In Brief

Devon shipwrecks given protected status after emerging from the water

Two hundred-year-old Sally, which ran aground at Westwood Ho! in 1769, among three ships on view

Three Devon shipwrecks, one dating back to medieval times, have been given protected status by the government.

The boats, which lie on the River Axe in south Devon and at Westward Ho! in north Devon, have emerged from the water in recent years and are visible to the public.

All three wrecks are in sand or mud in the inter-tidal zone - above water at low tide and below it at high tide. It means they are accessible to the public at certain times, though permission will now be required for people to investigate them.

The most significant find is thought to be the remains of the Sally, which ran aground at Westward Ho! in 1769 while sailing from Portugal to Bristol with a cargo of port wine. Standing at 75ft long by 22ft wide, it is "nationally important" because its construction and orientation remain clearly visible, says the BBC.

Most of the cargo is believed to have been salvaged, but Mark Dunkley of Historic England, which recommended protection for the wrecks, believes wine could still lie in the lowest part of the wreck.

The smaller of the two Westward Ho! discoveries is a merchant ship that worked in the Bristol Channel around 200 years ago, while the fishing boat on the Axe was built as early as 1400.

"Time gives, then it takes away. And sometimes it gives back all over again," says the Plymouth Herald, adding that Axmouth, on the River Axe, was a major port by the mid-14th century and accounted for 15 per cent of England's shipping trade - "unbelievable today [...] when you see the small scale of the harbour at the river mouth".

The biggest threat to the boats' remains comes from the climate. "Timbers are increasingly exposed as the sodden timber dries out and begins to decay," explains The Guardian.

There are nearly 40,000 shipwrecks waiting to be discovered along the British coast, says Historic England, 11,000 of which are known to have been run aground in English waters in the 18th century. The Daily Telegraph urges coastal walkers to keep an eye out, particularly after bad weather.

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