A Sunny Winter Dog Walk at Start Point

It doesn’t matter how many times we enjoy this hour long circular dog walk, the view, light and landscape always stop us in our tracks. We’re reminded why The South Hams in South Devon is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Golden gorse is out everywhere on our short drive from dog-friendly Watermill Cottages in 20 acres of secret stunning, coastal valley, down through pretty Slapton village with its medieval tower, between the sea and freshwater Slapton Ley to Torcross and into the next bay, following signs to Start Point and Lighthouse.

We stroll down the cliff path from the Start Point car park between hedges of coconut-scented gorse towards the sea. May the dog is loving this too! The sea sparkles ahead before a panorama of foamy coast opens up, scalloped into bays and headlands.  Sunbeams make the rocks and waves glitter.

Secret Dog-Friendly Beach.  Mattiscombe Sands, our favourite secret local beach, is reached by stepping down the cliff path from here. There are rock pools to play in, a freshwater stream for the dogs, black outcrops biting the sky for drama, waves for percussion. And south-facing, so a sun trap even in winter as it’s protected from the cooler easterlies.

The signpost invites us down, or to continue along The Coast Path to tiny Lannacombe beach or further west.  With short light in early Jan, we turn east and walk around the cliff slopes to look for seals at Pear Tree Point rocks.  We’ve often watched seals and their pups watching us, almost human with such expressive eyes, but today there are no seals, just moody light and turquoise sea. It feels like very faraway.

Start Point Lighthouse grows as we approach it around the headland. At first, a huge white match wedged into the cliff, then prouder and larger. Walkers taking the anti-clockwise route tell us they’ve seen seals. We stare and stare but really can’t persuade ourselves that that rock in the waves is a head!

Reaching the spine of Start Point, its name derived from the Anglo-Saxon word steort, meaning tail, we gaze over the whole of Start Bay beyond and the choppy white waters of The Skerries beneath, the rocky reef that runs into the sea for 6.5 kms.  It’s the reason for the lighthouse. Soft sunshine illuminates the coastal villages of Hallsands and Beesands, and the ruins of the Hallsands houses that were washed into the sea a century ago.

A mosaic of small hedged fields decorates the soft hills between the bays. Slapton Ley shines behind the shingle bank that keeps the sea out, mostly. Far distant is the Dartmouth daymark, pointing out the harbour entrance. We walk up the tarmac slope, choosing not to visit the lighthouse today, eyes right as light dances and changes our focus.

Dog Friendly Pub Advice. And a short drive to Beesands beach – we could have walked, but light is short and lunch is calling!  Crab soup and whitebait at The Cricket Inn, with May the dog, after a bit of ball throwing, of course.

Then home to Watermill Cottages for a log fire and a little nap, the dog and us. Well, it is winter and a little hibernation in the afternoon is good for the soul! We dream of turquoise sea and coconut air. And tennis balls on beaches…

Short breaks from £245 at one of the five dog-friendly Watermill Cottages set in a secret, traffic-free valley behind Slapton nr Dartmouth, from January to the end of March 2019.  Call Christine & John on 01803 770219 or enquire online.

Winter/Spring Short Break Offers


Come, breathe some clean coastal air and recharge your energy with a weekend or midweek short break in a cosy South Devon cottage with wood burner at dog-friendly Watermill Cottages in the stunning Gara Valley near Slapton Sands. In the heart of South Devon AONB and near the SW Coast Path.

SW Coast Path

Valley strolls on green lanes, beach walks and great views or explore Dartmouth, the sailing town, quaint Totnes and pretty South Hams villages. Lots of cream tea and dining options from beach shack to cosy cafes & pubs, with excellent restaurants serving local specialities. And a log fire to come home to.

pale hellebore

Snowdrops. primroses and violets are coming out, hellebores and heliotropes are in bloom. The air is so pure here that the trees glow with lichen.

Slapton Sands

At dawn, the valley fills with birdsong.  At dusk, it’s owls we hear. Our beaches are so uplifting early in the year, our valley so peaceful. 

