The view from Babbacombe Downs towards Oddicombe Beach
After being at home over the weekend, pottering in the garden, making meals, listening to the aircraft participating in the Torbay Air Show, I thought it might be nice for us to continue our walk today from Walls Hill towards Babbacombe and the lovely Babbacombe Downs, from where there are wonderful views of Lyme Bay.
Walls Hill is shown bottom right on the map above. On our previous walk we took Walls Hill Road down to the junction with the main Babbacombe Road and turned left and returned to Wellswood. Today we will turn right onto Babbacombe Downs Road.
The first building we will see is the Babbacombe Theatre.
It is a small 1930s building and when I was a child, attending a private primary school in St Marychurch, Hampton Court (now the Abbey School) this is where our end of year speech day was held.
I don’t expect schools have speech days now! Torquay’s Mayoress was usually invited and it was she who handed out prizes for various subjects. In the 1950s it was known simply as ‘the concert hall’, and it is where entertainer, the late Bruce Forsyth, trod the boards in a summer season show called Gay Time. I don’t think an innocent summer show of entertainment would be called thus today! Indeed, Bruce and his fellow entertainers, would call at my parents’ shop to buy their morning papers and cigarettes before playing a round of golf at the nearby Torquay Golf Club.
We can now stroll along Babbacombe Downs, taking in the marvellous views of Lyme Bay.
There is a 1930s-built viewing platform, a popular place to sit and admire the view …
This is me (above) aged almost 15 in August 1959 (I loved my blue & white hound’s tooth shirtwaist dress, and my high heeled shoes were dark green leather) on the viewing platform
The drum-shaped object has a compass on top, with arrows pointing to the various towns around the coast, from Teignmouth, Dawlish, Exmouth, Sidmouth, Budleigh Salterton, etc, right around to Portland in the neighbouring county of Dorset.
To reach Oddicombe Beach, below the Downs, there is a Cliff Railway.
It is now more than 80 years since this little railway was built, but it does save one from the steep climb up from the beach on a hot summers day.
As one of the carriages goes down, the other one goes up.
This view was taken from the carriage about to go up
Facing the sea are many attractive buildings, almost all of them now hotels, guest houses, bars or cafes. The Victorian lamps along the Downs add to the genteel appearance of the Downs, and one might imagine that it would’ve looked much like this over a hundred years ago.
When I was a girl, there were fewer opportunities for going abroad for summer holidays. It was an age before the ‘package’ holiday and therefore most people in the UK spent their holidays within the UK, and many would flock to Torquay, known throughout the UK as “the English Riviera.”
I took the above photograph in 1959 you can see how crowded Oddicombe beach was in those days from this grainy photo taken on my old Kodak Bronie 127 camera.
On the extreme left, high up on the cliff, you can just make out a large red-brick house. In recent times, the whole of that cliff has collapsed, taking the house (thankfully, unoccupied as the land was already unstable) with it. It is amazing to think that I used to walk our Corgi dog around cliffs which are no longer there.
The red roof you can see here is the house behind the one which has disappeared down the cliff
I zoomed the lens so you can see the collapsed house, still partially there, parts already having disappeared
With or without this house, the view is still pretty amazing …
The above views were taken only three or four years ago, before that massive cliff fall – as you can see there had been some cliff falls before the house disappeared
As we are enjoying our stroll – for there is little point in hurrying along the Downs – we might see a sightseeing bus, a 1950s double-decker bus which now takes tourists around the coast.
And we might see people enjoying a picnic or children playing
When I was a child, there used to be a stage erected with a canvas awning over it, a temporary bandstand on the Downs with, in a semi-circle around it, deck chairs, and in summer evenings, small concerts would be given, holidaymakers sitting in the deck chairs. How I miss the sound of a small orchestra playing in the evening sunshine.
At the far end of Babbacombe Downs there is a statue and drinking fountain (not that anyone uses it as such today!) in memory of Lady Georgina, Baroness Mount Temple, who was a founder member of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and she is always holding a posy of flowers (I have no idea who places them there, but I’ve never seen her without flowers.)
We are now at the end of our stroll along Babbacombe Downs and we can either turn around and walk back towards Walls Hill and Wellswood, or continue our walk to the village of St Marychurch, where I lived as a child. But I think we now need some refreshment and so perhaps we might go to the Babbacombe Bay Café, half-way along the Downs, from where we still have views of this spectacular coastline and enjoy a cup of coffee (or even a light lunch.)
We will continue our walk another day.
Until next time