense…. and as I’ve already said, it is very cheap.