It’s the holiday season! Long summer days, schools are out or almost out, and if you're like me you’re probably thinking about a beach somewhere... I’m lucky in that I live about ten minutes' walk from one of the best sandcastle beaches in the country (according to an experiment carried out by the BBC a few years ago). Above is Preston beach - the one with all the beach huts in the English Riviera resort of Torbay. The red colour of the sand comes from the local sandstone cliffs.
You can get here by train on the intercity to Plymouth, which runs along the coast from Exeter via. the recently repaired sea wall at Dawlish. Hop on to the branch line at Newton Abbot, and you'll end up at Paignton, where you can either walk past all the bucket-and-spade shops and casinos to the beach, or board the steam train to continue at a more leisurely fashion down the line to Kingswear and from there via the passenger ferry to the Naval port of Dartmouth.
|Travel by steam in Torbay (picture credit: Geof Sheppard)|
Along the way, you might like to request a stop at Greenway Halt, where Agatha Christie holidayed on the banks of the River Dart. Today the house and gardens are run by the National Trust and are well worth a visit if you’re in the area. It's like stepping back in time.
In the house, you can hear a short recording of Agatha herself talking about the writing process (she apparently did not give many interviews about her books, but gets straight to the point: "First you spend a lot of time worrying about the plot, then you have to find time to write the book...") New this year, you can even try out Agatha Christie's typewriter, set up as part of the Writing Places residency with a rather charming notice on top "How to use a Typewriter" warning people that the keys might stick if you try to use it like a computer keyboard. It certainly brought back memories, since I typed my first two novels on my childhood typewriter. Here I am, starting to fill that blank page...
Greenway encourages ‘green’ transport and slots in the car park are limited so the train is a good
option for visiting, with either a 30-minute woodland walk to the house from the Halt, or a free shuttle bus from the local station. You can also sail down the river to the house by taking the ferry from Totnes.
|Greenway House - Agatha Christie's holiday home|
|'Agatha' Roberts (picture credit: A Corkill)|
|River Dart from Greenway|
If you enjoy historic towns, Totnes with its independent shops and Friday market is just five miles inland, and there are several traditional Devonshire villages with thatched cottages in the area, including one in the middle of Torbay itself... Cockington Village, where I learned to ride a pony by falling off in the mud on my first canter through the woods. The stables have since been converted into holiday homes, although you can still take a carriage ride through the parkland surrounding Cockington Court, which is now a crafts venue for local artisans where you can watch rocking horses being carved, glass blowing, and buy some wicked chocolate creations from the Cockington Chocolate Company. Or if you fancy a working holiday in the area, the old gamekeeper’s cottage has just been converted into accommodation for long term volunteers to help maintain the country park:
If you're driving, we have a brand new bypass that opened at Christmas connecting the end of the A380 dual carriageway to Torbay (a notorious bottleneck previously, now possible in just five minutes). We all love this new road, since it means we can get to Exeter airport in less than half an hour, and reach the mainline station at Newton Abbot in ten minutes connecting with London in a shade over three hours.
|Paignton Pier - just over three hours from London|
So if you're stuck for holiday ideas and the euro is looking expensive, why not give Torbay a try this year? It's been a seaside resort since the Victorian era, but lottery funding has brought several changes in recent years with other projects ongoing. There's always plenty going on during the summer months - miles of red sand to build sandcastles, a shallow tide for warm and safe bathing, country and coastal walks, the Victorian pier, pretty fishing harbours and plenty to keep the kids happy on Paignton Green (there’s usually a circus earlier in the year, an August fairground, donkey rides, firework displays, and a multiplex cinema). You can stay in one of the grand old hotels, at a choice of smaller guest houses and B&Bs, or in one of the holiday lodges in the outlying caravan parks. Last month we hosted our very first airshow with the planes flying low over the sea and a brilliant view from the beach. For motorcycle enthusiasts, Bikers Make A Difference (BMAD) hold their festival here in the spring, and if you’re thinking about retiring beside the sea we have palm trees, very little frost or snow, a lovely new library and just about the best value houses in the entire county. Plenty of bungalows and spacious 1930s houses with sea views, or if you're quick you can pick up this historic cottage in the old part of town for under £130,000.
|The new Paignton library|
For holiday reading, nothing beats relaxing in a deckchair with a favourite paperback. But if your suitcase is bursting at the seams and you need some fiction to fill your holiday Kindle, the Electric Authors offer a wide variety of ebooks for all reading tastes, and for those who enjoy historical fiction with a touch of magic and romance my Legend of Genghis Khan trilogy is on summer promotion until 25th July:
1. PRINCE OF WOLVES – FREE download.
2. BRIDE OF WOLVES – countdown deal 99p / 99c (price rises in 2 days)
3. BLOOD OF WOLVES – only £1.99 / $2.99
Katherine Roberts writes fantasy fiction with a focus on legend and myth for younger readers, and historical fiction with a bit more romance for older readers under the name Katherine A Roberts.
Find out more at www.katherineroberts.co.uk