As Rock Walk (Royal PT Gardens) re-opens

SWANK - one of the many street acts at the Rock Walk opening

As part of the opening of Royal Parade Gardens (aka Rock Walk) Dartington worked with composer in association (and one time GeoQuester) Hugh Nankivell to launch a GeoQuest community choir singing three of the songs from GeoQuest. Despite the rain they manfully stuck to their task and here they are in full flow – with extracts from rehearsal and performance.


One of the things the Geo Questors have taught me to do is to look at things differently. As the crab man puts it succinctly to look sideways instead of straight ahead.

It wasn’t so long ago I’d have had a stereotypical view of Torquay (the kind of view I hear quite regularly from disgruntled taxi drivers) but that was before I started working in, exploring and tentatively looking sideways at Torquay.

Heres are the three geo questers all looking sideways – each one of them creating a new and alternative narrative to what they saw before them:-


Ive always been a sucker for the faded grandeur of seaside towns (Clacton, Frinton and Walton on the Naze are all within short train journies of where I live) so already within Torquay theres plenty for me to like.

And yes its not clean cut, its not pristine. But the rough edges only seem to enhance the charm – take for instance the former hotel now boarded up and once used in Michael Winner’s film The Girl Getters/The System (where swanky young Torquay men (like Oliver Reed!) would board the train at Tor Point to chat up the visiting lasses starting their holiday)

In the Geo Park Torquay has something unique –

as the rock song so neatly points out – within the geology of Torbay you can find the three major rock types of the world – (igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic). Theres an amazing set of caves in Kents Cavern, an imaginative approach to culture (Damien Hirst in Torquay) and ok may be English Riveria may be pushing it (though the Great Western Railway refered to Torquay in their 1924 book Through the Window as ‘the beautiful subtropical resort’ – but take a moment to scratch below the surface and you find a narrative far more cryptic than any Agatha Christie novel. Behind every vista there is a story – the river that bubbles and flows below Fleet Walk, the oil tankers out in the bay waiting forlonely for the price to rise or the image that reminds you of a personal narrative.

There’s beauty too – as you glance across the bay, gaze across the harbour from the newly opened Rock Walk – or – as we did here stretch our legs further afield to follow the coast path from Teignmouth to Torbay.


Sometimes accuracy isn’t everything – a little knowledge and a healthy dollop of imagination can take you a long way. I’ve always liked to make up the spiels of imaginary tour guides – mixing fact with fiction in a personal quest to baffle, fool and ultimately make someone (anyone!) laugh

Crab Man (aka Phil Smith) as well as being a GeoQuestor is also one fourth of Writes and Sites – authors of the mis guide series. I’ve sent my cheque for the any city version – my aim – to try it out in Wivenhoe. As Metro Boulot Dodo would say – watch this space!

As I write this on the sleeper train from Totnes to London I’m travelling along a stretch of line Dartington (together with Sound UK and Beaford Arts) are about to ask an artist to interpret sonically. I find myself wondering which narratives of this extraordinary landscape (now shrouded in darkness) they’ll choose to explore and in the music they create how much fact they’ll mix with fiction. A musical mis guide would be a true sonic journey!


One thought on “As Rock Walk (Royal PT Gardens) re-opens

  1. What a great blog article. Very varied and thoughful! One small correction though, I think you mean Royal ‘Terrace’ Garden in Torquay. Wish I could have been there for the grand opening.

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