'Forgotten' South West seaside town cherished as a hidden gem

-Credit: (Image: Mary Stenson/DevonLive)
-Credit: (Image: Mary Stenson/DevonLive)

If it's a sunny day and the lure of the beach is irresistible, the Jurassic Coast boasts an abundance of options. Yet there remains one seaside locality often overlooked by sunseekers to the quiet satisfaction of its inhabitants.

Tucked away in East Devon lies Seaton, nestled between the well-trodden pathways leading tourists to Sidmouth and Lyme Regis. Not far off, the charming fishing village of Beer captivates many with its idyllic coastal charm and quaint offerings, overshadowing the less conspicuous Seaton.

"People bypass us because they don't know that we're even here," shared Victoria Moorey, an employee at Coastal Craft Collective, positioned a stone's throw from the seafront. "Sidmouth's on the map, Lyme's on the map and nobody knows about little Seaton in the middle. It is a hidden gem. We're all independent businesses, we've got so much that goes on."

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The local narrative suggests more pride than grievance: "We get accused of being a tiny town but that's the thing, we are a small town with a huge beach, a great community and a big heart."

As amid one of the years warmest spells, Seaton burst into vibrant life when DevonLive paid a visit. The town's expansive pebble beach welcomed a diverse crowdsunbathers, swimmers, paddleboarders, and walkers alikeas they reveled under the generous sun, as reports Devon Live.

Victoria suggested that Seaton's relative obscurity as a seaside destination has played to its advantage, preserving the community's character and keeping the local economy stable throughout the year. She acknowledged the town's need for investment but highlighted the benefits of having a resident-driven economy less affected by seasonal homeowners.

"It's a working town with visitors. It's nice and quiet but gets busier in the summer. We're not a town that closes down. We stay open all year round. We're not subject to loads of second homeowners like a lot of Devon towns are so it stays the same all year round."

In recent times, Seaton's Esplanade had shown signs of neglect, particularly with the once popular Hook and Parrott pub falling into disrepair and the postponed makeover of the unattractive Fosseway Court apartment complex causing concern.

Fosseway Court on Seaton seafront is being redeveloped to include an additional block of flats -Credit:Mary Stenson/DevonLive
Fosseway Court on Seaton seafront is being redeveloped to include an additional block of flats -Credit:Mary Stenson/DevonLive

However, the town is now witnessing significant improvements along its valued seafront. The refurbishment of Fosseaay Court is moving forward, alongside the construction of a new flat block to be situated between two existing structures.

Moreover, plans are set to bring down the derelict pub, with proposals for modern apartments and a restaurant to take its placea move welcomed by local residents.

Reflecting on these developments, Victoria shared her optimism: "It will improve it because it was a very old 70s eyesore. Walking past, the blocks were a little bit tired. That's a huge amount of investment coming in and then we're just waiting for the pub next door to be developed. That will make a massive difference."

In the quaint town of Seaton, there's a charm that extends beyond its picturesque beachfront. During our visit, local traders were keen to share their affection for their hometown.

Lindsey Macdougall, an employee at the Paperchain gift shop, enthused: "It's a very friendly town, everybody knows everybody. It takes a while to come to work in the morning when you have a little gossip here and there."

"We're a bit like Marmite; you either love us or you hate us. There's not the big shops, it's a very quiet town but it's a very sociable town."

Having called Seaton home since 1991, Lindsey has witnessed considerable changes over the past 33 years. The town still boasts a variety of independent businesses, although she notes a shift in trade towards larger chains, such as the Tesco Superstore.

Lindsey remarked: "With bigger shops coming in, the trade has gone towards one side so it's had a little bit of an impact because there used to be all the banks, dry cleaners, fruit and veg shops, butchers. But there are a lot of shops opening up."

Taste of Devon Butchers in Seaton -Credit:Mary Stenson/DevonLive
Taste of Devon Butchers in Seaton -Credit:Mary Stenson/DevonLive

Not far from there, Matt Bowker at Taste of Devon Butchers represents the stalwart traditional businesses. He observes that while they receive strong support from locals and visitors alike, some establishments have found it tough amidst the cost of living crisis.

He remarked: "It's a lovely place to live, people are friendly, there's a good community spirit. We get a nice local trade throughout the whole year and then when the tourists and holidaymakers come down, it does pick up for us. It's amazing footfall, especially when the sun's shining."

"There are a few shops around that are vacant at the moment and they keep swapping and changing but generally we're keeping things open. It is hard times."

Despite the challenging economic climate, Seaton has seen the arrival of several new ventures recently. Lyka Rowlands, who opened Yummy! , an oriental food store, expressed her astonishment at the warm reception: "I was surprised because it's an oriental store and you don't really find them in small towns so opening here, we've had people welcome us. Even if they don't buy anything, they just say things like 'we're so happy you opened here'. It's so sweet. It's a close-knit community."

Lyka Rowlands, owner of Yummy! oriental food store in Seaton -Credit:Mary Stenson/DevonLive
Lyka Rowlands, owner of Yummy! oriental food store in Seaton -Credit:Mary Stenson/DevonLive

She also believes that Seaton deserves more recognition and suggests: "We need to encourage more people to come here, advertising Seaton. We need to push more on that. The street needs flowers and things like that to make it more vibrant."

Another newcomer is Cortona Gelato Lab, which offers artisan gelato crafted with milk from Axminster. True to form for an ice cream shop, their business has surged as temperatures have risen in recent days.

"It's probably the smiliest place I've ever worked," beams Megan Voysey, a shop worker. "Now the weather's turned and it's a lot nicer, people do want a bit of gelato."

She considers proximity to the sea as a "luxury" but expresses a desire for more attractions for the youth, citing the trendy new seafront bar and cafe Tide as a welcome addition. Seaton, like many towns in East Devon, is known for its older demographic, particularly with a significant number of residents over 70.

Yet, Megan appreciates the quieter aspects of the town. She remarked: "It's lovely being so close to the sea. It's such a luxury, I can be there in seconds."

Seaton beach -Credit:Mary Stenson/DevonLive
Seaton beach -Credit:Mary Stenson/DevonLive

"There could be more going on for young people. It's good now we've got Tide and a few other businesses on the front but there's not many places to go in the evenings."

"We don't get as many people [as Lyme Regis and Sidmouth] which is nice in some ways. It's a really good community of people who are here all year round, whereas when you go to Lyme, it's a lot of people who have bought second homes."

In Seaton, a seaside experience wouldn't be complete without the ubiquitous fish and chip shop within easy reach. Frydays stands out as a favoured spot for visitors, conveniently located a mere stone's throw from the beach.

Manager George Anghel shares his enthusiasm: "When you drive to the town, it's like you are entering the sea. It's a beautiful view. I like being on the coast because I like to walk, I like to cycle."

George, a local resident, expressed his views on the matter, stating: "In my opinion, in Sidmouth, Lyme Regis, Exmouth, there's more people than here because they have more facilities there. More hotels, more restaurants, more everything. This is a quieter town but the beach is amazing."