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Torbay Hinterland

torbay hinterland landscape picture

The Torbay Hinterland is a steeply undulating series of hills incised by small streams which extend into the adjacent urban areas. It includes a distinctive rim of landscape which forms the setting and backdrop to Torbay with views across the conurbation out to sea. Here the proximity of the urban edge has resulted in a proliferation of urban fringe development and recreation activities which have fragmented the hedgerow, woodland and land use patterns and made them vulnerable to change. Nevertheless, fingers of green landscape penetrate down the steep valleys into the built up areas of Torbay, creating welcome contrasts and opportunities for recreation. Further west the landscape looks inland, with views to Dartmoor in the west. Here there is a stronger rural character; the folds of the landscape and high hedgebanks lend visual enclosure and a greater degree of tranquillity; the historic pattern of hedgebanks, small woods, winding rural lanes and sparse settlement remains intact; and historic castle sites are a feature that adds to the time depth of the landscape.

  • Context

    The Torbay Hinterland is located adjacent to the coastal resorts of Torbay (Torquay, Paignton and Brixham) and forms a rim of rural landscape that acts as a setting to these settlements, offering views eastwards across the built up area and out to sea. To the west the landscape faces inland and overlooks the tributary valleys of the River Hems. Here the boundary with the Denbury and Kerswell Farmlands is transitional. In contrast the eastern boundary is abrupt and is formed by the urban edge; while to the south the boundary follows the ridge which separates Torbay from the tidal Dart Estuary south-east of Totnes.

  • Constituent Landscape Character Types

    Constituent LCTs:3A: Upper Farmed and Wooded Valley Slopes, 3B: Lower Rolling Farmed and Settled Valley Slopes.
    Part of NCA:151: South Devon

  • Distinctive Characteristics

    • Steeply undulating landform of intricate hills incised by small streams.
    • Presence of underlying sandstone geology visible as red soils in occasional ploughed arable fields.
    • Extensive views from hilltops to Torbay and the coast, across the Aller valley and rolling farmland and across the Dart valley towards Dartmoor.
    • Occasional small mixed and broadleaved woods and orchards on steep slopes, together with hedgerow trees and hilltop pines, giving this landscape a relatively well-wooded appearance.
    • Mainly pasture, with patches of arable land.
    • Small- to medium-sized, irregular fields divided by mature hedgerows with trees.
    • Nature conservation interest that includes broadleaved and mixed woodland, stream courses, wetlands and spring habitats.
    • Historic landscape features including castles, remnant medieval field pattern, ancient hedgebanks, old orchards and vernacular buildings as well as winding, narrow lanes and greenways.
    • Sparse settlement pattern of scattered houses, farms and hamlets with stone or render and slate vernacular buildings and some brick.
    • Sense of tranquillity despite proximity of urban areas and major road and railway, by virtue of the steep, intricate landform.
    • Major power lines across the hills; and A380 crossing the landscape on the fringes of Torbay.


  • Special Qualities and Features:

    • Highly distinctive, steeply undulating, folded landform lending panoramic views across Torbay to the coast and over the surrounding valleys and rolling farmland towards Dartmoor.
    • High scenic quality due to intricate landform, patchwork of pasture and arable fields, mature hedgerows and winding lanes.
    • Some of the best preserved traditional orchards in Devon.
    • Sparsely populated rural hinterland and high quality rural setting to the coastal resorts.
    • Numerous CWSs comprising ancient semi-natural woodland, herb-rich grassland and mixed farmland with bird interest (including cirl bunting and bats).
    • LNRs at Occombe Farm, Scadson Woods and Occombe Valley Woods which penetrate into the urban areas.
    • Berry Pomeroy Castle (English Heritage) and Compton Castle (National Trust) which are notable historic sites and visitor attractions.

Forces for Change and Their Landscape Implications:

  • Past and Current

    • Major power lines and the A380 Torbay ring road impinge on the area.
    • Tranquillity disturbed locally near the main road and railway, adjacent to the urban edge and where night light spill is significant.
    • Replanting of ancient woodland sites with conifers.
    • Masts on ridges and hills e.g. Beacon Hill, Borrow Down and Windmill Hill, which break the rural skyline that forms the setting to the coastal resorts.
    • Recreational pressure, evident in the form of camping and caravan sites, golf courses, fishing lakes, Country Park at Cockington and quad biking.
    • Spread of conurbation and associated industrial development onto the more exposed slopes e.g. around Long Road at Kemmings Hill, Linhay.

  • Future

    • Potential large extensions to existing dwellings and new buildings in high visibility locations such as hilltops and open slopes, resulting in visual intrusion and erosion of characteristic vernacular built form.
    • Pressure for new masts, turbines and power lines, which potentially would be highly visible on prominent skylines.
    • Potential road improvements and roadside developments along the A380, leading to an erosion of rural character.
    • Construction of new, large-scale agricultural buildings that would be out of context with existing traditional, smaller-scale buildings.
    • Potential agricultural intensification, with loss of traditional field boundaries and patterns.
    • Conversion of traditional agricultural buildings and attached land for domestic and leisure use, which can lead to unsympathetic boundary and surfacing treatments.
    • Widening and new access points to narrow lanes, eroding their rural character.
    • Expansion of Torbay unban area eroding the rural landscape setting.


  • Overall Strategy:

    To conserve and manage the existing hedgerow network and pattern of existing woodlands and nature conservation sites, strengthening the character and landscape resilience of the urban fringe of Torbay. The landscape’s vulnerability to development and recreational pressures is reduced. Inland new development reflects the small scale, vernacular settlement pattern and conserves the pattern of fields, woods, hedgerows and narrow lanes. Views from high ground towards the coast and Dartmoor are conserved.


  • Protect

    • Protect the distinctive, unspoilt, and exposed skylines above the coastal resorts avoiding the location of new development and vertical structures on prominent skylines.
    • Protect the existing small-scale settlement pattern of houses, farms and hamlets to the west.  Resist the spread of new development (including caravan and camping sites) outside the limits of villages and hamlets and including along roads.  Utilise the landscape’s woodland cover and topography to filter views of any new development.
    • Protect the local vernacular – any new development should utilise the traditional materials and styles wherever possible (whilst seeking to incorporate sustainable and low carbon construction and design).
    • Protect the landscape setting of Torbay, ensuring new development enhances features such as hedgerows and woodland.
    • Protect the higher levels of tranquillity and rural character of the land to the west through the control and management of development, including highways and recreational development.

  • Manage

    • Manage the pattern of field enclosure, particularly remnant medieval field enclosures, restoring lost and gappy Devon hedgebanks using local materials where ever possible (particularly on intensively farmed slopes where they can stabilise the soul and reduce agricultural run-off).
    • Manage and enhance the wildlife interest of the farmed landscape (particularly for horseshoe bats and bird populations such as cirl bunting), including the creation of species-rich grass buffers around arable fields (also serving to reduce agricultural run-off).
    • Retain areas of rough grazing land and scrub patches on steep slopes.
    • Reinstate traditional management techniques, particularly coppicing, to the landscape’s semi-natural woodland to promote a diverse age and species structure and provide a low carbon fuel source to local communities.
    • Manage areas of mixed conifer woodland with a view to reinstating broadleaved woodland where feasible.
    • Explore the use of woodland for recreation access away from more sensitive sites.

  • Plan

    • Plan for a network of green spaces and green infrastructure links to support existing populations whilst integrating any new development, particularly in the immediate hinterland landscape to Torbay.
    • Restore and manage traditional orchards and explore opportunities for the creation of new ones, including community orchards to promote local food and drink production.