Sir Geoffrey Newman

Blackpool Sands

Local History Tour

Start Point Lighthouse

Blackpool Garden Tour

Sir Geoffrey Newman on living in the AONB

Sir Geoffrey Newman tells us about his family's long term connections with Start Bay and the importance to them, of this special area.

Which part of the AONB do you live in and how long have you and your family lived there?

I grew up at Blackpool and lived there until I moved away to work in London and overseas, returning to Stoke Fleming with my young family in 1988. But my ancestors have been recorded in Dartmouth since the 15th Century and it was in 1797 that a Richard Newman, a Merchant-Privateer of Dartmouth, first acquired land at Blackpool. Since then, members of the family continued to purchase land locally and in the 1950s, my Father bought land at Start Point.

You welcome visitors to Blackpool Sands and Start Point Lighthouse – tell us a bit about it and how the landscape of the AONB helps your business

My parents provided parking and access to Blackpool Sands from 1947, with the toilets being built in 1949 in the style of a traditional Devon cottage, in-keeping with its surroundings. Other buildings have been added, some as a result of storm damage, to provide refreshments, evening meals, beach goods and watersports. At Start Point, Trinity House decided to automate the lighthouse in 1992 following which, visitors no longer had access. I applied to Trinity House two years later to open the lighthouse on their behalf and in 2000 was granted a licence to provide the attendant services and conduct public tours. The beautiful setting of the beaches in the AONB undoubtedly helps to draw visitors and even those who chance upon this area are truly stunned by the dramatic coastal landscape.

Do you feel any sort of responsibility for the landscape that you take care of?

Hugely! The love and care of this landscape has always been a major responsibility of my family who bought coastal land in this AONB, before it or any regulatory bodies existed. Landowners now have the additional backing of these bodies to maintain this wonderful environment.

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

The AONB events programme provides a huge range of activities and I am convinced that the visitors of today thoroughly enjoy taking part in active pursuits as not only does this help the body, mind and soul but it also helps to maintain traditional Devon skills and introduces nature to those who live so far from it. An improvement to the programme would be to introduce these events to schools and use ‘pester power’ to encourage parents to take part.

Over the centuries, the South Devon landscape has inspired poets, authors, scientists and artists, many of whom have left a rich legacy of cultural associations – do you have a favourite?

As a seafaring family, I have a love of marine paintings and admire the works of Westcountry artist, Thomas Luny (1759–1837).

Have you any unfulfilled ambitions?

To see the Dartmouth indoor swimming pool completed and the continued protection of our marine environment.

What’s your food heaven?

A picnic on a rocky shore with my family.

What would your ideal day out in the AONB involve?

Walking part of the coastal footpath with a good pair of binoculars and removing discarded litter from beaches and rocky shores.

What’s your favourite view in the AONB?

Looking west from Start Point.

Can you sum up the AONB in 4 words?

Guardians of our landscape.