Come, relax and unwind – call Christine and John on 01803 770219 to book your short break before Easter – prices start from £245. Or send us an enquiry form.

We look forward to welcoming you!



Easter holiday? Help feed the lambs at Watermill Cottages.

Lambs arrive in the Lamb Rover

One  of the many delights of an Easter holiday in a comfy stone cottage at Watermill Cottages in South Devon’s AONB is helping to feed lambs.  Seeing them play, leap and bound against the stunning views over Start Bay beyond Slapton from our sunset field is one of life’s great and simple joys at Watermill Cottages.  And this spring, there’s a tale to tell!

The Lamb Rover parked in the lane.  We heard the bleating of week-old lambs crying for their mums who were in the attached trailer.  Jade and Ollie had brought them from Jolly Farm to enjoy our Sunset Field in the Gara Valley.  

We lifted the lambs out first and carefully handed them over the field fence, then opened the gate and the trailer.  Ewes ran straight into the field, and, oh the noise, as they bleated for their lambs and the lambs squeaked back.  A spring cacophony as they searched and sniffed and baa’ed with relief.

The mums have a number sprayed on their fleece.  The digit denotes where they are in the birthing order.  Red means a single lamb, the lamb shares the same number.  Blue means twins, each twin lamb carrying the same number.  We checked them all… Hmmm… Ewe 12 had a blue number but only one lamb.  Oh dear.  One Twin 12 had been left behind in the lambing barn.  And this on Mother’s Day.

Christine with Twin 12 in the ‘lambulance’.

Jade and Ollie drove straight home to check the barn.  A lamb this young needs to feed very often so there was no time to lose.  Yes, a shaking Number 12 was there.  We drove over immediately in our ‘lambulance’, John’s word, on an emergency mission to reunite lamb and ewe. On the way back,  I carried Twin 12 on my lap, a thick towel underneath in case of other lamb emergencies.  He was warm and calm, looking out the window at green fields.

Back at The Sunset Field we drove in and looked for Ewe 12.  There she was, on the crest.   I put her missing lamb on the ground.  It had a good shake and bleated.  Mum replied and on tottering legs it galloped over to her, nudged her udder and drank long and happily.  Success!

Two days later, more newborns and ewes arrived.  We feed them daily, enjoying their bouncing spring energy and different personalities.

Come and join us and meet this year’s lambs, there’s still some availability at Watermill Cottages in the Easter holidays, email jade@watermillcottages.co.uk or call 01803 770219.


View Over Start Bay


February – walk round Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve

February – walk round Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve

Oh what a beautiful day!

For weeks, I’ve been meaning to walk round the National Nature Reserve (NNR) just down the lane from Watermill Cottages at Slapton Ley. With the first spring birdcalls in the air and a beaming sun, today was the day,.

Slapton Ley towards Torcross

A fabulously crammed fresh crab sandwich and a cuppa at The Start Bay Inn at Torcross for lunch then a walk round the Ley – the colours, my goodness. 

And as I rounded a dip in th path at the edge of the lapping Ley, nine young swans preening – I couldn’t believe my luck.  Some of the young from last year, such a good swan year.

The view from the hide at Ireland Bay, round the walk from the bridge on the Slapton road is magnificent –  looking over reed beds to Ireland Farm which was evacuated in preparation for Operation Tiger in 1943, a rehearsal for the D-Day Landings in World War Two.  The inhabitants didn’t ever return.      

A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) the Reserve is managed by Slapton Ley Field Centre and is home to otters, birdlife, butterflies, including bitterns, Cetti’s warbler and kingfishers.  The Gara brook that runs through the garden and valley of Watermill Cottages feeds the Higher Ley, which is why we take so much care of our land.

Come and enjoy this beautiful stretch of Devon coast, Watermill Cottages, behind Slapton and near Dartmouth is the perfect base, call Christine and John on 01803 770219.

View over the ring bench at Slapton ley to the monument commemorating Operation Tiger in WWII