I’ve recently started to update some of my local pages, and have just realised that I haven’t written anything about Paignton Harbour and Roundham Head, so I think it’s about time I rectified that anomaly.
This enjoyable, easy stroll between the harbour and Goodrington offers fine views from the wide-open public space of Roundham Head, and can be done in either direction, but for this blog I’m starting from Paignton.
The harbour lies at the southern end of Paignton Seafront and can be reached by walking under an archway that was made to allow access from the Esplanade to the harbour. The building was originally a fish cellar, but is now a pub/restaurant.
The fact that the harbour was enclosed until the archway opened it up may have something to do with why it has often been overlooked by visitors, but it also has to be said that it doesn’t have the same magnetic appeal as the harbours of Torquay or Brixham.
In my post about Old Paignton, I mentioned that there was a settlement here before the Normans arrived: That settlement grew up just inland, around where Palace Avenue is today, but there was also a small fishing community under Roundham Head, which is more or less where Paignton Harbour is now. It looks a bit different today of course. Wikipedia says that it was rebuilt in 1847, but Historic England have the harbour walls Grade II listed as of 1838, which is further substantiated by Torbay Council’s Conservation Document (2008) which says that “the first vessels after the harbour’s opening in 1839 embarked cider, cabbages and disembarked fish, coal, timber and stone”.
Fish is still ‘disembarked’, mainly by sea anglers, but I have good memories of taking away some of the best crab you can buy anywhere, at a snip of a price, from the Blue Sea Food Company while they were allowed to do so from their premises at the far end of South Quay.
There are several kiosks advertising fishing trips, but if you prefer to see the coastline from a different perspective then Paignton Pleasure Cruises offer boat trips to Dartmouth as well as trips around the bay and ferries to Torquay and Brixham.
Paignton Harbour has always been a bit low- Quay (sorry), but I’ve a feeling that, even with all the problems that Covid 19 has brought, it might just have turned the corner where it’s fortunes are concerned – but if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t mind if it stayed just as it is.
From the harbour, walk up past Molly’s café to Roundham Road and turn left into Cliff Road. Just past the car park is a brown sign that leads through the Holocaust Memorial Garden to Fairy Cove. This little cove is not very well known, which makes it a haven of peace and tranquility under the shelter of Roundham Head. If you don’t fancy going down to the beach walk along through the Burma Star Garden and return back up to Cliff Road.
The Harbour and Roundham conservation area has many fine buildings dotted around, but Cliff House, just up the road on the headland, is definitely not one of them. This oblong block of flats wouldn’t look out of place on a sink estate somewhere, but sitting here incongruously on this prime spot overlooking the bay at Roundham Head is nothing short of criminal if I’m being honest – and for all I know, it could be.
I’ve tried to find out when this monstrosity was built, but to no avail, (it’s probably around the 1950s or 60s I would think) and how it ever got planning permission I’ll never know – but I can guess. What makes it worse, is that you can see this carbuncle from all over the Bay and of course, the grounds are out of bounds to the general public. I know I should be showing you one of my own photos of Cliff House here, but I couldn’t bring myself to take one, but just to prove my point I’ve borrowed one from TheHouseShop.com. Rant over!
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, we can carry on with the walk. Just past Cliff House is an all-abilities footpath that beckons us up onto a wide-open space that overlooks the sea. This really is a quite lovely spot; although we’re in an urbanised area, it doesn’t really feel like it.
As you continue around the headland your eyes will naturally be drawn to the views, but don’t miss the memorial tucked in against the wall to a local man, Lieutenant Commander Arthur Leyland VC RN. They don’t dish VCs out for nothing, so his contribution during the Zeebrugge Raid must have been something quite special.
The views from here encompass the southern half of Torbay and go round in an arc from Goodrington, Broadsands, Churston and Brixham to the protective arm of Berry Head in the distance.
As you turn the corner of the headland there are some gardens that lead down to Goodrington, and there are any number of footpaths that can take you there – even with a wheelchair or pushchair. Before you take any of these footpaths though, you may want to consider walking across the top, which not only offers good views, it will also give you a chance to look at an unusual flower bed in the shape of a Spitfire.
This small garden remembers Flight Lieutenant Frederick Ernest Denston who flew spitfires throughout the war: According to the plaque, he first saw the Torbay coastline from the air just before D-Day and vowed that if he survived the war he would retire to Torbay. His chance came, and he and his wife Peggy spent many a happy hour admiring these views and gardens, and it was Peggy who planned the Spitfire Garden after he died in 1989.
Cliff Gardens zig-zag their way down to the waterside promenade below. They were constructed in the 1930s, partly to help with stabilisation, but the range of exotic plants can give an almost Mediterranean feel to them on hot summer days.
Goodrington is another part of Paignton that caters mainly for families, with a couple of good beaches and a water park. There’s also a station that is used by the Paignton to Kingswear Steam Railway, and Youngs Park which caters for people of all ages.
From Goodrington you can continue to follow the coast path on towards Broadsands and beyond, or if that’s not on the itinerary, then there are frequent buses from Goodrington to Brixham, Paignton, and Torquay – or you can walk back in the opposite direction to the harbour if you prefer. There, I told you it was an easy stroll, didn’t I?
POSTED – AUGUST 2020