A country walk, a clean beach and the fallacy of perpetual growth

The Christmas weather in south Devon was stormy and very wet so when we woke on December 27th to bright sunshine and clear, pale blue skies we had to get out for a walk.   We chose one combining countryside and sea, one we often walk after heavy rain as it mostly follows minor roads or paved paths.

We started at Townstal, a suburb on the edge of Dartmouth.  Townstal is noted for its leisure centre and two supermarkets but it does provide easy parking and quick access to open countryside.  Our route headed gradually southwards towards the sea along narrow roads edged by high grassy banks.   Volleys of gulls and crows rose from adjacent fields and the low sunshine created strongly contrasting areas of light and dark on the deep valleys and rolling countryside, emphasising even the slightest undulation.

Some steep ups and downs took us to Venn Cross where we turned to descend along the Blackpool Valley with its spirited stream, growing ever fuller as it gathered water from springs or from the sodden fields.  This part of the walk is tree lined and the minor road is cut into the hillside well above the stream.  Several former water mills are dotted along the valley; they are now rather grand private houses but one has installed a turbine to harness the power of the water once again.

Old Mill in the Blackpool Valley
Blackpool Mill, one of the old mills found along the Blackpool Valley. This hidden valley has changed very little over the years. Have a look at the painting below of a nearby farm to see how the area looked nearly a century ago.


Apple Blossom, Riversbridge Farm, Blackpool by Lucien Pissarro, 1921, from Royal Albert Memorial Museum Exeter


At this time of year, the trees are dark latticeworks of bare branches but pale brown immature catkins were showing well on some of the trees, readying themselves for the spring.  Patches of winter heliotrope spread along verges enclosing the ground with their fleshy, green, heart-shaped leaves.  Purple and white lollipop flowers struck through the leaves, broadcasting their characteristic almond odour.

Catkins and running water in the Blackpool Valley
Catkins above running water in the Blackpool Valley


Winter Heliotrope in the Blackpool Valley
Winter heliotrope in the Blackpool Valley


Eventually, we reached Blackpool Sands, a popular shingle beach and café, surrounded by pine trees and sheltered by steeply rising hills.    The low winter sun created strongly contrasting colours: the yellowish- brown shingle, the fringe of frothy white waves, the sea a rich dark blue tinged with turquoise highlights, and there were clear views across the bay to Start Point with its lighthouse.   Near the café, a hardy group of swimmers were struggling on their wet suits in readiness for a dip.  They passed me as they ventured in to the sea accompanied by audible yelps and shrieks.

View across Start Bay from Blackpool Sands to Start Point
View across Start Bay from Blackpool Sands to Start Point


Swimmers at Blackpool Sands
Swimmers at Blackpool Sands …… with friend.


I was keen to have a look at the shingle beach for two reasons.  There had been a very successful beach clean four days previously organised by Amanda Keetley of Less Plastic.  We hadn’t been able to be there owing to family commitments but there had also been storms since then and I wondered how much more plastic had washed up.  I didn’t find any, the beach was still clean which should have been good news.

To be honest, however, I was feeling disheartened about efforts to reduce the load of plastic in our seas after reading two articles in the Guardian over the Christmas period.  It seems that the US, along with financial support from Saudi Arabia, is planning a huge increase in plastic production, the driver being cheap shale gas.  If we are to reduce the amount of plastic in our seas we need to reduce the amount in circulation and this new plan runs directly counter to this.

Here are links to the two articles:

$180 billion investment in plastic factories feeds global packaging binge

World’s largest plastics plant rings alarm bells on Texas coast

I am not sure how this can be stopped but I am convinced that the drive for perpetual economic growth, espoused thoughtlessly by so many of our politicians, is ultimately very damaging for our planet.

10 thoughts on “A country walk, a clean beach and the fallacy of perpetual growth”

  1. That sounds a lovely walk and it is wonderful to find somewhere that the landscape has hardly changed in 100 years. We went for a walk on Stonebarrow and ended up covered in mud!
    That is depressing news finding out about the news of expanding plastic production, I must have missed that article. If China is now refusing our plastic they need more than ever to reduce our plastic consumption, and it should have been looked at before now!


    1. Thanks Sarah, I do like Stonebarrow but I imagine it was a bit difficult in lots of mud.
      It’s crazy that the government is only now reacting to the Chinese decision when they have known about it for several months. There will I suspect be chaos

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s just awful to think of the world being flooded with more plastic and the factory polluting the local environment as it produces the plastic too. My resolution this year is to use less plastic. I have been recommended this UK website for zero-waste cleaning products: https://www.splosh.com – they fit through your letterbox and I’ve found my local health food shop in Truro sells them.


    1. Thanks Emily, we are doing the same about using less plastic. I will have a look at the Splosh website, thanks for the recommendation. I think I know your health food shop below Archie Brown and I agree it is very good.


  3. No your final statement … no doubt about it … With every country at different levels of economic development, sustainability will continue to be difficult … unfortunately.


    1. It would be nice to think that the developed countries might help the less developed to improve as they wish without everyone destroying the planet in the process. But …… this requires intelligent leaders!?!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely walk! Perpetual economic growth is what drives the world and politicians who do not espouse it will not be successful. I do not know what could persuade the world to reflect. Amelia


  5. We have enjoyed several holidays in Dartmouth, is Townstal where the Sainsbury’s supermarket is? I seem to recall a sports centre around there. As a scientist do you think we have the technology to safely burn plastics? I recently read an article saying we do!


    1. Thanks for your comment Brian, yes Townstal is where the Sainsburys is and there is now also a Lidl next to the sports centre.
      We do have the technology to burn plastics and countries like Germany do this quite a bit. Whether we should burn plastics is another question as this adds to the fossil fuel carbon dioxide. We should really be reducing plastic use and increasing recycling.

      Liked by 1 person

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