Goodrington’s Youngs Park is a natural habitat for swans, geese and wild birds and is perfect for family picnics with children of all ages plus the family dog. Enjoy the Boating Lake (where model boat enthusiasts are often launching their treasures), have a go at crazy golf and enjoy some delightful walks in the parkland and up into the terraced Rock Walk Gardens, which are lit up at dusk. There is outdoor fitness equipment behind the south promenade at Goodrington beach.
The area of Goodrington and Youngs Park was a world where a watery wilderness existed, a marshland of little use, or so it seems. A large lagoon, or lake, locally called May’s Pool occupied an area close to the sea. A myth was perpetuated about its depth. Parents warned their children of dire consequences if they fell in the ‘bottomless pool’.
In 1667, a man called Richard Thorne drowned in May’s Pool after falling from his horse, fuelling the myth further.
Hundreds of years later when Goodrington Park was being reclaimed, it was found that the ‘bottomless pool’ was all of two feet deep. Now it is the boating pool.
In the Park there is a long grave which bemuses curios visitors. ‘The Mayor’s Grave’ has a granite headstone with a simple inscription. Goodrington Park was consecrated ground – a significant fact which helps to dismiss the theory that this is a grave of a suicide victim. However, 300 French sailors are reputedly buried beneath the park. A convent of Roman Catholic nuns cared for French prisoners of war. The Major was supposed killed in action but because he was English and a Major, he had the privilege of a head-stone and a marked grave.
During the Napoleonic wars there was a hospital in Goodrington Park. It later became a private house, a catholic nunnery, and later a rather drab looking hotel. It is now a friendly family pub frequented by locals and visitors alike. However, casting an eye over the doorways and along the walls, will reveal its history as a hospital. Each area and room is still listed as a hospital ward.
In 1931, 80,000 tons of sandstone had to be moved in an attempt to prevent coastal erosion. The zigzag paths which weave across the headland looked raw and stark so Herbert Whitley kindly provided many subtropical plants, shrubs, and trees to heal the scars and create some lovely surroundings.
There was a proposal to call these grounds ‘The Alexander Gardens’ after the First Lord of Admiralty who had a tenuous connecting with Paignton. The area was abandoned, however, after a change of government in this area. By 1935 the park, on what some people called Paradise Head, was laid out in fine ornamental fashion – a site of ‘verdure, floral and aquatic splendour’.