Remembering Torquay’s Coastal Community Champion, Graham Stephenson

Graham Stephenson at the entrance to Beacon Cove

Graham Stephenson (1939-2023) was an inspirational Community Champion. He cared for the Torwood Coastal Path in Torquay: walking it daily, clearing rubbish and noting any areas of neglect. Graham campaigned tirelessly to improve this section of the South West Coastal path. He fundraised and brought people together to get things fixed, tidied and replanted, so we all can enjoy this area of natural beauty.

The Torwood Coastal Path and its Coves are a historic tourist attraction. The amazing sea views and beautiful bays have been enjoyed by generations. Unfortunately, in recent years, it’s been neglected, overgrown and experienced a lot of anti-social behaviour. Graham organised the raising of thousands of pounds from residents & local businesses to address these issues; rebuilding walls and fencing, planting flowerbeds, installing gates and new signage to improve the area. He also encouraged residents with a common passion to come together monthly and form the “Torquay Coastal Volunteers (TCV)”. Thanks to his dedication Beacon Cove is now back on the “Agatha Christie Mile”.

Graham has shown initiative and determination. When he first started clearing rubbish along the Coastal path in March 2020, he realised the broken walls, steps, broken benches, graffiti and overgrown plants were too big a job for one 80-year-old man. Therefore, he has written 100s of emails to people and organisations to get the help and funds needed.  In 2021 Graham, along with local resident Stewart Fletcher, set up the Torquay Coastal Volunteers (TCV). Enabling people from a variety of backgrounds to come together not only to care for and improve the natural environment but also to socialise, connect with others, make friends, learn new skills and feel a sense of achievement. The TCV have received the “It’s Your Neighbourhood” award from South West in Bloom for 2 years running, developing tremendous pride and a sense of camaraderie.

Graham’s passion for improving our local assets is an inspiration to us all. He was an invaluable asset to our community, and he will be greatly missed by fellow residents and our council team.

Tor Bay Harbour Team says: “We worked a lot with Graham and his intentions were always well founded. He had great persistence which is sometimes necessary when trying to get things done that crossed a number of different people’s responsibilities.” “Graham was a force to be reckoned with, his work and unfaltering drive for improvement has made a significant impact on the area.”

Our Local Councillors and fellow volunteers added; “Graham absolutely had his heart in the right place & more than happy to roll his sleeves up & get stuck in”. “Happy memories of him on the coast path & Peaked Tor Cove leading the troops.”

In dedication to Graham Stephenson and all the years of hard work he put into various community projects, including the clearing and regeneration of the Torwood Coastal path, Beacon Cove and Peaked Tor Cove, we are hoping to raise £1,000 to purchase a “Friendly” Memorial Bench to be placed at Beacon Cove, Torquay. “Friendly Benches” are an inspiring new movement sweeping across the UK, which aims to help tackle loneliness and social isolation in local communities, and this will be the first in Torquay. We hope this bench will be a place where people can come, sit and chat, make new friends, connect with nature and enjoy this beautiful cove that Graham loved.

We invite people to join us to continue Graham’s amazing work. Help with what with what you can; planting, litter picking, sweeping the path, clearing dead leaves and socialising. Tools are provided by SwisCO, but please wear suitable clothing & if possible bring gloves.  The TCV meets the 1st Thursday of every month (weather permitting) at 10am until 12.30pm, at the Imperial Hotel.

To volunteer or to donate towards our Friendly Memorial bench, please contact Ceri Silk – Community Builder on 07931567885 or email: [email protected] for more details.