Where am I? Who can help me?

I’ve written before about how the St Loyes ward is in the Exeter City Council area, but in the East Devon constituency, and how since 2016 the boundaries of the two don’t quite match, and nor do the boundaries of St Loyes and the Devon County Council division of Wonford & St Loyes.

What other boundaries don’t match? Almost all of them!

  • The administrative county of Devon excludes Plymouth and Torbay unitary authorities. The ceremonial county of Devon includes Plymouth and Torbay.
  • For some reason, postcodes (eg EX2 5XX), sectors (EX2 5), districts (EX2) and areas (EX) bear no resemblance to administrative boundaries.
  • The Diocese of Exeter is often known as the Church of England in Devon, but the boundaries don’t quite match.
  • While on the subject of the church, you need to know which parish you live in when you get married in church. St Loyes is covered by the parishes of St Michael and All Angels, Heavitree to the west, Trinity Church, and St Michael & All Angels, Sowton.
  • St Loyes hosts the Middlemoor HQ of Devon & Cornwall Police
  • …and one of the fire stations of the Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service
  • …and the HQ of the South Western Ambulance Service, which serves the Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and the former Avon area.
  • That actually has the same boundaries (shock!) as the official South West England region and the South West England European Parliament constituency (which isn’t quite the same thing).
  • Back to health, and the structure of NHS England. Public health and wellbeing is managed by Devon County Council. We’re almost nearing some standardisation! For the planning and commissioning of health services, St Loyes used to fall within the Eastern Locality of the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, but on 1 April 2019 this merged with the South Devon and Torbay CCG to form NHS Devon CCG, covering the whole of (the ceremonial county of) Devon. GP practices as a whole align with this area, but I can’t find a map of their boundaries. They almost certainly don’t align at the local level with wards, postcodes or…
  • Primary and secondary schools are managed by Devon County Council, but the catchments don’t align with council wards or divisions. In 2019-20 St Loyes is covered by four primary school catchments, and also hosts St Nicholas’ Catholic Primary School, and three secondary school catchments, and hosts St Peter’s CofE School.
  • South West Water can’t even agree with itself on its water supply and drainage services. It supplies water to Cornwall and Devon, but the eastern boundary for drainage follows river catchments.
  • Different companies manage the high voltage electricity transmission (National Grid in England & Wales only), regional distribution (Western Power Distribution), and supply (whoever your household has chosen). Western Power Distribution’s area extends all the way to the east coast, and it’s definition of the South West stretches into Somerset and Dorset.
  • Different companies also manage the high pressure gas transmission (National Grid Gas across the whole of Great Britain), regional distribution (Wales & West Utilities), and supply (whoever your household has chosen). Wales & West Utilities’s area has a bizarre fractal-esque boundary.
  • It’s enough to make you want to collapse on your sofa and escape into TV.  But if you want to catch up with the regional news… BBC South West serves Cornwall, Devon, Scilly, SW Somerset, W Dorset and Channel Islands; and ITV West Country is produced out of Bristol and serves Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire.

Finally, sometimes we might support England, Team GB, or the UK (“Royaume-Uni, nul points”). But there are no boundaries when caring for our neighbour or the planet.

The old ways

There are several old routes through Digby. What are now Quarry Lane and Digby Drive both appear on the 1801 drawing for the first edition Ordnance Survey map of Exeter, and are probably much older.

The route of Quarry Lane still exists, from the bottom of East Wonford Hill, past the Heavitree Stone quarries, and east along the Sidmouth Road.

The other old way zigzagged from Salter’s Road to Clyst Road. Woodwater Lane, Digby Drive, the footpath to Baxter Close, and Clyst Halt Avenue to Old Rydon Close still follow the route, although much of it has been erased by Exe Vale Retail Park, the railway, and fields around Sandy Park.

Bypass Camp

The area from Rydon Park to Toby Carvery used to be occupied by a military camp. It is recorded on Luftwaffe aerial photographs of 1st July 1940. It is possible that this is ‘Bypass Camp’ which was the base for the 4th United States Army Quartermaster Company and 704th Ordnance Company of the 4th Infantry Division by 1944. The name is probably related to its location alongside Rydon Lane, which was built in 1935. There was also a Bypass Airfield on what is now St Peter’s School.

What on earth is the Kyrangle?

Thank you for asking! When I named the “Star Spangled Kyrangle”, I thought it was common knowledge, as it is marked on Google Maps. But it managed to bemuse some local residents who hadn’t heard the name before.

It’s the area of green next to Clyst Heath School, west of the railway line. In times past, the area used to be a quarry and source of red sand. I wonder whether ‘Kyrangle’ is a corruption of ‘quarry’.

Here is what the area looks like on the old OS map from 1873-88 compared with today.

Clare & Rosie went for a wander

Clare and Rosie go for a wander
Clare and Rosie go wiggly walk-about in St Loyes, 28 July 2017.

Back when I was still thinking about what a programme of public in art in St Loyes might look like, I went for a wander around the ward with Rosie King. Rosie is an environmental artist with an interest in place and its buildings. I first came across her in 2015 when she was chalking on the pavement of Princesshay. It turned out she was drawing the outline of the Exeter Phoenix, Thomas Sharp’s plans for rebuilding Exeter after World War II.

