The name Torridge comes from the old word ‘toric’ meaning ‘noisy’ and ‘violent, rough stream’ as opposed to its companion river, the Taw, which means ‘smooth, placid’. The sources of the two rivers are about 26 miles apart and they follow very different routes before meeting in a broad estuary.
The River Torridge rises on the border of north Devon and north Cornwall, just east of the A39, only some 15 miles from where it meets the sea. Its source is made up of three headwaters that combine to form the river plus a rather more impressive tributary that rises on Deptford Moor and joins the Torridge above Horton Bridge.
Brimford Bridge is the first of the Torridge’s many bridges and the river is rather hidden as it meanders through the countryside until it reaches Woodford Bridge. Below the village of Meeth the Torridge is joined by the River Okement bringing waters from Dartmoor.
The river approaches Torrington from the direction of Beaford and flows under New Bridge near Orford Mill at the junction on the A386 where the B3124 turns off towards Exeter. This bridge is a majestic structure built very high above the water because of the provision of a dry arch to take the canal (in use 1827-1871) which was on a higher level than the river. The river then flows along the base of Castle Hill on which stands, high above, the town that has taken its name – Torrington – with flat water meadows on the opposite bank. There used to be a bathing spot here with a concrete platform and a changing shed built in the 1920s. The next bridge to cross the river is the one at Taddiport probably built in the 13th century and originally known as Town Bridge. The river then flows under the old railway bridge (now part of the Tarka Trail) before passing under Rolle Bridge opened in 1928 which carries the main road from Torrington to Bideford. Just beyond this bridge is the old Rothern Bridge which, with the one at Taddiport, was one of the town’s original bridges and dates from at least the 14th century.
The river continues on to Weare Giffard, looping through woodland and meadows and crossed three times by the Tarka Trail. Weare Giffard marks the tidal limit of the River Torridge and, being low-lying, the village has suffered flooding on many occasions.
Bideford Long Bridge dates from the latter part of the 15th century and has been widened at various times and in a variety of ways to cope with the demands of modern traffic. Before the building of the present stone bridge, there were at least three different wooden structures which were in use from the late 13th century. Further downstream is the new Bideford bridge, a soaring curve high up above the river which was opened in 1987. The Taw and the Torridge meet just beyond Appledore and Instow and flow together out through Bideford Bay to the Atlantic.