Valley of Rock - home to Brunel and world-famous clay
- Credit: Keith Perry
The Valley of Rocks at Watcombe were a significant attraction in the Victorian era.
This one-time equatorial landscape formed a natural amphitheatre and in the mid 19th century audiences of thousands attended two musical fetes organised by Torquay Choral Society in a setting dominated by the Giant’s Rock - once part of Brunel’s estate - 200 feet above it.
It was here too that a retired headmaster of Dulwich College, a Mr Allen who lived at Watcombe Court, recognised the value of the clay here and initiated the important Torquay terracotta industry.
The clay pits of the valley enabled The Watcombe Pottery Company to manufacture some of the country’s finest pottery from 1867 to 1901, when they were succeeded by the Royal Aller Vale and Watcombe Pottery, which ceased production in 1962.
In the early 20th century, the valley was abandoned to nature, leading to what is now more jungle than desert in the form of Watcombe Woods.
The fabulous location still offers an atmospheric walk through 70 acres of woodland, providing only glimpses of the impressive sandstone outcrop and the clay pits below.
The walk starts in the free car park in Watcombe Beach Road and forms part of the John Musgrave Heritage Trail from Cockington to Maidencombe.
A circular walk from the car park to Maidencombe with its Thatched Tavern, Judas Tree and old courthouse - detailed on the information board at the entrance - is 3.7 miles. It does feature steps and some steep sections, but still a beautiful stroll that will certainly keep the dog fit.
Alternatively, you can follow the trail out of the car park across Teignmouth Road to Brunel Woods with its famous totem pole and spectacular panoramas across the Bay.
Unfortunately, it's not possible to access the once popular Watcombe Beach, as landslips and erosions have forced its closure on safety grounds.
There are so many stunning walks throughout our naturally inspiring bay and the Watcombe wander is up there with the very best.