Issue 21

Home Up Contents Search



Over here - over there The town of Dock


August has been dry and hot and Devon is looking - well - different. The foot-and-mouth epidemic has changed the face of farming here and the evidence of diversification into other, safer means of earning a living is altering the look of the countryside dramatically. Barns have been turned into holiday cottages; animals are hard to spot and the fields where they once grazed sport nice safe cash crops; farmhouses have been spruced up to become the centrepieces of smart "equestrian estates" for TV personalities and stockbrokers.

Sidmouth - a July evening

It seems appropriate to have a seaside theme for this summer Issue because it isn't only the land that's changing. Richard  photographed this peaceful scene early one evening in July. It shows the coast at Sidmouth, looking towards Beer. What the picture does not show is what you would see if you were to turn your head to look the other way - the monumental and very ugly sea defences which include two artificial islands just off the beach designed (but failing) to deflect wave power. You would see boulders and rubble where Sidmouth's second replacement beach should be - the sand was swept away yet again in a storm last Autumn and no one has the heart or the money to replace it.

When the railways first came to Devon, someone thought it would be a neat idea to drive a railway tunnel through the cliffs at Sidmouth to the great stone quarry at Beer. The engineers soon found out that the sandstone was loose and crumbling so they bricked up the entrance to their workings and went away. The owners of the now unsaleable houses built above, whose gardens have fallen into the sea during the last five or six years probably wish they could go away too as, each year, the sea eats further and further inland and their homes get nearer and nearer to the cliff edge.

Keen eyes will see a very recent landslip in the distance in the picture of Slapton beach in our first story and, if you take a moment to look at the accompanying map, you will see how fragile the main road to Dartmouth is. Last winter, a considerable portion of this road fell into the sea, completely isolating the villages along it. There was public outcry when the road's permanent closure was discussed so it was partially reconstructed by taking away most of the beach car park but if that gets swept away, there's no more land for another repair. The problem is heightened by the knowledge that the fresh-water lake, forming the world-renowned nature reserve of Slapton Ley, will be destroyed if the sea is not kept out. The lake has been in existence since the last ice-age  .

From the Dorset border to Start Bay, our coast-line is under threat and, already, there is a list of places which will have to be sacrificed to the sea - there simply isn't enough money to defend every place. Now here's a curious thing - at a recent auction, a house  just down the coast from Slapton beach, with an excellent view of the sea through its living room floorboards, recently fetched an incredible 60,000  - worth it, says the new owner, for the thrill of being there when it goes - as it will.

Keep in touch,

Muriel and Richard


Link to Office of National Statistics for information on how to obtain copies of Birth, Marriage and Death certificates.

To return from the ONS site, close the window in which it appears.


Over here - over there The town of Dock

Send mail to  with questions or comments about this web site.
  Last modified: