New River Discovery Zone coming to Devon County Show for the first time

The 10-metre ‘Whaley the Whale’ sculpture which will be on display in the River Discovery Zone
The 10-metre ‘Whaley the Whale’ sculpture which will be on display in the River Discovery Zone -Credit:Louise Wainwright

A new River Discovery Zone will be making its debut at this year’s Devon County Show, with a powerful message about the impacts of pollution on waterways.

The biennial feature is designed to showcase the endeavours of Devon landowners, farmers, national environmental organisations, and businesses and community groups who are working to improve the health of the county’s rivers and restore wildlife habitat.

It has been curated by Louise Wainwright, South Devon River Champion, who commented: “Pollution of our rivers and the loss of wildlife habitat is of serious concern throughout Devon.

“The Government has determined that all rivers will achieve good ecological status by 2040. Only 21% of our rivers in Devon are achieving this status,” she added.

“The River Discovery Zone will show Devon County Show visitors of all ages what is being done, and what more can be done to protect these waterways.”

The zone will be located in a Clearspan marquee and feature a number of compelling attractions designed to engage visitors, including Whaley the Whale, a sculpture designed by partners in the River Discovery Zone project, Till the Coast is Clear. At a length of 10 metres from nose to tail, it is half the size of a real-life sperm whale.

Till the Coast is Clear is a South Devon-based community project devoted to cleaning up river estuaries and coastlines, and has successfully recovered over 25 tonnes of pollution. Much of the plastic is taken to a depot, where it is sorted for recycling, but some of the detritus has been saved for Whaley’s stomach so he can act as a powerful symbol for pollution – travelling on a trailer around the county, highlighting the scale of the problem and some of the solutions.

The marquee will also feature an area for story-telling – River Reflections Corner – where visitors can perch upon hay bales and immerse themselves in river myths and folk tales narrated by professional story tellers from South Devon.

Louise said: “The purpose of the stories is to help listeners to connect with the meanings and values of rivers on our lives and introduce some of the magical river creatures from dragons and monsters to magical fish and faerie folk.”

Visitors will also be able to respond to the Devon River Manifesto, devised by South Devon River Champions by voting on their priorities for the Government.

The prioritised river actions will be brought together at the end of the show in an illustrated manuscript and presented to all MPs in Devon.

Louise concluded: “If you can’t find the River Discovery Zone, we’ll find you. Look out for the Heralds of the River, who will be wearing flowing capes with motifs of wildlife. They will be wandering around the show and directing you to the zone on the showground. You can’t miss them!”

The 2024 Devon County Show will be taking place from Thursday, May 16 to Saturday, May 18 at Westpoint Exeter. For further details, visit the website