Walk - 1 Living Coasts - Daddy Hole Plain
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2021. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- Starting from Living Coasts, turn left down Beacon Hill towards the harbour. At the bottom of the hill, turn left onto the breakwater and cross the Millennium Bridge. The ornate building behind the car park is the Pavilion Theatre. Turn right and walk around the harbour, turning right again onto the Strand.
The Pavilion started life as an elegant theatre and assembly room during Edwardian times. Together with the entire area of the Princess Gardens, it was built on land reclaimed from the sea during the late 19th century.
From the origins as a natural inlet, the late Georgian and Victorian development of Torquay surrounds the harbour of today on three sides. At its head, where once a sandy beach was to be found, is situated 'The Strand' with hidden streams at either end, one named 'The Fleet', now under Fleet Street. Queen Victoria provided the stamp of approval to Torquay's place in society as a superior resort and watering place by her visits, originally as a princess, when she was welcomed ashore at Victoria Parade.
- At the Mallock Clock Tower, bear left to walk up Torwood Street, turning right at the traffic lights onto Parkhill Road. Bear left up Meadfoot Road, past Meadfoot Lane, to the crossroads beyond.
The ornate clock tower was built in 1902 to commemorate the life and works of Richard Mallock, a local magistrate of many years' standing who had died during a holiday in Scotland two years before. Mallock was Torquay's MP from 1886 to 1895, and the building costs for the memorial were paid for through subscriptions raised from among his constituents.
- Turn right onto Parkhill Road, and then left onto Daddyhole Road. At the end of Daddyhole Road, with the large hotel on your left, continue for another 30 metres and turn sharp right onto the South West Coast Path leading down to Daddyhole Plain.
Daddyhole Plain is a limestone plateau some 75 metres above the sea. Daddy is an old Devon name for the Devil, and according to local legend, the Devil lived in a cave at the foot of the cliff, formed when a large chunk of limestone fell into the sea, creating 'Daddyhole'. The possibility of further rockfalls means that nothing has been built in front of the Victorian terrace behind the recreation ground.
One of three limestone plateaux around Torbay, Daddyhole Plain has often been used for public gatherings and celebrations. In August 1815, a thanksgiving feast was held for the poor after Napoleon Bonaparte had left the Bay.
- From Daddyhole Plain follow the South West Coast Path back towards Torquay Harbour.
From here the path burrows its way through an evergreen blanket of holm oak, sometimes known as holly oak (holm being the ancient name for holly) and actually a member of the holly family.
- At the bottom of the steps just before Peaked Tor Cove, the path divides.
Detour left to view London Bridge, a natural arch of Devonian limestone created by the erosive power of the waves and named by the Victorians who developed this path and quarried the limestone for local buildings as the town expanded in the tourist boom brought by the South Devon Railway at the end of the nineteenth century.
Tucked away above Peaked Tor Cove is the Torbay Home Guard's Second World War mine watchers' post. The site's secluded location, thanks to the narrow cliffs, protected it from enemy aerial surveillance, and its own panoramic view across Torquay Harbour made it the perfect lookout spot for the detonation of mines on the seabed in the Bay in the event of an attack by sea.
Nowadays it has a peacetime role of providing a roost for a colony of horseshoe bats. In 2001, the St Marychurch & District Action Group raised funds for a conservation project to protect the bats already living in the pillbox, and with help from the Devon Bat Group and the Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust, a group of volunteers refurbished the building and provided additional roosting spaces.
Horseshoe bats are an endangered species in Britain, and the greater horseshoe bat is only found in South West England and South Wales. The decline in their numbers is due to the loss of woodland and other roosting sites, as well as the use of pesticides to kill the insects on which they feed. Widespread use of chemicals toxic to bat populations used to treat timber provides another threat, although the use of these is diminishing.
Horseshoe bats are named after the distinctive flap of skin over their noses, part of the complex system they use for navigation and hunting, known as 'echolocation'. This system works like sonar: the bats send out a signal, measuring the time the sound takes to return, and its volume, to identify what is ahead and how far away it is. The bat uses the difference in the time delay and volume of the sound in each ear, relative to the other, to triangulate the position of the object which has reflected the signal.
- Carry on along the South West Coast Path towards Torquay.
The cliffs below Daddyhole Plain and the steep ground southwards towards Torquay Harbour, known as Rock End Walk, are managed by the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust, an independent local charity dedicated to looking after some of Torbay's most significant heritage and wildlife sites. In Victorian times the area was laid out as gardens and a pleasure walk, but since then it has been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a County Wildlife Site and has been allowed to return to a more natural state. At Peaked Tor Cove itself, however, the Trust has worked with the local community to create a more formal garden.
Daddyhole is particularly noted for the geological features in its limestone cliffs, especially the fossils it contains such as corals, and alternating bands of shales and limestones. These have given geologists an understanding of the kind of life forms that once lived in the shallow seas where these rocks were laid down. There are also a number of rare plants flourishing in the calcium-rich soil above, including the nationally rare white rock rose and ivy broomrape, an upright reddish-purple plant with scaly leaves and cream-coloured flowers.
- When you reach Parkhill Road turn left towards Torquay and the start of your walk.
Just before you reach Living Coasts you pass Beacon Cove. Until 1903 Beacon Cove was reserved as a 'ladies only' bathing beach, complete with bathing machines. This was a favourite swimming venue of local novelist Agatha Christie when she was a child.
Immediately on your left alongside Beacon Cove is Living Coasts.