in an area of outstanding natural beauty
Local Culture & Places to Visit
We are located in the heart of the AONB and Slapton Sands is the closest and longest of the may wonderful beaches the area has to offer. There are also over forty excellent walks, cycle routes and trails, many of these are featured on the South Devon Area of Natural Beauty website, all downloadable. Just go to South Devon AONB and start dreaming!
Bird spotting, wildlife & nature…
Here in the Gara Valley we have kingfishers, goldcrests, firecrests, a resident dipper, buzzards, barn owls, woodpeckers, tawny owls, little owls, and many more birds.
There’s a resident otter family on the river who sometimes play on our lawn, dormice, grass snakes, glow worms, deer, badgers, weasels, many many species of butterflies (no pesticides).
Wildflowers are abundant in hedges, meadows, woods, coppices and ancient water meadows and grasslands.
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 ferry across The Dart from Dartmouth, was the Arts & Crafts home of the D’Oyly Carte family in the Jazz Age. They worked with Gilbert & Sullivan. Its fabulous garden is an RHS Partner Garden. Coleton Fishacre webpage.
Dartington Hall… at Dartington, near Totnes, was built in the 13thC. It has 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. There’s a cinema, restaurant, cafe and miles of walks. See what’s on at Dartington.
Sharpham House… is on The Dart at Ashprington near Totnes, it has an award-winning vineyard, dairy and restaurant and offers poetry evenings and mindfulness workshops. There are lovely walks along the river bank to and from Totnes. Sharpham website.
Greenway… You might like to take a ferry from Dartmouth, or the water taxi from Dittisham and visit Greenway, Agatha Christie’s home, full of her personality and beautiful gardens down to The Dart.
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.
Exercise Tiger Remembered | Evacuation has photos and accounts of the evacuation and Operation Tiger, a secret military disaster kept quiet for decades. Ken Small from Torcross raised funds to lift a Sherman Tank from the sea, you can see it in the Torcross car park. He wrote about Operation Tiger, which was hushed up for many years, in his book ‘The Forgotten Dead’.