Devon has an outstanding natural environment with a range of nationally protected landscapes and internationally important UNESCO designated sites. Of the five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the County, Dartmoor National Park and South Devon AONB are significant parts of our Borough and District.
Dartmoor is a mix of moorland and wooded valleys, with granite tors dominating the landscape, and some 600 miles of rights of way. The South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers 337 square kilometres, including much of the South Hams area of Devon and the rugged, Jurassic Coastline from Jennycliff to Elberry Cove near Brixham. The area offers visitors and local communities miles of beautiful sandy beaches and picture postcard villages.
The landscapes of West Devon were radically reshaped during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by deep mining, predominantly for copper and tin, with fishing, agriculture and food production being additional important sectors of the economy.
South Hams has a long history stretching back to Anglo Saxon times. Many of the villages were centred around the production of wool, and the local ports thrived on the export of local products. The strategic position of many coastal towns has meant that the Royal Navy has been a dominant presence throughout the centuries and still plays a major role in the economy and character of the region today.
We have a growing food industry – becoming known for artisan foods and great local produce such as Salcombe Ice Cream and Salcombe Gin. Dartmouth and Salcombe have award-winning restaurants, while inland gastro pubs serve excellent home cooked fare.
West Devon is also known for a thriving arts and cultural scene, throughout the year towns and villages across the area play host to a range of arts and music events and food festivals. We have an array of museums and places of historical interest from Buckland Abbey and Castle Drogo to the Delamore Arts and Sculpture Exhibition, every taste is catered for.
South Hams and West Devon both have some excellent primary and secondary schools. For example, The Grove Primary School has undergone extensive redevelopment and Kingsbridge Community College (or Kingsbridge Academy), which has been judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, has both excellent academic and sporting facilities and over £14million has been invested in the last decade.
Only a few miles west from South Hams is the port city of Plymouth; known for its maritime heritage and historic Barbican district with narrow, cobbled streets. Nearby are The Mayflower Steps, from which the Pilgrims are believed to have finally left England aboard the Mayflower, before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to settle in North America on 6 September 1620.
To the north east, the ancient city of Exeter, based on the River Exe. Dating back to the Roman era, the Exeter City Walls surround its centre and Gothic Exeter Cathedral. Exeter Castle, a Norman landmark, overlooks leafy Northernhay and Rougemont Gardens and the vaulted, medieval Underground Passages snake beneath the city.
Home to around 140,000 residents, South Hams District and West Devon Borough Councils cover an area of 2,066 square kilometres. We have a relatively high retired population, with 24% of pensionable age compared with 20.3% for the United Kingdom as a whole. We are also a safe and friendly place – crime rates in West Devon and South Hams are among the lowest in the UK.