University of Exeter: Community relay run will bring the epic journey of the Exe Salmon to life

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The Salmon Run is a 50-mile relay that will travel upriver from Exmouth, passing through the city of Exeter, and culminate at Tarr Steps on Exmoor – echoing the migration undertaken by the fish to its spawning grounds.

The event, which will be open to the public, will also raise awareness of the plight of the species, whose numbers have crashed catastrophically over the past 50 years.

Salmon Run has been created by Tidelines as a pilot project of the Creative Arc programme – a collaboration between the University of Exeter, Exeter City Council and The Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery – to explore how the museum and its collections can help shape a better Exeter.

Cllr Laura Wright, the Council’s Deputy Leader and Lead for Culture, said: “This is a great community event which will use physical activity, education, performance and art to highlight the incredible journey of the salmon in the River Exe. Their decline in numbers due to human activity serves as a warning about the wider threat to the planet that we now face, and as we learn more about this amazing species we can learn more about ourselves and the consequences of our actions.

“The Creative Arc is a fantastic collaboration and I very much welcome this exciting new project.”

Salmon Run will take place on Sunday 25 September, with runners setting off from Exmouth and passing a symbolic hand-crafted salmon icon from hand-to-hand with each leg of the relay. Once the run reaches Exeter’s Riverside Valley Park, members of the public will have the opportunity to swell the numbers by taking part in one of two shorter legs of either 3km or 1.5km.

‘Salmon guides’ will be on hand to share information and stories about the iconic fish, and there will be information points along the route, including Salmon Pool and Blackaller Weirs, staffed by representatives of the partner organisations. There will also be pop-up performances at the start and finish.

“The salmon is a keystone species whose numbers have declined by an estimated 93% since 1970,” said Professor Tom Trevor, Academic Lead for Creative Arc, and from the University’s Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. “Tackling huge issues such as climate change, however, can leave people feeling helpless and demotivated. What Salmon Run hopes to achieve is to engage the local community with their environment, inspiring them to become stewards for it, and in so doing, feel a sense of empowerment and ownership of this vital and culturally valuable ecosystem.”

As a keystone species, Atlantic Salmon act as an indicator of the health of the environment, but factors such as changing water temperature, water quality and barriers to movement such as weirs, have all impacted its numbers in the Exe – whose name itself originally meant ‘river of fish’. There is now a ten-year ban on netting salmon in the Exe.

Tidelines has worked with RAMM curators Tom Cadbury and Holly Morgenroth to learn more about Atlantic Salmon and its cultural significance in Exeter, as well as with researchers at the University and other experts, including anglers. And it has collaborated with Wild Running, specialists in adventurous outdoor events, to deliver the run itself.

“We are so excited about the Salmon Run project,” added Jo Salter, Event Coordinator from Tidelines. “There will be people on hand to share their knowledge, passion and concern for the salmon, which is a keystone species, and an accompanying ‘Salmon Run’ podcast and imagery and performance. These fish occupy a critical and important place in our river’s ecosystem, culture and history, and can tell us much about the health of the environment. We’re inviting people to be part of this as a runner, a steward or to cheer on the running salmon!”

Salmon Run will begin in Exmouth at 8.30am and is expected to pass through Exeter between 10am and midday.

Registration for participants is open from 18 August via the Wild Running website and members of the public can take part as a runner over a short distance in Exeter, or longer distances over the rest of the route. People are also welcome to become event volunteers.

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