Exe estuary volunteers to give history lesson

TALES of local men being kidnapped and taken to North Africa as slaves is just one of the stories new research on the Exe Estuary has revealed.

TALES of local men being kidnapped and taken to North Africa as slaves is just one of the stories new research on the Exe Estuary has revealed.

And this summer, through a team of volunteers, the findings will be shared with visitors.

The RSPB brought volunteer Steaphan Hazell to work on a two-month project to gather stories, history and knowledge about the area.

The research has turned up a number of nationally and internationally important historical events to have taken place on or near the estuary.

These include tales of local men being carried off to North Africa as slaves, a civil war battle on the estuary and a massacre at Clyst St. Mary.

Much of the information was unearthed following hours of pouring over records, books, web sites, maps and documents from the Devon Studies Library.

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All this information is being collated and will be made available to the new volunteer team over the next few weeks.

The aim of the project, backed by Vodaphone, is to have new volunteers on hand at the RSPB's reserves at weekends and busy times to provide information for visitors.

Sally Mills, Exe Estuary Site Manager for the RSPB said "The information collected by Steaphan will mean that the volunteers are equipped to talk with a lots of different people about the Exe Estuary, its history, the landscape and of course its wildlife."

RSPB Volunteer Steaphan Hazell said: "I was also surprised to find out how much the estuary has changed - it's estimated that saltmarsh used to cover 2100 hectares, including all of the current RSPB reserves - now just 50 hectares of saltmarsh remain.

"It has been great fun to research the history, landscape, and ecology of the area, to think about how these are interlinked, and how they are likely to change in future. It is also great to know that my work will be used immediately, and will hopefully help inform and inspire visitors to the estuary."

If people are interested in getting involved as volunteers, please contact Sally Mills at the RSPB on 01392 824614 or visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/volunteering/opportunities/details.asp?id=4741 for more details.

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