Royal Terrance Gardens are a key site on the English Riviera Global Geopark. Known locally as Rock Walk, they are situated beneath the towering cliff of Waldon Hill, which overlooks the sea front, and is one of the Wonders of Torquay. Rock Walk is a network of paths with Mediterranean planting throughout. Also from here, you are greeted to magnificent views of the Princess Gardens, the Harbour and as far away as Berry Head.
At one time the sea lapped right against the base of Waldon Hill. At the Abbey Sands end of Rock Walk is a grey stone building, which was built in 1840 and served as a tollhouse until 1862. Following this, it was the Head Gardeners’ home and became known as Gardener’s Cottage. However one long serving gardener, called Dyer, lived there for such a long time that it became known by all the locals as Dyer’s Cottage. Today the building can still be seen, but due to previous instability of the rock face above it, has not been used for a number of years.
The gardens were even formerly known as the Fisherman’s Walk but that was long before the arrival of exotic flora and soft lights. It later was renamed “Royal Terrace Gardens”.
Historical proof that the sea has been held back to create new land is evidenced in the sad plight of the Boston based vessel, the “Wallace”, which went aground in Torquay on 2 January 1873. The site where the ship was wrecked was right beside the Torbay Hotel. A fire on board lasted two days and rendered the ship a total loss. A tall Venetian Mast stood for many years opposite the Torbay Hotel.
In 1873 an eighty-year old Torquay man named Mr Cranmer March-Phillips dived gallantly into a tempestuous sea to rescue a drowning eight year old girl called Ellen Couch. There is a tribute to the great bravery of Mr Cranmer also by Torbay Hotel.
In 2007 a three year project to improve Royal Terrace Gardens started. They are built into the side of the sea cliff, with reclaimed land at its base. Much of the steep slopes of the gardens were covered in vegetation, but the distinctive pink bedrock remained in places. Most of the tree sand vegetation was taken away and clear paths were cut into the cliff face. The grand opening was on 3 October 2010 during the Royal Terrace Gardens festival. It was a £3 million project and involved Ginkgo design team, Dawnus contractors and artist Juliet Haysom was commissioned to produce rock sculptures. The rock sculptures were made with two materials: white Carrara Marble, sourced from North- West Italy, and pink/grey Devon limestone from Stoneycombe, Devon.