The Making of Wembury

Wembury occupies the western end of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Extending over 9 sq miles (15 sq km) the parish has in the past been seen as a peninsula, surrounded on the west and south by the sea, and on the east by the Yealm Estuary. Three short streams contribute to its attractive varied topography, and the land rises steeply from the sea to a little over 400ft (122m). As the area’s inclusion in the AONB implies, agriculture and rural society are important today, and were easily the dominant force moulding Wembury’s history from pre-Conquest times until the second half of the 19th century.

Since then, however, other influences have come to play an important role in the making of Wembury. Above all, today’s landscape and community reflect the impact of three new trends: the imperatives of national defence, Plymouth’s suburbanisation, and the rise of environmental protection. Also, and intriguingly, Wembury could have had an entirely different 20th century history that was narrowly avoided. Fully appreciating the area and its scenic attributes today means we must also grasp what might have been.

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