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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Torquay Part 1 Parking to Pier

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas JUNE. 25, 2021

I have had a revelation. I have seen the light. I am going to try something new. A photo walk series of posts in almost the order in which I walked. Hence the strange title. It is literally (almost) the photos I took, starting where I parked, until I got to the Pier Head, in this case.

Normally I edit all the hundreds upon hundreds of shots and end up grouping them in themes, which is nice, but really hard work, so because it's summer and hot and I'm feeling lazy I am going to wade through them and then just make a post whenever I get 30 ready. 30 being the Photo Blog maximum.

You will discover that I am a random, devil may care photo walker with no rhyme or reason. So I do back track, for example, if I should happen to look behind me and notice something I have missed. This means a certain spiral footbridge keeps reappearing as I go under, back under and then over and back under it. I am getting tired just thinking about it. And yet for you, depending on your mouse scrolling skills it could all flash past in the blink of an eye. Thanks!

So this is Torquay. Quick geography lesson, my best subject at school, about decadiousness ago. First lesson, geography never changes (much). OK so occasionally volcanoes throw up a new island in Iceland or a cliff falls into the sea, but in our human time frame this bay hasn't changed much since I was at school.

Torquay is in Torbay. A bay which has Torquay at the eastern end and Brixham at the western end. In the middle is Paignton as most of Torbay is now one conurbation of seasidey loveliness, with beaches, ice cream, piers and palm trees. The bay is secluded and for eighteen months has been the home of various out of work cruise ships. Currently there are just two on offer, The Queen Victoria and The Marella Explorer.

I park at the beach front with the aim of walking to the centre where the harbours and piers are.

Torbay is lined at various points with red sandstone cliffs and below is a perfect example. This fascinating piece of rock below, yes, rock can be fascinating, pay attention please, is wholly natural and shows that Torbay was once a desert. Flash floods from the mountains near that desert brought debris with it out onto the desert floor. That is what you see here. The genius part is, they used this local sandstone to build the sea wall along the beach. So the storm waves today are held back by the remains of a desert laid down 270 million years ago.

Here, below, is another brick in the wall, so to speak. The layers with the larger rocks in were heavier floods and the layers with itsy bitsy rocks in were lesser floods. If you only get a big flood every thirty or fifty years in a desert you can guess how long it took to layer up enough material to make a brick in a wall. Probably hundreds of years.

This was the era of the early dinosaurs and geologists refer to it as the Permian period . It is doubtful whether the giant reptiles ventured far into the desert and certainly none of their remains have been discovered in the rocks of Torbay. What we know however, is that most of what today is South Devon was covered by these desert rocks, some of it sand dunes and some of it rock debris which we call Breccia.

This means that in 270 million years time there could be cruise ships floating along above the Gobi desert which by then will probably be somewhere in Las Vegas, because things don't stay in the same place either. But we won't complicate things further by getting into plate tectonics.

And here, below, is the wall. A thing of great beauty, that almost everyone on their way to the beach walks right past every day. If only the small kids making their sand castles knew that dinosaurs were roaming around when these rocks were forming.

This modern building below is a rarity in Torquay as land is at a premium and it was mostly already built on by the middle of the twentieth century. This is the footbridge joining the hotel area to the beach, crossing a dual carriageway. It makes a pleasing modernist monochrome arrangement.

There was a lot of maintenance, including painting going on in Torquay as the town readies itself for the main tourist influx in a few weeks time, when the schools close for the summer. Luckily they hadn't reached this handrail yet or any time recently for that matter. These are the steps down to the beach.

Then I noticed this maritime plant, below, growing in what was once a desert. Are you keeping up with the plot?

Then I went for a rust shot on the handrail and this guy walked into the shot. I muttered something under my breath, which is what I do when someone walks into one of my shots, and took a second one with just the handrail. When I looked at them I preferred the one with the interloper as he was perfectly positioned to frame the rust (in my opinion).

Interloper- a person who becomes involved in a place or situation where they are not wanted or are considered not to belong. Late 16th century (denoting an unauthorized trader trespassing on the rights of a trade monopoly): from inter- ‘amid’ + -loper as in archaic landloper ‘vagabond’ (from Middle Dutch landlooper ).

To be very fair to this guy he is strictly speaking not a vagabond or trespasser or even somewhere he shouldn't be, so I am using the word in the looser sense in the context of my photo. He certainly trespassed into my photo and I am very glad he did. I had no idea the word originated in rights of trade monopolies either which is fascinating, like rocks.

The first shot in this post looks east from the beach towards Torquay harbour front, but if you look west there are those red cliffs I mentioned, jutting out, with Paignton and it's pier beyond.

As I was quite early there were only a few early birds on the beach soaking up the rays.

Signs like this one below still jolt you out of your distraction, reminding you of the realities still facing us all. This shot is also a good indication of the Torquay geography with the best sea views at the top of the cliff.

I had spotted this assault on the eye as I walked along the sea front so I had to backtrack to cross the dual carriageway and enter the park, which is immaculate and beautifully laid out with plants that are in Britain, almost exclusive to the extreme south west where the climate allows them to flourish.

Abbey Park and Meadows is a public park located in Torquay, Devon, which stretches from Torre Abbey to the town's seafront. It hosts an Italian garden with a pond and various flower displays.

