In high flow velocity areas like those suitable for tidal applications, turbulence intensity is high and flow variations may have a major impact on tidal turbine behaviour. A three-bladed horizontal axis turbine model (scale 1:20) is positioned in the wake of a square wall-mounted cylinder, representative of specific in situ bathymetric variation, to experimentally study these effects in a current flume tank. Local and global loads are acquired in synchronization with velocity measurements to study the turbine response to flow fluctuations. Velocity measurements need to be obtained close to the turbine, contrary to what is commonly considered, to properly correlate velocity and loads fluctuations. Results show that the loads phase average and their dispersion evolve according to the sheared velocity profile. We conclude that the turbine load fluctuations directly respond to the low frequency velocity fluctuations and are dominated by the turbulent structures shed from the cylinder. It is then possible to compare the effects of large coherent turbulent structures on the turbine behaviour to cases with more classical free stream turbulence commonly studied. These results provide a substantive database in high Reynolds number flows for further fatigue analysis or recommendations for turbine positioning in such flows.