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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Odds and Sods December 2022

My odds and sods this month starts at one end of this beach and ends at the other end in the distance. If you are a regular reader of my blog I just want to say here that I am still working on the River Avon series but the Christmas period has meant I cannot get some photos I wanted, to complete the next section, so I haven't abandoned the project, it is just a temporary blip.

This is the small village of Torcross, which is our nearest beach. It sits at one end of a 40,000 year old sand bar which creates a fresh water lagoon called Slapton Ley. I haven't taken this aerial shot before which is a good location for seeing the whole layout of the area.

The cliff path section of The South West Coast Path has been closed until recently for repair work. It is now open again. This means at the end of the beach you can once more just climb the steps up to the top, instead of going on a small diversion.

Everything you can see here was evacuated during the second World War so that US troops could practice the D-Day invasion. This beach held practice landings and live fire exercises. This whole area of the South Hams was populated by tens of thousands of US troops. Nearby ports of all sizes still bear witness to the massive preparations. Every creek housed elements of the invasionary forces and if you know where to look there are remnants still visible today.

Half way up you can get a closer look at the old pillbox built into the cliff with it's own rock fronted camouflage. This was a prominent defensive position covering the whole bay, and at least six pill-boxes were constructed here, and all operated collectively. Most

still survive today. None is recorded as a Listed or Scheduled structure.

Torcross Hotel Pillbox - This is a machine gun emplacement in good condition.

Bullet impact marks (from US training exercises for D-Day), are still visible on the

outside wall.

The coastal path carries on behind it and there is an additional protective concrete slab above the path. There is no obvious entry point for the pillbox so I suspect that there was some sort of doorway on the left under this slab.

This is the tank memorial for Exercise Tiger. This tank was raised from the seabed and placed in Torcross.

Exercise Tiger, or Operation Tiger, was one of a series of large-scale rehearsals for the D-Day invasion of Normandy, which took place in April 1944 on Slapton Sands in Devon. Coordination and communication problems resulted in friendly fire injuries during the exercise, and an Allied convoy positioning itself for the landing was attacked by E-boats of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine, resulting in the deaths of at least 749 American servicemen.

Because of the impending invasion of Normandy, the incident was under the strictest secrecy at the time and was only minimally reported afterwards.

Devon resident and civilian Ken Small took on the task of seeking to commemorate the event, after discovering evidence of the aftermath washed up on the shore while beachcombing in the early 1970s.

In 1974, Small bought from the U.S. Government the rights to a submerged tank from the 70th Tank Battalion discovered in his search. In 1984, with the aid of local residents and diving firms, he raised the tank, which now stands as a memorial to the incident. The local authority provided a plinth on the seafront to put the tank on, and erected a plaque in memory of the men killed. The American military honoured and supported him. Small died of cancer in March 2004, a few weeks before the 60th anniversary of Exercise Tiger.

The Slapton Sands memorial plaque reads:

"Dedicated by the United States of America in honor of the men of the US Army's 1st Engineer Special Brigade, the 4th Infantry Division, and the VII Corps Headquarters; and the US Navy's 11th Amphibious Force who perished in the waters of Lyme Bay during the early hours of April 28, 1944".

In nearby Dartmouth, the old market place holds an annual Fatstock Show which I didn't know about until we turned up by chance on the day. This is now the only time that the market hosts live animals.

Built originally as a pannier market in 1828 where eggs, poultry and fresh produce, all from local farms, was sold, and the goods arrived every market day in baskets slung on the back of ponies.

Fatstock Show. Meet the local farmers and their animals in the heart of old Dartmouth. A proper Devon event! Come and see a unique part of Dartmouth community and history in the market. Admire the neatly clipped sheep and beautiful South Devon cows. A unique opportunity to feel a sense of pride in our local families, farmers and produce and no better way of buying local.

Grade 2 listed Pannier Market. 1828; renovated c1975. Brown-coloured local sandstone rubble, granite arcades; stone lateral stacks with relatively tall diagonal red brick chimneyshafts; slate roof.

PLAN: Cobbled market square, which contains Market Court House, enclosed on 4 sides by market buildings.

Stanborough Farm is a working dairy farm set deep in the beautiful South Hams countryside 6 miles from Totnes, Dartmouth & Kingsbridge and just a little further from Salcombe.

We have been producing quality Christmas Poultry since 1986 and we are very proud of the produce we rear. So much so that we annually enter into Dartmouth Fatstock Show where we are successful. Stanborough Farm produces white and bronze turkeys as well as geese, ducks and chickens all in time for Christmas. Our poultry is reared on sweet grass, local grain and plenty of fresh air. This therefore produces fine poultry meat, prepared with much care and quality for your table.

The steps on the left are part of the Market Court House.

HISTORY: The Market and Court House were built on land reclaimed from the medieval tidal mill pond, work supervised by the Rev.Charles Holdsworth using family money, the interest to be paid out of borough income.

This is my favourite view of Kingsbridge, another local market town, built on the creek that opens to the sea at Salcombe. You can just about make out the path of the main street, Fore Street rising diagonally from bottom left up to the clock tower of the old town hall.

This is one of several butchers in Fore Street which is where some of that Fatstock ends up.

I did take several photos in Kingsbridge at the top of Fore Street some of which I will feature in a seperate post. The odds and sods will of course be here in the odds and sods section. There are several of these old plaques attached to the front of buildings, all of which indicate services in the street and where they should be found in distance from the plaque. This is a Fire Point marker, the precursor to the Fire Hydrant signs we know today, which are a large H on a yellow background.

