has been dry and hot and Devon is looking - well - different. The
foot-and-mouth epidemic has changed the face of farming here and the
evidence of diversification into other, safer means of earning a
living is altering the look of the countryside dramatically. Barns
have been turned into holiday cottages; animals are hard to spot and
the fields where they once grazed sport nice safe cash crops;
farmhouses have been spruced up to become the centrepieces of smart
"equestrian estates" for TV personalities and stockbrokers.
seems appropriate to have a seaside theme for this summer Issue
because it isn't only the land that's changing. Richard photographed this
peaceful scene early one evening in July. It shows the coast at
Sidmouth, looking towards Beer. What the picture does not show is what
you would see if you were to turn your head to look the other way -
the monumental and very ugly sea defences which include two artificial
islands just off the beach designed (but failing) to deflect wave
power. You would see boulders and rubble where Sidmouth's second
replacement beach should be - the sand was swept away yet again in a
storm last Autumn and no one has the heart or the money to replace it.
the railways first came to Devon, someone thought it would be a neat
idea to drive a railway tunnel through the cliffs at Sidmouth to the
great stone quarry at Beer. The engineers soon found out that the
sandstone was loose and crumbling so they bricked up the entrance to
their workings and went away. The owners of the now unsaleable houses
built above, whose gardens have fallen into the sea during the last
five or six years probably wish they could go away too as, each year,
the sea eats further and further inland and their homes get nearer and
nearer to the cliff edge.
eyes will see a very recent landslip in the distance in the picture of
Slapton beach in our first story and, if you take a moment to look at the
accompanying map, you will see how fragile the main road
to Dartmouth is. Last winter, a considerable portion of this road fell
into the sea, completely isolating the villages along it. There was
public outcry when the road's permanent closure was discussed so it
was partially reconstructed by taking away most of the beach car park
but if that gets swept away, there's no more land for another repair.
The problem is heightened by the knowledge that the fresh-water lake,
forming the world-renowned nature reserve of Slapton Ley, will be
destroyed if the sea is not kept out. The lake has been in existence
since the last ice-age .
the Dorset border to Start Bay, our coast-line is under threat and,
already, there is a list of places which will have to be sacrificed to
the sea - there simply isn't enough money to defend every place. Now
here's a curious thing - at a recent auction, a house just down
the coast from Slapton beach, with an excellent view of the sea through
its living room floorboards, recently fetched an incredible £60,000
- worth it, says the new owner, for the thrill of being there when it
goes - as it will.