|The Ness and Shaldon, from Teignmouth Pier|
The tunnel is a short walk from the ferry landing, just a little uphill from the Ness House Hotel at the end of a short driveway behind the public car park. There's an old limekiln by the entrance.
It's not a scary tunnel; it's solidly-bricked and well-lit, wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side; it takes only a couple of minutes to reach the beach.
There's a first straight section (with a ventilation shaft on its right) descending gently, then a junction and bend of about 30° right followed by a similar slowly-descending section, then a bend of 30° left leading to a flight of steps, then finally a sharp bend left to the beach exit.
|Looking back along main entrance section|
|Looking up the air shaft|
|And out at Ness Cove|
And so to the puzzles. Firstly, what's the tunnel's origin? Various official websites call it "an original smuggler's tunnel" (see Torquay.com, Teignbridge District Council, and Shaldon Devon). But this reeks of the regional obsession with linking to alleged smugglers any small, obscure, picturesque or unusual way of reaching a beach. One more likely theory is that its purpose was carting limestone that had been shipped to Ness Cove:
... the so-called Smugglers' Tunnel ... A ruined limekiln at the entrance suggests the reason it was cut.Another is that its purpose was private beach access for Lord Clifford, whose marine villa was the house now occupied by the Ness House Hotel (see British Listed Buildings ID 461032). This is the purpose cited in a number of 19th century regional guides, of which this is the earliest I can find:
- Smuggling in Devon and Cornwall: 1700-1850, Mary Waugh, Countryside Books, 1991
The Ness now forms a pleasant little lawn to the marine cottage of Lord Clifford, situated just under it. His lordship has cut a tunnel 210 feet long through the base of the cliff, large enough for a carriage drive, communicating with the beach outside.The courses of the various incarnations of this tunnel would make for a bit of interesting historical detection. As described in Mary Waugh's Smuggling in Devon and Cornwall: 1700-1850, the present tunnel is clearly diverted - there must be a further tunnel segment behind that green wall at the junction. Then there's the larger, but blocked, second tunnel entrance at the beach end, to the left of the current public one: presumably this was the original, "large enough for a carriage drive".
- page 195, The route book of Devon, 1846
|A peek through the barred entrance|
Addendum: Clare and I revisited on August 2nd, and I spotted an information board I somehow missed on the first visit. The Ness at Shaldon had considerable development as a WW2 defensive position, with various buildings and bunkers. I suspect that explains the pipe, and there is an outhouse in the pub garden backing on to the slope below it. See the sign (click to enlarge):
See also Teignmouth and Shaldon: revisit.