Best of Britain | Start Bay | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Best of Britain | Start Bay

Travel writer Helen Locke writes about a childhood favourite, Start Bay and gives an insight into the coastline's history

As a child, I loved coming to this historic stretch of coastline, and I still never tire of perching on the seawall by Start Bay Inn, soaking in the ocean sound. There always seemed to be new angles to discover. Cliff paths offer a good chance of spotting sea life and I thrill whenever I catch sight of seals diving between rocks and spray.

A narrow stretch of land separates the sea and a freshwater lake, host to a beautiful assortment of birdlife. Between the water runs a road which makes for a gorgeous dusk drive, as rooks fly home over the lake towards the hills on one side, and gulls settle on the ocean opposite.

Start Point lighthouse has stood watch over the bay since 1836. A 4-mile underwater bank makes shipping treacherous and sits around 2 metres below water at low tide. Until 1917, a fishing community, Hallsands, lived below the cliffs, but offshore dredging for construction materials ate away at the beach, and a severe gale finally caused it to collapse.

Stray west outside of the bay for a wild and beautiful walk to Mattiscombe Sands. The path, scattered with gorse and flint, is worth venturing. Calves watch passers-by, russet red like the Devon soil.

Slapton Sands was used for Exercise Tiger (rehearsals for D-day landings). Tragically, friendly fire and German E-boats caused the deaths of hundreds of soldiers, and an information blackout was ordered by the US to prevent details from becoming known, until local resident Ken Small and others discovered evidence, including an American tank. The tank was hauled from the sea and positioned between the lake and the ocean as a memorial. The history of the area inspired The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo.

English Literature student at the University of Birmingham


6th February 2018 at 9:00 am

Images from

Helen Locke