One of the prettiest villages in Devon must surely be Shaldon, situated between Torquay and Teignmouth, nestling on the estuary where the river Teign meets the sea.
The 7-mile coastal drive from Torquay is very pretty, with countryside to the left and magnificent sea views on the right. On a clear day, Portland Bill is visible (no mean feat as it is almost 50 miles away).
The population of Shaldon is currently 1,500 mostly living along the riverside down tiny lanes leading to beautiful thatched cottages or terraced houses painted in every conceivable colour you could think of. It is a very entertaining pastime to find the cottage with the prettiest name. Names such as "Sea Peep", "Forever Cottage", "The White House" or "Corner Cottage ". It is reminiscent of an old English village with a green where bowls are still played. The Clock Tower on the green is dedicated to the memory of local men who died during the 2 World Wars.
On Wednesdays in the holiday season this same green is transformed into a local gift market. All the locals wear Georgian outfits and entertain holidaymakers in all manners of ways. As with all local events here, everyone is made to feel welcome.
Even the lanes have wonderful old names, such as Salty Lane, Arch Lane and Horse Lane, to name but a few! If you take the next turning after the Clipper Gift Shop and Cafe you will soon arrive at "Salthaven" which a lovely old stone cottage with all manner of pottery wildlife appearing to scale it's facade. By the front door is a wishing well, the proceeds of which provide corn for the swans which frequent the river and beaches.
Shaldon may be small but it has a very big heart and also everything you could want from a day out, banks, post office, butchers, Spar shop, 6 pubs if you are thirsty, bakery and many old English tea shops serving the famous Devon Cream Tea! There is even an up market boutique, the Tom Thumb (the reason being apparent when you step inside). There are also gift shops and the jewellery shop will even mail your purchases to you when you get home! If you wish to attend Sunday Mass, there is a Methodist and a Catholic Church in the centre of the village. If you feel fit enough to tackle the steep climb up to the botanical gardens, you will be rewarded with stunning views across the estuary.
I like nothing better on a cold winter's evening, than to watch the clay boats negotiate the treacherous channel as they are led by the local pilot boat through the estuary and out to sea. I especially like this pastime when eating a bag of fish and chips from the super "Chippy" on the front.
The clay comes from the pits at Newton Abbot and Chudleigh and is transported in a never-ending convoy of lorries to the loading bays at Teignmouth. The expanse of water between Teignmouth and Shaldon is 30ft deep at low tide.
The Ferry to Teignmouth leaves from Shaldon beach frequently and entry is made by "walking the plank!" Current fares are £1.20 per adult and 60p per child for a single, and is still regarded as the quickest and cheapest way to get to Teignmouth. It operates 7 days a week until quite late in the evening in the summer months and 5 days a week in the winter. The ferry has existed since the 13th Century but now thankfully for the operator, a motor has been installed. On board however, there is still a pair of oars should they ever be needed!
At the end of August the annual 5 day Regatta is held with special swimming and rowing events for all, including visitors. This is one of the busiest events of the year with revelries going on late into the night.
Barbecues and parties are also held on the beach and the locals special, "secret" beach, the Ness. This beautiful and secluded sandy stretch is reached via the Ness Tunnel, just up from the magnificent Ness Hotel and Shaldon Wildlife Trust. At night the aroma of log fires, sausages and burgers waft around the headland and frequent outburst of laughter can be heard. The tunnel leading down to this beach is thought to have been constructed in Napoleonic times.
The Shaldon Wildlife Trust, as mentioned above, cares for small animals and birds and is surprisingly large. The Trust is mainly concerned with survival of rare breeds and is a very interesting place to visit. There are quite a few steps to negotiate but pushchairs can be left by the well-stocked gift shop. This is also where you will find the massive car park adjacent to the Trust. There is also a large picnic area with outstanding views towards Teignmouth and beyond.
Last, but not least is the newly widened and strengthened Shaldon Bridge connecting Shaldon with Teignmouth. It was built in 1827 and was originally made of wood. There is an old Toll House on the Teignmouth side of the bridge, which is quite precariously placed on a sharp bend.
Shaldon is a beautiful place to visit, with something for everyone, including 2 churches, Methodist and Catholic. Many areas are now conserved for all to enjoy and everywhere you visit in Shaldon you will see the name Clifford. Lord Clifford was a local landlord who donated the village green, so fishermen could dry their nets and also gave his own private road to the Ness, to the use of the people of Shaldon.
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