"...there's that drama associated with coastal habitiats...




...but then there's this wonderful softness, and plump pastures too."

Bearscombe Farm

Avon Valley

Mansands Ley

Near Soar Mill Cove

Down Farm

"...never get complacent. Protect, protect, protect."

Slapton Ley

Lucy Siegle on her connections with the AONB

Television presenter, journalist and Devon resident Lucy Siegle tells us what’s important to her about South Devon AONB.

How long have you and your family had connections with the AONB?

My family moved to Devon first in the 1980s and I went to Blackawton Primary School and my dad worked in Totnes. Way back part of my family is from Cornwall, so not a million miles away but the landscape seems hugely different to me. One of the things I remember clearly as a child were the wild flowers in the hedgerows along the lane in spring and early summer

Do you feel any sort of responsibility for the landscape that you have spent so much time enjoying?

I‘m the type that feels responsibility for ALL landscapes EVERYWHERE! I think that’s the mindset of an environmentalist, there’s a great deal of responsibility attached. When it comes to local ecosystems, you are aware – as you witness them throughout the seasons – of how vulnerable they are. I got very upset a few years back when I saw an outdoor jeep adventure business with a car full of kids off-roading in our local wood and running over the saplings that my neighbour had planted. What upset me most was that these kids were being taught that nature didn’t matter.

What makes this part of South Devon special to you?

The natural landscape here has witnessed a lot of history, particularly around WW2 and that resonates with me. It can be bleak and unforgiving in winter months and there’s that drama associated with coastal habitats – look at Hallsands for example. But then there’s this wonderful softness, and plump pastures too.

What can be done to ensure that this area and other ‘protected landscapes’ remain special for future generations?

Never get complacent. Protect, protect, protect. No incremental creep toward selling off. One of the greatest things we have is a network of National Parks and designated AONBs. We have enshrined the right to access these protected spaces in law. To make sure this endures, we need to make sure all types of people visit and enjoy these spaces and GET their importance even if they don’t live here. But – and this bit is HUGE - we need to inculcate a passion for preserving these places in our children. Put simply, ecology MUST be part of the National Curriculum. We should be fighting for this. Conservation doesn’t actually come easily to the UK – despite us producing some of the most brilliant wildlife scientists and broadcasters and conservation programmes – we’re not a naturally ecological nation. Our legacy is the industrial revolution, expansion and ‘coping’ with pollution – ie shovelling our rubbish in old mines giving us a landfill legacy. We need to work doubly hard. In one generation we could mess it up.

What would your ideal day out in the AONB involve?

Life in South Devon is very seasonal so I’m going to specify this in late September. A (briefish) run at Slapton Ley, a dip in the sea (Sep/Oct when it’s warmer) and then I love the view and vibe at Royal William Yard in Plymouth and there’s a very good boutique which has nothing to do with the natural world, but is well worth a visit!

How do you think the AONB can be promoted better to residents and visitors?

Encourage film crews! I’m in the media so I probably would say that, but the uplift from Poldark or Doc Martin or even Onedin Line (yes, Dartmouth still trades on that one!) is extraordinary. These days dramas sell all over the world to a huge global audience. They are a great way of promoting our amazing landscape. When visitors leave use social media to keep them connected. It’s fantastic. Friday evening in spring just seems to be people sharing pictures of sunset at Hope Cove. It’s great publicity.

What’s your food heaven?

The Seahorse, Dartmouth. Mitch Tonks and co are brilliant hosts and the fish is fresh as you like.

Can you sum up the AONB in 3 words?

Magical, historical and undulating.