Salcombe on the lush Devon coast is known as ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’. It’s easy to understand why.
Nearly 60 per cent of all properties here, including fabulous multi-million-pound waterfront addresses, belong to wealthy ‘out-of-towners’, many from London.
Those who want to stay in the resort but don’t have second homes are prepared to pay handsomely for holiday lets (a family of four won’t get much change out of £2,000 for a week-long break in this corner of the world.)
So ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’ is beyond the reach of many people.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Fore Street, the winding main artery through the resort, which is lined with chic boutiques and brasseries and a multitude of other upmarket outlets catering for well-off, discerning holidaymakers; among them the Estuary Club, a private members’ establishment which serves champagne from silver buckets in the bar upstairs.
Salcombe is one of Britain’s most expensive coastal boltholes. The average sale price of a detached house was almost £800,000 over the past year
The owner of the Estuary Club is August Templar, a colourful local businessman and friend of actor Neil Morrissey, of Men Behaving Badly fame.
Mr Templar, 49, was attacked outside his club the other night — something that would have been almost unthinkable not so long ago —when he confronted three young men who had left a trail of smashed bottles in the street; an all-too-familiar occurrence.
He was knocked to the ground when he intervened and was then ‘held down by a hand on my head and a knee on my lower back and hit repeatedly’, he says.
‘I screamed for help and another landlord, who had also been collecting glass bottles from the road, saw what happened and pulled the idiot off me.’
Such incidents would have gone all but unnoticed in many parts of increasingly lawless Britain. But not in genteel, idyllic Salcombe.
This is a description that seems oddly incongruous in the light of recent developments.
The assault outside the Estuary Club, which left Mr Templar bruised and bloodied, epitomises the town’s transformation into what locals describe as a war zone.
It is teeming with bored, middle-class ‘posh kids’ who would normally be abroad at this time of year, perhaps in Ibiza, Kavos or Spain.
These privileged youngsters, keen to let off steam after months holed up in isolation, are being blamed for causing havoc in Salcombe, which has become a ‘staycation’ hotspot during the pandemic.
Tourists flock to the seaside town of Salcombe in Devon on August 6
The town has a population of just 2,000 in the winter, a statistic that has surged to an estimated 25,000, a larger than normal rise even for the height of the tourist season.
And this weekend, with temperatures set to soar, locals feel the situation is going to get even worse.
This most desirable Devon enclave, it is feared, is now in danger of being overwhelmed.
Fights have broken out among drunken youngsters, cars have been vandalised, and shopkeepers abused. Social distancing doesn’t exist. Roads are gridlocked.
Local MP Anthony Mangnall tweeted recently: ‘The scenes in Salcombe are a disgrace and a huge slap in the face to local residents.’
His condemnation of what is happening on his doorstep follow comments by mayor Nikki Turton who pleaded with visitors to show ‘a bit of respect’ by keeping one metre (three feet) apart and wearing face coverings in shops and enclosed spaces to avoid a resurgence of Covid. Her appeal has gone unheeded.
So has a giant council banner in Fore Street which warns in red capital letters: ‘BE AWARE, TAKE CARE — HELP US KEEP SALCOMBE SAFE.’
According to the Economic Policy Centre’s UK crime statistics website, anti-social behaviour (ASB) has almost trebled in Salcombe during lockdown
I spotted only one customer wearing a mask during my stay in Salcombe this week, where crowds of visitors packed into narrow shopping lanes in and around Fore Street. ‘It’s like August Bank Holiday weekend every day.
Everybody is exhausted and overwhelmed,’ says the mayor.
Salcombe has attracted reality TV stars from Made In Chelsea, the hit show portraying the glamorous lives of rich young Sloanes.
One of the original cast, Francesca ‘Cheska’ Hull now helps her mother run a boutique in Salcombe.
Interviewed on ITV’s Good Morning Britain yesterday, she said the attitude of many visitors was: ‘I don’t want to wear my mask. I’m on holiday. That’s why I’m down here.’