The local Council, then known as Torquay County Council purchased the land in 1924 for £40,000, and developed it into the park it is today. The first facilities to be completed were the tennis courts, which hosted a Davis Cup match in 1924. (Wikipedia)

Is it just me or does this look like the set for Jurassic Park?

Below, Gunnera is the sole genus of herbaceous flowering plants in the family Gunneraceae, which contains 63 species. Some species have extremely large leaves. Species in the genus are variously native to Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, Papuasia, Hawaii, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Madagascar.

This gives you an indication of the mild climate here in Torquay, which is due to the Gulf Stream bringing warm waters to the British coast. Torquay is at the same latitude as Newfoundland by contrast, which is much colder due to the reverse effect of Arctic streams coming south. That's geography again.

These cast iron gates to the park were made by Harding of Torquay, and judging by my walk around town they were working full time back in the day just to keep Torquay supplied with street furniture of every description, most of it, proudly carrying their name. Torquay actually had a number of iron foundries, from the Victorian era right up to the mid 20th century. T L Harding and Sons were based in Market Street.

I found the following obituary.

THOMAS COOMBES, who was a director of Messrs. T. L. Harding and Sons of Torquay, was during the early part of his life connected with engineering in Cornwall.

He was born at Charlestown in 1868, and after completing his education at Fowey commenced his apprenticeship in 1883 at the Charlestown Foundry and Ironworks Company, of which he eventually rose to be assistant manager. His work at this time was in connexion with pumping, winding, and stamping machinery for the Malay Peninsula mines.

He joined Messrs. Harding in 1899 as works manager and became a director in 1916. Mr. Coombes, whose death occurred on 30th December 1931, had been an Associate Member of the Institution since 1903.

This is that footbridge again, going over the top this time, not wanting to dice with death crossing the road again.

A few hardy souls risking the water temperatures. The water in the English Channel is ironically at it's warmest just before the onset of winter not having had time to warm up by June. So you have a choice of warm air and cold water or in a few months time cold air and warmer water.

Below. There is now a short walk along the cliff base to the pier and harbour. Above this walk is what looks like an aerial walkway which is a vertical public park, up the cliff face to the hotels at the top, called Royal Terrace Gardens. You can just about see in the top left corner, part of the walkway. It will be seen in more detail later on during my walk back. This is in the nature of placing the photos in order rather than in sets.

Very recently Royal Terrace Gardens, also known as Rock Walk, has undergone a major facelift by Torbay Council with major structural works having been completed to secure the rock face behind the gardens before re-planting could begin. A magnificent new illuminated staircase leading to a new viewing platform with spectacular sea views overlooking Tor Bay has been recently installed and new walkways planted across the cliff face gardens. Royal Terrace Gardens are a key site on the English Riviera Global Geopark.

Back to the footbridge, half way down it now. I did warn you. The Marella Explorer cruise ship is visible in the distance.

This business below, wins a prize. The first Fish and Chips shop name, based on puns or word play that I haven't seen before. It is pushing word play a little, but it sort of works. In case you don't get it, it's a play on Aficionado, being an expert. So these people are experts at fish'n'chips.

Our local is The Codfather, which although cringey is a popular name for a fish'n'chip shop as is The In Plaice. National Fish and Chip Day collects the best names. So in no particular order, we have The Contented Sole, New Cod on the Block, The Fishcoteque, Frying Nemo, The Cod Almighty, and my favourite, A Fish Called Rhondda which is a place in Wales. We also have The Star Chip Enterprise, Hippie Chippy, Codrophenia, after the British 60's cult movie Quadrophenia, For Your Fries Only, and the Fishician, which has the benefit of also being a tongue twister. All of these are genuine fish and chip shops.

There were three of these egg type seats/artworks below, of which, this was the nicest shape. Egg and chips is also a British classic culinary dish, as you will know if you ever saw the film Shirley Valentine. Shirley who is having a nervous breakdown in her kitchen serves up Egg and chips to her unloving husband who objects because it is steak night.

” I like chips and egg ..on a TUESDAY – today is THURSDAY… Where’s me steak?!”

Shirley jets off to Greece and finds herself a hirsute fisherman boyfriend called Costas, at a beach bar, and the rest is history. That is what egg and chips could result in, so be warned, not on steak night.

This bike that someone has thrown over the sea wall hasn't been there very long as there is no rust on it. Or was it ridden there at low tide? Agatha Christie who lived in Torquay could have based a mystery on this scene. "Death on Two Wheels" perhaps?

Oh My Cod, Chip Ahoy, are two more fish and chip shops which could be shouted as you board the ferry.

All over Torbay and around the point to Dartmouth there are ferries and boat trips which means that whichever resort you are in there will always be a booth like this one tempting you to go to another one.

So here we have tickets for Torquay tourists to find their sea legs on the way to Brixham, while at Brixham tickets are being sold to Torquay or Dartmouth and in Dartmouth tickets are being sold to Brixham, because when you are at the seaside it is compulsory to go somewhere in a boat. It is the boat trip itself which is important.

At the height of summer I am guessing that about one in ten boats are out catching fish for Fishionados while the other nine are full of tourists crisscrossing the bay in opposite directions swapping resorts for the day. And who can blame them.

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2 commentaires

Membre inconnu
08 mars 2022

#16 exquisite!

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
09 mars 2022
En réponse à


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