We found a great deal to mull over:

  • St Loyes as the digestive system of Exeter, the source of much of what it needs: water, energy, comms companies have offices there; Sowton supplies building materials, Amazon, Booker; police, fire, ambulance have bases.
  • St Loyes is on the east side of the city; it’s where the sun rises and the day starts.
  • Transience & liminality: arterial routes bounding or cutting through; holiday makers on change-over day at the J30 services; shoppers at Exe Vale retail park; boulders placed against travellers.
  • Navigating boundaries: flowering bedding plants in strict lines are used to ‘fence off’ suburban properties; remote civil servants draw invisible boundaries around school catchments, health authorities, constituencies, council wards, and even dustbin collections!
  • Navigating changing land use: industrial estates lead to suburbia to retail parks, which is a good thing if people can live near where they shop and work and go to school, and get in the car less and build community more.
  • Urban design priorities, and subverting them: road crossings fit with cars rather than people on foot; desire paths where the crossings are made anyway; men in hi-vis jackets, using the boulders as a smoking stop; the homeless man making a camp.
  • Green space: all the trees and mini-wildernesses, and dens; pockets of green and biodiversity; picnic tables and benches dotted around Sowton.
  • Different areas of knowledge held by different people: where to forage for cherries, plums and blackberries; where parking spots for campervans are available.
  • ‘Waves of immigration’ and its associated architecture: pre-war council housing; suburbs of the 1960s and 1970s boom; new suburban in-fill estates, building on the green lungs.
  • Signage: restricting parking; designated activity zones; rules in playgrounds and other possibly community space.

Here are Rosie’s photos of suburban architecture through the ages…

…and mine of pockets of green space.

Subversion

Last year, Rosie King and I took a wander around St Loyes, noticing and thinking about the built and natural environment, and how we inhabit our space.

At lunchtime, on a green verge in Sowton industrial estate, we saw some workmen in their hi-vis resting on a line of boulders and having a smoke. At the time, the boulders spoke to us of exclusion; they are there to prevent travellers from parking up on the verge. But later, we saw campervans parked up in another part of the industrial estate. The owners of the campervans knew where they could park, and this led us to think further about subversion.

Sowton Industrial Estate isn’t just a group of large industrial, office and retail buildings where people drive to go to work or shop. Some people live there, a lot of nature lives there, and the green pockets are quite productive. Rosie and I did our own minor bit of subversion by foraging for blackberries along one hedge. The boundaries are blurred.

How do you behave in your space? Do you obey all the signs? Flout them? Take them overly literally? Do you follow the unwritten rules… how tidy do you keep your garden compared to your neighbours?! How much do you respect boundaries, between public, community and private, or different types of land use? Do you play in it, and make faces out of old quarry faces?

St Loyes is very much designed for the car, but there are many signs of subversion here too. Rosie and I saw and followed many desire paths, paths made by people taking the easiest route between places. The best example of these desire paths are between the pedestrian crossings at the traffic junctions on the Rydon Lane ring road, which are located according to design for the car, not for the people using them. On either side of the dual carriageway, the footpaths from the offices of Pynes Hill and the Exe Vale Retail Park actually emerge about halfway between the crossings. And so there are many paths in the grass verge where office workers have simply taken the most direct route to cross.

St Loyes may be designed for the car, but real people are subverting this all the time. How instead can we design for people? Maybe we should start with these desire paths by putting up some street signs!

Tranquility

In a ward that is mostly council housing, suburbs, industrial and retail park, and motorway services, tranquility might seem to be at a premium. Yet there are many pockets of green space in St Loyes. One of my ideas for this art programme is to hold some St Loyes Random Picnics, or SLuRPs for short! They would be an opportunity for residents and workers to visit measure the air quality, noise, and the types of transport used in the area.

Last year’s wander around St Loyes with Rosie King revealed where people spend their time, and their rest time. At lunchtime in Sowton, for example, we noticed a group of workmen in hi-vis resting on the boulders lining a grassy roadside, and having a smoke. These pockets of green, in the middle of a roundabout, or on a green verge in an industrial estate, are not particularly tranquil in themselves, but they are relatively tranquil compared with the workplace or the surrounding area.

So what is the best use of limited local government budgets? I reckon people would benefit most if these relatively tranquil spaces could be improved, rather than putting the money into those already recognisably tranquil spaces.

Where are your tranquil places? Where do you forage for cherries, plums and blackberries? Or perhaps that’s a closely-guarded secret! Why not share some photos of your regular and favourite spots on Exeter City Future’s #tranquilcity map.

Where might you suggest holding a random picnic? My ideas include: tree henge at M5 J30 services; old quarry face and green space at Britten Drive off Quarry Lane; water tower at Exe Vale; green space by the old Digby Asylum; derelict patch of land by the Toby Carvery; middle of Middlemoor roundabout; playgrounds; triangle between Rydon Lane, slip road, and A379 spur

Rosie and I found all sorts of green in Sowton: trees and mini-wildernesses, and dens; pockets of vegetation and biodiversity; picnic tables and benches dotted around. Wandering round the suburban parts, however, I was remembering all the open space and field that has now been built on, even in the 15 years I lived here! It’s affecting both out physical and mental health. We are building on the lungs of Exeter that filter out air pollution, and losing access to that green space that boosts our mood.

Let’s inhabit, celebrate, and preserve the green and the tranquility that we have!