Yet the dangers posed by the near mass flouting of the rules (fortunately, the South Hams district which covers Salcombe has the lowest infection rate in England) has been overshadowed by the threat of yobbish behaviour.
According to the Economic Policy Centre’s UK crime statistics website, anti-social behaviour (ASB) has almost trebled in Salcombe during lockdown.
Between April and June last year police recorded just 18 ASB incidents in the town compared with 48 over the same period this year.
Many famous faces have also been spotted on holiday in the town including Sir Michael Parkinson, Kate Bush and England’s former World Cup-winning rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward
Anti-social behaviour has also risen dramatically since the start of the holiday season, from just three reports in March 2020 to 12 in April, 15 in May and 21 in June.
It is not known who was responsible for the attack on Mr Templar but one consequence of the disorder is that most, if not all, of the pubs in the town have refused to serve anyone under 21 to keep unruly teenagers out of their premises.
When the policy was enforced at the Victoria Inn, just yards from the quayside, a few days ago, youths smashed a window and hurled a stream of four-letter abuse at the female manager. ‘I’ve never seen this happening in Salcombe before,’ she says.
‘These kids are out of control.’
The ugly scenes were repeated at the local Co-op, which has also increased the age for alcohol sales to 25, prompting a gang of youths attempting to buy armfuls of wine, beer and vodka from the shelves (‘anything they could get their hands on’) to smash one of the bottles on the floor in anger when staff refused to let them purchase the supplies and asked them to leave.
‘Some people are spoiling it for everyone else,’ says town councillor Caroline Bricknell.
‘We were in our boat the other day and there were about 15 people in another boat and they were throwing bottles in the water and playing loud music. It seems to be more problematic this year because they can’t go abroad.’
The irony is that Salcombe, like many other places, depends on the annual influx to survive
Locals have taken to social media to condemn such anti-social behaviour — a dangerous ‘free- for-all’, to quote one resident, who declared: ‘Our beautiful town has hordes of teenagers and others roaming around, drinking, smashing bottles, swearing and shouting at people. We’re scared to walk through our own town.’
Another tweeted the police, asking: ‘Do you have any idea what hell Salcombe is this year with packs of roaming drunken yobs causing mayhem and violence in our town?’
More police, we understand, will be patrolling in the coming weeks in the wake of the complaints and street marshals will be introduced to help keep people safe.
Such a move is unprecedented in these parts.
More police, we understand, will be patrolling in the coming weeks in the wake of the complaints and street marshals will be introduced to help keep people safe
It is one of Britain’s most expensive coastal boltholes. The average sale price of a detached house was almost £800,000 over the past year.
Many ‘millionaire-row’ residences are on sale in the window of Luscombe Maye estate agents directly opposite another shop window advertising a 53 ft motor yacht on sale for nearly £1 million.
Billionaire peer Anthony Bamford, chairman of machinery manufacturer JCB, and his wife were soaking up the South Devon sunshine on board their own superyacht anchored in the harbour last week.
Many famous faces have also been spotted on holiday in the town including Sir Michael Parkinson, Kate Bush and England’s former World Cup-winning rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward.
Among the notable second-home owners is BT chief executive Philip Jansen.
It is also a fact that some of these kids are holidaying in Salcombe without their parents
At the swish Harbour Hotel (cost of room with sea view between £400 and £500 per night) — just down the road from where August Templar was assaulted — the car park was crammed with Bentleys, Mercedes, and Porsches.
It is clear that many of the young people who have arrived are indeed so-called ‘posh kids’ (who else could afford to stay here?).
Yes, local youngsters have also come from neighbouring towns and villages.
But the majority are from further afield, easily recognisable in their trademark ‘preppy’ uniforms of rugby shirts and smart chino shorts.
Clothing brand Jack Wills was founded in Salcombe 20 years ago (with the original branch operating from the same premises in Fore Street).
It is also a fact that some of these kids are holidaying in Salcombe without their parents.
