Discover Topsham’s secret Hollywood connection
This pretty riverside town, with its wealth of beautiful buildings, fascinating history and wonderful wildlife, is well worth a day’s visit.
Topsham was first put on the map by the Romans when they established a port on the picturesque Exe estuary to serve the nearby city of Exeter. Over the centuries, it grew into a prosperous town and, today, Topsham still has a vibrant air with plenty to see and do on a day out.
Turn left out of Topsham station and walk along Holman Way to the quay, where fishing boats and sailing yachts jostle for position on the water. Then, follow The Strand which runs parallel with the riverside. The height of the town’s trading boom in the late 17th and early 18th centuries – particularly in the export of wool and cotton to Holland – is reflected in some Dutch-influenced architecture along this street. Look for the grand merchants houses with their characteristic curved gable ends.
Star of the silver screen, Vivien Leigh – best known for her Academy Award-winning performance as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind – was a regular visitor to The Strand. Her first husband, Leigh Holman (from whom she took her stage name), hailed from a Topsham shipbuilding family, and she often stayed with relatives at Number 25. This is now Topsham Museum which has a room devoted to Vivien Leigh memorabilia, including the silk nightgown she wore as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.
The Strand ends at the Goat Walk – a favourite stroll with local lovers for over a century, despite its rather unromantic name. Walk along the narrow wall, with its wide views of the estuary, to where the path joins a country lane. Continue along this to Bowling Green Marsh – one of the best birdwatching spots in the whole of the South West. From the comfortable hide, enjoy the extraordinarily close views of thousands of wintering wildfowl and waders, including beautiful, black and white avocets. Then follow the lane up hill, before looping left and back to the station.