Local primary schoolchildren painted the wonderful mural on the Marine Way Underpass in Exmouth

Joint councils and community artistic initiative gives fresh life to dreary Marine Way Underpass

Exmouth’s dark and dingy Marine Way Underpass has been magically transformed with a colourful mural thanks to the artistic skills of artist Hayley Watson and youngsters from six local primary schools, who worked with the project’s joint coordinators East Devon District Council’s Community Development Service, Exmouth Town Council and District Councillor Pat Graham.

The newly decorated tunnel was officially opened on Wednesday 31 August by the Mayor of Exmouth, Councillor Brian Cole, who said:

The work carried out on the Marine Way Underpass by all the volunteers has transformed this area. It is now a pleasure to walk through the Underpass and to view the designs that have been produced. The project demonstrates that people of Exmouth and especially the youth, really care about their town.

The opening event was attended by 150 members of the community, of all ages, who throughout the day added their own unique finishing touches to the mural, which depicts local focal points including Woodbury Common, Orcombe Point, A la Ronde, the lifeboat station, Phear Park and the clock tower.

The six primary schools who have been involved in the project were: Exeter Road, Withycombe Raleigh, St Josephs, Marpool, Littleham and Basset’s Farm.

East Devon Community Development worker Mark Gerry, who worked closely with Hayley Watson on the project, is grateful to a number of local businesses for contributing materials to the project, including Wilsons Paints and Homeworx who supplied base colour paints and Bargain arts who gave discounts on spray paints and brushes.

I would like to thank Hayley who has dedicated huge amounts of time to the project over the past four weeks - it has been a privilege to work with her. I would also like to thank our Community Development apprentice Penny Hartnell for all her help.

East Devon District Councillor and Exmouth Town Councillor Pat Graham, has been involved with the project since 2015 when Devon County Council was drawing up proposals for a new approach to the railway station.

Part of the scheme included a makeover for an untidy grassy bank on the approach to the Underpass. As the former chairman of Exmouth in Bloom, I was asked if we would be able to take on the maintenance of this new landscaping. So I requested that the Underpass, which was extremely dark and gloomy, could be repainted. After permission was given, I got the project started, working with Mark Gerry who was then a youth Leader. At the same time, South West Water (SWW) approached the town council with an offer to do some community work... and ended up giving the Underpass a white base coat of paint in July, for which they deserve many thanks.

Local people are delighted with the revitalised Underpass:

‘Tony’, from Exmouth said:

I live on the Colony and use the underpass every day. I love the outstanding new addition to the paint work. It is a credit to the volunteers who have developed this creation. Thank you Hayley for your dedication in making my community look fresh and new. Well done all, from a very grateful member of the public.

Six year-old Sam thinks that the Underpass looks really cool –

I love walking through and seeing it. It’s fantastic.

A night and day in Exmouth theme for the underpass artwork was conceived by local artist Hayley Watson, who used it as a background for local children’s artwork.

The actually painting of the subway has been great, although not without its challenges. The support from the public has been overwhelming and it has been a pleasure to work on this project and get such positive community involvement. The children have taken such pride in their embellishments and have relished the opportunity at every moment. I am pleased with the finished work and have been honoured to be involved and I thank everyone who has helped along the way.

Councillor Jill Elson, East Devon District Council portfolio holder for Sustainable Homes and Communities, said:

The mural is outstanding and has completely transformed the Underpass. I would like to thank everyone involved for giving up so much of their time to make this inspirational project happen. Special mention must be made of our Community Development Worker Mark Gerry who has really pulled out all the stops to co-ordinate the mural. It is a great example, too of teamwork within the community and that is something to be very proud of.

Councillor Pat Graham is delighted with the way the work on the Underpass at Exmouth has developed.

When I started working on this project many months ago I had no idea that it would turn out so well. It always surprises me that people working together can achieve so much. Thank you to everyone who has helped: to SWW for the initial clean up, to Wilsons Paints who provided materials, to Hayley who designed and worked on the mural, to the children who helped with the painting, to the town council who supported us and finally to Mark Gerry who coordinated the whole project. Together we have transformed the Underpass and it really lifts the spirits.