Ugly scenes were repeated at the local Co-op, which has also increased the age for alcohol sales to 25, prompting a gang of youths attempting to buy armfuls of wine, beer and vodka from the shelves to smash one of the bottles on the floor in anger when staff refused to let them purchase the supplies and asked them to leave
It would be unfair to tarnish all of them with the same brush but there have been too many stories of bad behaviour to ignore; behaviour more in keeping with the Chelsea terraces of Stamford Bridge, not the Devonshire coast.
On Wednesday night, a group of about a dozen teenagers gathered on the quayside. They had brought party packs of Carlsberg lager and a boombox blaring out music.
One of the group, public schoolboy Harry, 17, sporting pink shorts, a zip-up jacket and floppy hair, said he was here with a group of friends from Staffordshire.
‘It’s Staff on tour,’ he said as he whipped the top of his drink. ‘I’m here with some mates and we just want to have a good time.
‘We don’t want any trouble. It’s not us that has been fighting. It’s a younger crowd.
‘They’re kids in Year 11 who have just finished GCSEs and want to celebrate. But they’re not used to drinking alcohol so they get drunk quickly and they start to get rowdy and then they fight. They don’t understand how to control it, but we do.
‘I’m staying in a rented flat my parents took [his father runs a construction business] for £1,700 a week. They will come down later in the week but for now I’m on my own and loving it.’
It would be unfair to tarnish all of them with the same brush but there have been too many stories of bad behaviour to ignore; behaviour more in keeping with the Chelsea terraces of Stamford Bridge, not the Devonshire coast
His friend Charles, 18, whose father ‘is in electronics’, says he would rather be partying in Monaco or Kavos but is making do with Salcombe.
‘Kavos would be much more fun but even if I could get there my parents wouldn’t allow me to go at the moment,’ he says. ‘They’ve just bought a second home here, so this will have to do.’
He also says a younger crowd are responsible for the trouble. ‘I’ve seen quite a few fights,’ he adds. ‘They’re behaving like they’ve gone crazy.’
In any other year, 18-year-olds Louis, Maddie and Georgie would be spending most of August in the South of France, the Algarve or Puerto Banus in Spain.
But the trio, who have just finished their A-levels at Stowe, the £38,000-a-year public school in Buckinghamshire, have had to settle for Salcombe where they have been given the keys to a second home owned by one of their friends’ parents.
A signs calls for social distancing at the seaside town of Salcombe which has been overrun with tourists
They said they have ‘struggled’ to get served in pubs but have not resorted to drinking on the street. Georgie says: ‘My mother has been following reports of the boozing and bad behaviour here and phones me to tell me to be careful but there is no way I’m getting involved in mass gatherings.
‘We’re here for a quiet holiday and a bit of sunshine after our A-levels.’
But some of their contemporaries are clearly not. ‘They’re just drinking all the time,’ says resident Rachel Gloyns, 45.
‘I saw three lads walking up the road each carrying a bottle of wine at half past two in the afternoon. They are smashing bottles and weeing on the streets.’
The irony is that Salcombe, like many other places, depends on the annual influx to survive.
Small wonder that Chelsea-on-Sea is in danger of acquiring a new nickname: Chaos-on-Sea
‘Many young people are from families who have had second homes here for years,’ says Judy Pearce, South Hams district councillor for the town.
‘They are welcome, well-liked and mostly well behaved and work in cafes and shops during the season.
‘But this year there is a certain element that is not the usual holiday crowd. They’re here because they can’t go abroad.
‘Residents suspect their parents don’t really care what they get up to, which is partly a reaction to the lockdown being loosened.’
Which has brought another headache.
‘Maybe it’s because they are young and excitable but they have no understanding of social distancing,’ says David Moxham, who owns the Fortescue Inn and has now banned groups of more than seven. ‘They were totally unmanageable.’
Small wonder that Chelsea-on-Sea is in danger of acquiring a new nickname: Chaos-on-Sea.
- Additional reporting: Nic North