Goodrington was another village, like Preston, that was swallowed up by Paignton, and covers the coastal area between Roundham Head and Broadsands, but just like its counterpart across the other side of town, it has grown inland as well.
It has to be said that there’s not much for the ardent historian to seek out here because Goodrington primarily attracts families who just want to enjoy the beach, park and water flumes. That said, it also manages to juggle the appeal of family fun with some important conservation as well.
As I pointed out in Old Paignton this used to be a wet, marshy area, and it’s not difficult to see why it was looked upon in years gone by as an area that needed to be tamed, but these days we treat nature with a bit more respect (sometimes) and work with nature rather than against it.
The main attractions of Goodrington can be accessed from the Paignton to Brixham road opposite the Torbay Leisure Centre. As if to prove my point, the leisure centre, its car park and sports pitches are all part of Clennon Valley, a wet and marshy area if ever there was one, and a place that I occasionally walked Rosie, our collie dog. The old girl is no longer with us, but we used to both come back covered in mud; I dread to think what it must be like to have to wash the football or rugby players kit after a wet Saturday afternoon’s match.
Some of the area has now been turned into a velopark for cyclists, and quite sensibly also a wetland nature reserve. The Leisure Centre used to hold concerts, where I once went to see Meatloaf – but the less said about that the better. Today it encompasses all the facilities you need to keep fit including a swimming pool!
On the other side of the main road is the approach to the beaches and Young’s Park (pictured above), where the main attraction is the boating lake. At one time this was a natural lagoon known as May’s Pool. Legend has it that kids were warned to steer clear of this ‘bottomless’ lake, no doubt fuelled by the tale of a certain Richard Thorne who, in 1667, fell from his horse, disappeared into it, and drowned. When it was decided to reclaim the land, this mythical lake was found to be just 2 feet deep!
Not only is the lake popular with holidaymakers, but also the local wildlife as well, and a section of the park is now run by the ‘Young’s Park People’ who have managed to create and maintain a successful conservation area.
The building that is now a hotel and pub was originally a hospital during the Napoleonic Wars and it’s believed that there are around 300 French sailors buried beneath the park. The area was consecrated ground, which is why you may be surprised to see a lone granite headstone in the park known as the ‘Major’s Grave’. Being English, and a major, gave him privileges in death as well as life it would seem.
If you don’t mind getting sand between your toes then Goodrington has two beaches – North Sands and South Sands. In reality it’s more or less the same beach, but for practical reasons, (such as dog access all year round on North Sands) it’s been officially divided into two.
South Sands is the most popular with sunbathers and swimmers, who no doubt are also attracted to the adjacent Quaywest Water Park which has rides like ‘The Devil’s Drop, The Screamer and Wild Kamikaze’.
If, however, you prefer your seaside attractions a little less energetic, then Goodrington has some great rock-pooling opportunities.
For a while I did some voluntary work at the Seashore Centre where I used to give people information about the coastline and what to look out for. I’m no real expert on these things, but I enjoyed encouraging youngsters on how best to appreciate our ecosystem.
The Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust has since leased the building to ‘Reach Outdoors’, an organisation that encourages sea-based activities such as canoeing and kayaking. The change of use was probably due to financial reasons which I understand, but still think it’s a shame in some ways because it seems that some of the general public still need educating where our fragile coastline is concerned.
One good thing to have happened recently is the designation of Torbay as a Marine Conservation Zone, and the water around Goodrington is a great example of why it’s so important for the future.
The seabed around here is a rich source of vulnerable seagrass meadows which are a feeding ground and nursery for various species of marine life, including Bass, Cuttlefish and Long-Snouted Seahorse (sometimes called the Spiny Seahorse). Whether they’re spiny or not I’ve always had a soft spot for these creatures, and not just because the male gives birth.
You won’t see any of these creatures if you walk along the shore from South Sands towards Oyster Cove, but searching among the rock pools will throw up creatures like these below.
If the tide doesn’t allow you to walk along the shore then the coastal footpath will take you the same way as the Dartmouth Steam Railway to Oyster and Saltern Coves, both of which are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), not only for the marine environment, but also for its interesting Devonian Period geology and an integral part of the English Riviera Geopark.
ORIGINAL POST – JUNE 2018
LATEST UPDATE – AUGUST 2020