Soar Tower

Funding unlocks our coastal heritage

Some well known historic buildings on the South Devon coast are getting a stitch in time as conservation work gets underway to protect them. A rare 300-year-old Admiralty flag signal station, a prominent fishermen’s lookout, three World War Two pill boxes and two historic estuary slipways are being given skilled care to re-point stonework, join cracks in masonry and stabilise crumbling concrete.

The scheme is part of a larger regional partnership aimed at making the most of the rich history and monuments found along the 630-mile South West Coast Path. The Unlocking Our Coastal Heritage project has benefited from European funding through the Rural Development Programme for England, boosted by contributions from local businesses and landowners, and from fundraising by coast path walkers.

The historic slipways form an important element for users of the South West Coast Path at the estuary of the River Erme, and as such funding has been received for this work from the South West Coast Path Association from its Great South West Walk project, a series of sponsored walks around the Coast Path to celebrate the association's 40th birthday.

Steve Church, Secretary of the Association, said "The Association is delighted to be able to help conserve these historic features while at the same time making the Coast Path better for users. This combination of practicality, history and environment is a perfect mix for us to support."

Local project co-ordinator Robin Toogood of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty said: “People have always loved the coast path for its fantastic views and stunning scenery, but its fascinating history is sometimes missed. When you walk the coast path in South Devon, you pass by an Iron Age cliff fort, mediaeval castles, Napoleonic gun batteries, lighthouses, historic fishing villages, even a Cold War nuclear bunker. This is a great opportunity to give some much-needed care to some of the smaller structures.” The coast path is used by millions of walkers each year and is worth at least £300 million to the regional economy.

The South Devon repairs are run by a partnership of the South Devon AONB Unit, the South West Coast Path Team and Devon County Council, working with specialist stone masons, engineers and archaeologists. Most of the sites are privately owned with public footpaths adjoining them, and the co-operation of the various landowners has been essential.  Small information panels will be installed at each site on completion of the work, which is expected to go on until the end of October.