I still remember it now, I was stood at the bar of a prestigious nightclub in London, and was asked: “Where are you from?” It was 2002, and I was studying in London for the year.

“Torbay”, I replied, knowing I would have to explain where that was.

“Oh, that’s so exotic, you have palm trees and everything!”

Having lived in Torbay, on and off for 37 years, I never understood the natural beauty of our Bay and its community.

I don’t know if it’s something that many of us locals have experienced in the past but when I was at school, myself and many peers were eager to leave the area.

Maybe it’s seeking a new adventure or a faster pace of life, I don’t know.

But now, I feel incredibly blessed to have grown up in Torbay.

As a family, we would spend every day of the holidays at Preston beach where we had a beach hut – it even had a shower!

How lucky was I to be able to walk to the beach, playing with friends and enjoy swimming in the sea.

Come rain or shine, we were there. Being an August baby, it became quite the tradition, celebrating my birthday with a barbecue in the rain.

When I reflect back on my childhood now, the sad thing is, I don’t think I appreciated it.

As tourists descended on the Bay each school holiday, I would wonder why they chose my town.

I was perplexed – what’s so special about Torbay?

My teenage years filled with wonder about other places, meant that I was always looking to move on, to escape.

The trips to the beach, the days out, they became dull – how spoilt was I?

Maybe we all go through that as teenagers, who knows, I just wish I had appreciated Torbay more then.

So now, at the age of 37, as I have finally settled back in Torbay, I have come to realise just how truly magical this place is.

Going to many of our coastal areas on a sunny day, you could be in the south of France. The beauty of Torbay is simply incredible, and we are truly lucky to live here.

Walking along Babbacombe Downs, strolling along Broadsands or grabbing an ice cream on Meadfoot Beach, the scenery we are surrounded by, never fails to take my breath away.

We have seen local people and places thrive, which is creating flourishing communities.

In my experience, learning more about where we live, grows our love and commitment to it, which ultimately benefits more than just ourselves, but also the people and places around us.

As many local bars and restaurants start to open after three months of lockdown, now is the time for all of us to support these businesses.

The beauty of Torbay is also its people. Throughout lockdown I have written many columns celebrating our local people. We must not forget them.

With RE4orm’s current project, Food 4 Torbay, many local businesses worked together to ensure families did not go to bed hungry.

Put simply, the selfless acts of so many, changed the lives of those in our community.

Their tenacity and genuine love meant that thousands of meals were delivered to families in need each week.

They didn’t need to do that. In a time of great uncertainty, where livelihoods were at stake, they still united.

We have so much to be grateful for in Torbay.

Yes, it’s going to be tough, we know that.

Yet, as a community we have the most wonderful resilience and strength.

As locals, as much as we can, we need to support local businesses.

Who knows how many tourists will descend on the Bay in the coming months, but let’s as locals, do our bit.

Shop local. Support local.