Goodrington was another village, like Preston, that was swallowed up by Paignton, and covers the coastal area from Roundham Head to Broadsands, but just like its counterpart across the other side of town, 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.
As you approach Goodrington you can’t fail to notice the Torbay Leisure Centre with its large car park, all of which was built on marshy ground, and just walking the dog around the sports pitches always meant that I came back covered in mud; I dread to think what it was like to play football or rugby there. 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!
The other side of the main road is Young’s Park/Goodrington Park, where the main attraction is the boating lake which at one time 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 the lake, and drowned. Believe it or not, 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 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 seems to be 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, which is one of the reasons that the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust (TCCT) had their Seashore Centre here. I say had because it is now leased to ‘Reach Outdoors’, an organisation that encourages outdoor education, and at Goodrington that includes sea-based activities such as canoeing and kayaking. It’s still called the Seashore Centre, and not so long ago I did some voluntary work for the TCCT here, just to help give people some information about the coastline and what to look out for. I was (and still am) no expert on these things, but not only was I helping to encourage youngsters in the art of rock-pooling and stuff, it also helped me to learn more about our fragile coastline. Even rock-pooling can be damaging if the marine life is disturbed too much.
The waters around Torbay have to contend with all sorts of activities, and to make sure that the sea-life doesn’t come to too much harm the bay has been designated a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ). Around Goodrington there are some vulnerable seagrass meadows which are a feeding ground and nursery for various species of marine life, including both types of seahorse found in British waters – the Short-Snouted 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.
If the tide doesn’t allow you to walk along the shore from South Sands 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.