It’s a tale of ambition, adventure, madness and tragedy.
Now, the true story of Donald Crowhurst, whose attempt to circumnavigate the world solo ended catastrophically, is set for its big screen debut.
A film, called The Mercy and starring Oscar-winning stars Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz, is set for release on 17 October.
It was filmed two years ago in Teignmouth (Crowhurst’s trimaran was called Teignmouth Electron) and it is hoped the world-wide publicity will help give the resort a shot in the arm.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Crowhurst duped his family and race organisers into believing he had spent 240 days circumnavigating the globe in a single-handed, non-stop odyssey. In fact, Crowhurst was so far behind the others he set in motion a plan to deceive the world by falsifying his locations.
His fake reports led those following the race to think he was winning but in the end his boat was discovered unmanned and drifting, with Crowhurst assumed to have drowned himself.
The town’s more honourable seafaring traditions are, today, being proudly upheld by Tim and Sue Cox who run SeaSports South West, a leading water sports company that has just marked its 10th anniversary.
It is a thriving business with a reputation for high quality, friendly training in all things water sports, from paddle board tuition to sailing qualifications and Atlantic rowing training.
In fact, you can take a sea kayaking trip, plus “taster sessions” and stand-up yoga, very close to where Crowhurst himself left from Morgans Quay on his ill-fated voyage back in 1968.
SeaSports South West, located at the oldest part of Teignmouth, has become an integral element of the local community and important part of the UK and international Watersports network.
While locally-born Tim’s knowledge and qualifications take him all over the world training instructors on some very glitzy yachts, both he and Sue, who head up the family run business, love nothing more than giving something back to their local community and getting kids involved in water activities.
The friendly couple also own a wonderful holiday home nearby which makes for a great base for exploring both Teignmouth and the surrounding area.
Appropriately called “Sunny Mount”, this is a stunning Victorian terraced townhouse, on an elevated part of Teignmouth, which has been lovingly refurbished by the couple, retaining some of the original features.
A theme of seaside and all things nautical sails through the house and the super bunk bedded room is ideal for children and adults alike, complete with portholes and a pirate chest!
There is much to commend this lovely holiday home (which sleeps up to 12) but, arguably, the centrepiece is the fabulous kitchen/diner which has a snug at one end.This enormous room, with a real holiday atmosphere, leads to the small courtyard with a patio and covered area complete with garden furniture. The master bedroom and the second floor double bedroom have views across the roof tops to the beach and pier.
A five minute walk will take you to the gently sloping award-wining beach with promenade and pier, or for a change try the outdoor pool at the Lido which is right next to the beach.
Delight on the eye
Teignmouth itself was one of Devon’s earliest seaside resorts and has been welcoming visitors from the UK and abroad since the 1800s when it was fashionable to “take the waters.” Many of the town’s buildings are Georgian, Regency or Victorian and are a delight to the eye.
It also offers a wonderful selection of activities and independent shops and, with the train station (with direct trains to London) and passenger ferry to Shaldon within easy walking distance, this a holiday spot where you can really unwind. A short distance away is the holiday home of author Agatha Christie, who, of course, created the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.
Visiting families really will be spoilt for choice for things to keep the kids occupied, including the wonderful Crealy adventure park which boasts over 60 amazing rides, roller coasters and a host of attractions.
Voted South Devon’s number one family attraction, it is set in 100 acres of beautiful countryside. There are live shows and it is also home to some cute and cuddly farm animals. It’s also got plenty of free parking and is just minutes from Junction 30 of the M5 motorway and 10 minutes from the bustling town of Exeter.
Crealy boasts several new features for 2017 including (direct from the U.S), a “high dive show” – a breathtaking aerial stunt show performed by a cast of record breaking divers.
A selection of other fun family places nearby includes Funder Park at Dawlish Warren, the newest family amusement park to open in South Devon, which overlooks miles of golden blue flag beach and a world-renowned Nature Reserve.
Cofton Holidays nearby has a great heated indoor and outdoor pool as well as segwaying, zorbing, archery and a brand new, free to use woodland adventure area for kids. Splashdown Quaywest, a bit further along the picturesque coastline, near Paignton is Britain’s biggest outdoor waterpark, with spectacular views and eight adrenalin-pumping outdoor flume rides.
After expending all that energy, you’ll have worked up an appetite and the area is not short of great places to eat, including ODE&CO, a stylish pizza and grill restaurant which benefits from glorious views over sea and countryside.
Opened just over a year ago and located just over the river in the pretty village of Shaldon (accessible via ferry from Teignmouth), it strives in every possible way to promote organic and locally sourced products.This ranges from its sour dour pizza (a house speciality) to pasta and grills and the environmental sustainability ethos even extends to other aspects of its work such as using only recyclable paper.
The owner, who also runs a fine dining restaurant and café nearby, was raised in the area and, like Tim and Sue, has subsequently returned to the area and is now very commendably endeavouring to put something back into the community.
Another highly recommended spot nearby, particularly those in search of fine dining, is the restaurant at Orestone Manor, a short distance from the beach which boasts a fascinating history and delicious cuisine to match. Located between Torquay and Teignmouth, this peaceful coastal retreat is where John Callcott Horsley painted the portrait of Isambard Kingdom Brunel now in the National Portrait Gallery, and designed the first Christmas card. Like ODE&CO, it also leans heavily towards Devonshire produce.
Back up some peaceful, winding Devon lanes, Teignmouth, with its Victorian Pier completed in 1867, lido, play park and much else, is an ideal family holiday destination. It combines all the attractions of a traditional seaside resort with a busy port (it used to be the departing point for locally quarried granite used in the construction of many well-known buildings in London and tankers still ply the local waters).
Accessing Devon and the South West from Belgium can be easily done via a cross channel ferry operated by DFDS, Northern Europe’s largest shipping and logistics company. Its busy Calais (or Dunkerque) to Dover routes provide an ideal link to the south of the UK from mainland Europe.
The relaxing crossings from either port run 7 days a week and, onboard, you’ll find bars, restaurants, shops and more, making the journey just as exciting as the destination. For a small fee, you can upgrade to the very comfortable lounge and/or take advantage of the priority boarding option, particularly useful during the exceptional busy summer months.
If you’re looking to take advantage of upcoming events, Teignmouth has plenty to offer,hosting Heritage Open Days (7-10 September); “1917 Teignmouth and Shaldon in WW1” (until the end of October) and the Taste of the Teign Food Festival (25 September-1 October), which celebrates produce which is caught, raised or harvested locally.
Look out too for the “Taste of the Teign Food and Drink trail”, a new self-guided trail that runs all year round and takes visitors on a journey of culinary discovery around the beautiful Teign Estuary in South Devon.
Next year marks the 50th anniversary of that doomed Donald Crowhurst sea quest and the new blue chip film charting this fascinating story really is set to put the town on the international map in the coming weeks. His story has long captured the imagination and much the same can be said for the town from which he launched his journey.
But, whatever the occasion for paying a visit, this lovely part of the UK most certainly ticks all the boxes. And, for their legions of fans in Belgium, there’s an additional attraction: Teignmouth is also the home of Muse!