in an area of outstanding natural beauty
Local Culture & Places to Visit
Watermill Cottages are located in the heart of South Devon AONB, a short drive from Slapton Sands, the closest and longest of the many beautiful beaches in the area, many of them dog-friendly all year round. So much choice – so many interesting walks, cycle routes and trails (each cottage has an OS Explorer map for you to use whilst you’re here). The South Devon AONB website has a great range of downloadable routes so start dreaming! The SW Coast Path runs near to Watermill Cottages and offers dramtic coastal walks all year round.
Bird spotting, wildlife & nature…
From your cottage door in the stunning Gara Valley look for kingfishers, goldcrests, firecrests, the resident dipper family, buzzards, barn owls, egrets, woodpeckers, tawny owls, little owls, grey wagtails and many more birds.
If you’re really lucky you might spot the resident otter family on the river who sometimes play on our lawn, or dormice, glow worms, slow worms, lizards, frogs (frogspawn in the orchard pond), deer, badgers, grass snakes, weasels, and many many species of butterflies as we don’t use pesticides. Certainly the Muscovy ducks who live here!
Wildflowers are abundant in all the hedgerows, in the meadows, woods and ancient water meadows and grasslands – from February wild garlic, violets, primroses, heliotrope then come bluebells, orchids and the colours of the summer hedges. Stunning!
Our Gara Brook feeds Slapton Ley, a National Nature Reserve and SSSI, home to the rare Cetti’s Warbler, bitterns, otters, kingfishers, and the Cirl Bunting.
Slapton Ley Field Centre runs year-round talks, walks and events. Slapton Ley is the largest natural lake in south-west England. Although it is only separated from the sea by a narrow shingle bar, it is entirely freshwater. The lake is surrounded by reedbeds, marshes and woodland habitats.
At Start Point there are seals, sometimes dolphins. On Dartmoor, ponies, granite tors, moorland and very different plants. ‘War Horse’ was filmed around Holne. And of course the rivers, estuaries and coasts offer habitat diversity. Bring binoculars!
Houses and Gardens…
The National Trust Website has details and opening times of National Trust houses and gardens close to Watermill Cottages as well as maps and parking information for the miles of National Trust beaches in The South Hams.
Coleton Fishacre… is reached by car ferry across The Dart from Dartmouth, it was the Arts & Crafts home of the D’Oyly Carte family in The Jazz Age. Famous for working with Gilbert & Sullivan, the house is wonderful, dressing up boxes and its fabulous garden is an RHS Partner Garden. National Trust. Coleton Fishacre webpage.
Dartington Hall… at Dartington, near Totnes, was built in the 13thC. It has spacious and beautful gardens, including a tiltyard from jousting days, a Henry Moore sculpture, and is a thriving arts, music and crafts venue. It hosts a literary festival in July, Ways With Words. There’s a cinema, restaurant, cafe, restaurant and miles of walks. See what’s on at Dartington.
Sharpham House… is on the banks of The Dart at Ashprington, near Totnes. Visit the award-winning vineyard, dairy and restaurant. There are lovely walks along the river bank to and from Totnes. Sharpham website.
Greenway… Park the car and take a ferry up The Dart river from Dartmouth, or water taxi from Dittisham and visit Greenway, Agatha Christie’s home. It’s full of her personality, with some WWII murals and the famous boathouse, featured in her writing. Beautiful gardens down to The Dart. National Trust.
Operation Tiger and evacuation of the South Hams in The Second World War – April 1944. Slapton Sands was chosen for a rehearsal of the D-Day landings in the Second World War because it resembled the Normandy beaches. On 20 December 1943, residents of eight South Hams’ villages, Blackawton, Chillington, East Allington, Sherford, Slapton, Stokenham, Strete and Torcross, were given six weeks’ notice to evacuate and move family, livestock, household. 180 farms and shops and 750 families; a total of 3,000 civilians were evacuated. Some never returned. Higher North Mill was working as a mill until the day of the evacuation. It was sold after the war.