Hannah Worthington, Torbay green spaces development officer for Groundwork South, continues her reflections on why green spaces matter more than ever, and how our parks help us in ways we may have never thought about

Today, a visit to Westerland intrigues the visitor with tantalising clues to its former use. Photo: Groundwork SouthToday, a visit to Westerland intrigues the visitor with tantalising clues to its former use. Photo: Groundwork South

As a child that mound in the corner of the park may have been a fort to guard or conquer, but as an adult you reflect that, just maybe, there is a different reason it is there...

For many people, recent circumstances find us wandering and wondering about Torbay’s green spaces: wandering unexplored paths to new places and wondering perhaps, about the whys and wherefores of their features.

In Kings Ash, Paignton, is a tucked-away valley that poses such questions.

While some remember it as a place to swim or sail model boats in the 1960s and 1970s, others know it as a muddy, tree-filled valley in which to harvest blackberries; but there is much more to Westerland Valley.

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Some 140 years ago the first of two reservoirs was constructed in the valley. With brick, stone and concrete the Victorians and Edwardians created storage lagoons which would provide fresh water to Paignton until the early 20th century.

A walk along the valley today, 45 years after the reservoirs were drained and the dams breached, reveals what is left – the tops of retaining walls; remnants of boundary fences; metal and concrete fixtures that once covered culverts.

Over the next few years, Groundwork will be working with Torbay Council to sensitively enhance and revitalise the site.

The project aims to provide a much-needed recreational resource and wildlife haven at Westerland Valley, working closely with local residents and a range of organisations and businesses to create recreational opportunities and improve the ecological value of this new country park.

The stimulus for all this is a strategically important flood defence scheme designed to enhance the valley’s capacity to ‘store’ water, through engineered and natural solutions, and delay its flow through the Clennon Valley and out into the sea at Goodrington, mitigating potential flooding risk.

So, the next time you visit one of Torbay’s green spaces take a moment to think about the unseen role it may play in the well-being of your community and the environment.

• For more information about Westerland Valley Country Park or to get involved, contact Chris Smith on 07736 133 056 or email christopher.smith@groundwork.org.uk