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Why I have a soft spot for lovely Salcombe

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 16, 2013

  • Salcombe, picture by devonscenes photography

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Salcombe in South Devon holds a very special place in my heart. It's here that everyone can see the creative efforts of my talented mother.

When she passed away, it was her wish that a doll's house that she had built from scratch should be left to the National Trust.

What we thought was a tall order, turned out to be a welcome gift to the trust and the Palladian-style building, with working lighting, was taken to Overbecks.

It's been there for around 18 years, and last time I saw it was when it was in a perspex box in restaurant of this fascinating property high above the Salcombe estuary.

When I visited recently, I opted for a tour of the house first rather than a cuppa. I was so surprised to see the house in a secret room at Overbecks – you have to stoop to enter – that I said "oh my!" out loud.

"Yes, it's lovely isn't it," said another visitor behind me. I felt proud to say "my mum made that".

I explained how she built the whole thing – from the basement kitchens (very Downton Abbey), up through the grand drawing rooms, the family bedrooms and the nursery and staff rooms on the upper floors.

It had working lights and every scrap of furniture (including the piano with the music box fittings) had been made by her.

In the dining room, with its felt covered chairs, was a sampler – believed to be the smallest in the world, if you believe what you read in the papers! It's little bigger than a 20p piece.

The furniture holds happy memories for me too. The chairs in the music room are covered from a lemony cotton material used when my daughter was a bridesmaid. The gold and turqouise brocade was from a ballgown my mother had when we lived in Malta and my dad was in the Navy.

And some of the wallpapers were leftovers – a Laura Ashley print from my hallway and a pretty green floral pattern from our bedroom. all many years ago now.

This National Trust property at Sharpitor offers incredible views of the Salcombe estuary and the sub-tropical climate has created lush gardens, with gunnera and palms and a banana garden as well as an ancient magnolia.

The house is a treasure trove too. The Edwardian home of inventor Otto Overbeck, it's great for child with its strange machines, toys (including a rather magnificent doll's house) and glass cases of birds, insects and display drawers of eggs.

Luckily Overbecks was close to where we were staying – the aptly named Tides Reach Hotel in South Sands.

In summer it's the ideal base for exploring the coastline or enjoying watersports. There's a beautiful small beach and plenty more beaches and coves nearby.

One of the delights of staying at the Tides Reach, or the nearby South Sands Hotel, is that you can happily leave your car here and head for Salcombe on the South Sands ferry.

Because of the shallow nature of the beach here, you connect with the regular ferry service on the Sea Tractor – an adventure on itself as it ambles from the sand into the sea where you can board the ferry.

It's only a 10 or 15-minute trip along the river to Salcombe but it's a chance to appreciate the beauty of the area and admire the beautiful homes on this stretch of waterfront.

Although it's great to be here in the summer for messing about on the river, in the crisp days of autumn it's also nice to indulge in pottering about on the high street – without all the summer crowds.

Salcombe has won a reputation for shopping, offering some top names in clothing and lots of interior design shops where you can while away the hours browsing.

It's also great for foodies where there are lots of lovely cafes, restaurants, coffee shops and bars, but also delis and shops selling local produce. Where else might you find a shop dedicated to ice cream?

(See the panel on the left for suggestions of where to eat.)

Salcombe seems made for strolling – a saunter up Fore Street is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

Then it's time to board the ferry for a gentle trip along the river towards the hotel.

Absolute bliss.

Useful contact information: The National Trust's Overbecks (nationaltrust.org.uk/overbecks); South Sands Hotel (southsands.com); Tides Reach Hotel (tidesreach.com); Winking Prawn (winkingprawn.co.uk) seek out Sailor V on Facebook; South Sands Ferry (southsandsferry.co.uk); Dick and Wills Brasserie and Bar (dickandwills.co.uk) and Salcombe Tourist Information (salcombeinformation.co.uk)

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