This building has recently been restored but still features a clue above the door to it's original purpose. Squirrels atop a very classical building denoting history, stability and security. It is of course a former bank. Throughout history the squirrel has represented thrift and preparedness.

In Native American cultures, the squirrel is a symbol of preparation and resourcefulness. The animal is popular for its ability to store food and create a cozy nest, representing the ability to weather any storm.

A nice doorway, with classical details.

More service plaques, I can only guess that the S is for main sewer, while the fire plaque has now changed to H for hydrant.

This window below is inexplicable in the sense that I have no idea why it is there. It has the appearance of a stained glass window and a bit of googling reveals that it is a very popular subject of artists down the ages.

It relates the legend of Saint Martin of Tours who, as an eighteen-year-old Roman legionary, encountered a beggar at the city gate of Amiens and cut the cloak he was wearing into two halves with his sword, to share with him. The following night he had a vision of Christ wearing half his cloak.

The only local connection I can find is a church at Sherford about three miles away which is dedicated to St Martin of Tours.

Many of the small alleys and passage ways off Fore Street reveal lost names and here is one of them, which relates to what was originally a pub right here. Crossing the road to look at the building for clues....... sees this, from which would have hung the original pub sign.

Later in the month, on Boxing Day we ended up following the local hunt. We were on our way to the beach when we stumbled on this now rare sight. Finding information is difficult due to the controversy still attached to the sport. As far as I can find out this is The Dart Vale and South Pool Harriers.

Fox hunting is prohibited in Great Britain by the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 and the Hunting Act 2004 (England and Wales), but remains legal in Northern Ireland. The passing of the Hunting Act was notable in that it was implemented through the use of the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949, after the House of Lords refused to pass the legislation, despite the Commons passing it by a majority of 356 to 166.

After the ban on fox hunting, hunts in Great Britain switched to legal alternatives, such as drag hunting and trail hunting.

At the head of the procession you can just make out the pack of hounds.

Fox hunting is usually undertaken with a pack of scent hounds, and, in most cases, these are specially bred foxhounds. These dogs are trained to pursue the fox based on its scent. The two main types of foxhound are the English Foxhound and the American Foxhound.

This is the entrance to the Kingsbridge Ria which runs all the way inland to Kingsbridge. Also at this point a stone defence, Salcombe Castle looking not unlike the pillbox at Torcross.

Salcombe Castle or Fort Charles is a ruined fortification just off the beach of North Sands in Salcombe, Devon, England, within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is located on a rocky outcrop which is easily reached on foot at low tide. It is a Grade II listed building and ancient monument. The ruined structure includes a four-story 7 metres (23 ft) semicircular tower with gun ports near the top. It is connected by a section of wall to a rectangular tower which is 6 metres (20 ft) high.

Originally built between 1535 and 1539 as a gun battery, with seven gun embrasures. It was built by subscription under Lord Viscount Courtenay’s direction for protection against the French raids. Since then there is no record of the French attempting another raid there, so it seems to have been a success.

Through this narrow entrance at Salcombe the sea of The English Channel enters and leaves twice a day, creating much tidal disturbance, as can be witnessed below.

The Kingsbridge Ria covers an area of 674ha of which 446 ha are inter-tidal. At high water the length of coast within the ria is 48.6 kilometres (30.2 mi). Although there are no major water courses entering the estuary, its total catchment area is 6,800 hectares (68 km2).

The estuary is an extreme example of a ria or drowned valley caused by rising sea levels rather than a true estuary. Prior to the sea level rise at the end of the last glacial period, it was the valley of a river. Its size is disproportionate to the size of the small streams which flow into it

On the other side of the gap is the Prawle Peninsula. This sheltered area of harbour was also used to gather part of the invasion force for D-Day.

Thurlestone Rock as seen from the beach at South Milton Sands. From this angle it looks like a pillar.

But walk further along the beach and it becomes clear that it is in fact an arch.

This is a demonstration of the powerful forces of nature. Recent storms have pushed the sand up the beach to block the exit of the stream of fresh water.

Creating this temporary lake. But one man and a stick can create a channel which starts the water running, which creates a larger channel, which can quickly empty a lake.

I found, by accident, on the same day, this video of what happened next. Click on the image below.

The rock around this area is soft sandstone and erosion is a problem as you can tell when you find a stairway to nowhere. This is likely to be more evidence of military defences from WW2.

On the beach itself, there are also arches and caves to explore.

Above is the English Channel at South Milton and this post ends with some beach and sea shots of the far end of that beach that we started with, bringing us full circle.

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John Durham
John Durham
Jan 01, 2023

Fascinating, as always. I was intrigued to see the name "Lyme" since my father said he was stationed at "Sudbury Under Lyme" before the invasion. His Forward Surgical Unit (the predecessor of the M.A.S.H.) was attached to an all Black signal unit stationed there. I realize that many place names given at that time were made up out of necessity and secrecy, but I could never find a reference to that place. Oh, well.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Jan 01, 2023
Replying to

There was a large US medical hospital in Sudbury, have sent you a link. May be some connection there?


Unknown member
Jan 01, 2023

I AM SO UTTERLY JEALOUS OF YOU, Twin. Yes, I am yelling!! Such out there photos and yet so eye capturing photos. The "Horse's arse" really? 😁

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Jan 01, 2023
Replying to

🤣🤣🤣 I was going to refer to horses arse in the post but thought better of it. You of course had to go there.🤣It was certainly an odd mix this month, I have to admit. It's what happens when you take your pocket cam with you everywhere.

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