Mention Lympstone to anyone, and they automatically think of the Commando Training Centre for the Royal Marines – but this small, attractive village on the River Exe is worth a butchers if you fancy a change of scenery on the journey between Exeter and Exmouth.
If you’re travelling by car it’s just a short detour off of the A376, but you can also travel by train using the single-track Avocet Line, which will give you the option of stopping in The Swan or The Globe for a drink and a bite to eat without worrying about the breathalyser.
The village is only small, and to be fair there isn’t an awful lot to do except wander around the back streets and along the foreshore, but that’s what some people like about it.
You probably won’t see any other tourists around, just a few locals going about their business, and you may be surprised to see washing lines on the foreshore where villagers hang their washing out to dry – all very different to Exmouth.
The only thing that really stands out is the red brick Peter’s Tower. This listed building, situated on The Strand, was built in 1885 by W.H. Peters, a wealthy Liverpool merchant, as a memorial to his wife’s “Kindness and sympathy for the poor of Lympstone”
It was built as a clock tower and as a refuge for fishermen. There are two clocks – one on the eastern side of the tower and one on the west to help the fishermen know the state of the tide.
If you really want to know what it’s like inside you can rent it out for a holiday let from the Landmark Trust. I should imagine that it’s a bit cramped inside, but the views must be worth having a cricked-neck for.
After you’ve ‘clocked’ Peter’s Tower and the washing lines, your eyes will probably be drawn to the red sandstone ‘Darling’s Rock’, and then as your eyes start to scan the river, you’ll start to realise how much birdlife there is here. The Exe is well known for its birdlife and I never tire of watching the avocets and other birds looking to see what tasty morsels the tide has brought in or left behind.
Just along the river is the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre where young men and women are trained as an elite fighting force to protect our way of life.
They’re trained to fight in hostile environments far removed from the peace and tranquility of Lympstone and the River Exe.
Late afternoon one cold winter’s day, I stood on the foreshore watching the sun go down over the estuary, and thinking that some of the best things in life are simple and free – but then I looked upriver towards the commando training centre and realised that nothing comes for free at all. It was time for the pub.