Torcross Coast Guide
Torcross is a small coastal village overlooking Start Bay, on the A379 between Dartmouth and Kingsbridge. The village is unusual in that it has water on both sides of it - the sea to the east and Slapton Ley, a large lake, to the west. A small fishing fleet uses the beach to launch from.
The beach, known as Slapton Sands, stretches for a couple of miles along the coast. It is a single beach that slopes steeply care should be taken when swimming at this beach. There is a lifeguard station at the main beach car park and most people choose to swim in the patrolled area.
The beach is very exposed and winter storms often flood the road. Recently a section of road was washed away by winter storms. It is a very picturesque area and well worth the effort to get to - the village has shops and a number of good pubs which serve meals. Parking is tight in the summer months. Slapton Ley is a freshwater lake and nature reserve with a field centre - see below for details.
Towards the end of World War II Torcross was one of the sites used to practice for the D-Day landings on account of the fact that the terrain was similar to the Normandy beaches. Around 15,000 US troops passed through the area leading up to the invasion. During one exercise using tanks and landing craft almost 750 troops lost their lives when things went tragically wrong. German torpedo boats intercepted the convoy and two ships were sunk. A Sherman tank that was lost at that time was recovered from the sea in 1985 and is displayed in the village as a memorial to the lost servicemen.
Nearby is the site of another tragic event, this one caused by the forces of nature and human interference. The small coastal village of Hallsands stood on the beachside much like Torcross today. In January 1917 most of the village was swept into the sea when a violent storm lashed the coast. Some 29 houses were lost and all that remains are the ruins of two or three houses, which still cling to the cliff side. Fortunately the inhabitants had time to scramble up the cliff to safety. The tragedy was that the village had been protected in the past by a large pebble ridge but this had been removed by dredging to provide stone to build the Plymouth docks. So much stone was taken over a period of 18 years that the village was exposed to the full fury of the sea. The new village of Hallsands stands above the old ruins.
Also nearby is Start Point where there is a lighthouse and The South West Coast Path runs along this section of coast. There is a good walking route along the cliffs to Prawle Point which overlooks the Kingsbridge estuary.
What to see
Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve - Guided walks in summer and field study courses - Slapton Ley Field Centre, Slapton, Kingsbridge, Devon TQ7 2QP Tel: 01548 580466
Start Point - Cliff top and lighthouse