The unveiling of a sundial marked the official opening of the picturesque 52-acre Ridgetop Park which is designed to help protect internationally important wildlife sites at Dawlish Warren, the Exe Estuary and the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths National Nature Reserve by providing alternative outdoor places to visit.
Representatives of the organisations who have supported the Teignbridge District Council led creation of Ridgetop - Devon County Council, the South East Devon Habitat Regulations Partnership and The Land Trust - unveiled the sundial, watched by residents from surrounding housing developments.
Residents and guests were able to enjoy cream teas and other refreshments as well as join Ranger led tours of Ridgetop, take part in other fun activities and view the on-site heritage interpretation displays, designed to encourage people of all ages to interact and learn about their natural habitats and the park’s landscape features.
Since Ridgetop, located between Alphington and Exminster, opened for local people last year, access has largely been by bicycle or on foot as there was only one small carpark.
A second car park has recently opened at Stapleton Way, making it easier for people from further afield to enjoy the wonderful views, exercise their dogs and explore the acres of open space as well as the wetlands which are home to Kingfishers, harvest mice and toads.
A new pedestrian and cycle bridge, road improvements and a new community building are also being provided locally, led by Devon County Council, thanks to their successful funding bid securing the support of Homes England.
Ridgetop will expand further in the coming years with additional car parking, although visitors are encouraged to continue to cycle or walk to Ridgetop if they can. Ridgetop is just three kilometres from the new Marsh Barton rail station, via the Riverside Valley Park.
As with Dawlish Countryside Park, the long-term maintenance of Ridgetop will be the responsibility of the land charity, the Land Trust with the goal of securing short and long-term benefits for local communities and their environment through high quality green space sites.
Cllr Emma Morse, Exeter City Council’s Lead Councillor for City Development and Chair of South East Devon Habitat Regulations Executive Committee, said: “We are really pleased to see residents, visitors and their dogs enjoy this important green space.
“Ridgetop provides a perfect place to enjoy a quiet stroll or to walk your dog whilst enjoying the incredible views. Dog walkers can join Devon Loves Dogs’ free ‘Waggy Walks’ there and receive lots of useful information.
“The new Park gives people more room to roam which will make a big difference to highly protected habitats and species at important wildlife sites nearby. As our population continues to grow, our work to protect wildlife at the same time ensuring the health and wellbeing of local people by providing new open, green spaces for them to enjoy.”
Teignbridge Council Leader Cllr Martin Wrigley said: “Ridgetop is a fantastic place for people to relax, exercise, enjoy the fresh air and the outstanding views. I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in delivering this wonderful park which is a great example of organisations working together for the benefit of local communities”.
Devon County Council Chairman Cllr Percy Prowse said: “It's an honour to be part of this official opening at Ridgetop Park. This new green space, which has been converted from agricultural land, is home to a variety of wildlife thanks to new habitats which have been established here. The park is already proving popular with local people since it opened to the public last year, and it’s easy to see why when you look at the spectacular views and explore the heritage of the local area.”
Hannah Bosence, Countryside Officer of the Land Trust said:” We are delighted to see Ridgetop open to the wider public and become more accessible. The rangers from Teignbridge District Council have sensitively created this expansive site to have links to local history and heritage and it’s now home to some exciting wildlife too. It’s a good walk to the top, but the views are worth it! “