In June I spent a few days walking the north Devon coastal path and on one of my walks I passed through Woody Bay. I became fascinated by the relics of an ill-fated ambition driven by a Colonel Benjamin Greene Lake – a London solicitor and entrepreneur. He had a dream. It was to develop the area around Martinhoe and Woody Bay to emulate Sir George Newnes grand designs in Lynton and Lynmouth. He wanted to develop an exclusive holiday resort and attract paddle steamers to dock so that people could disembark onto the beach and enjoy the attractions he had in store. Sadly, the Colonels great plans never reached fruition and in July 1900, he was forced into bankruptcy, with debts of over £170,000. Furthermore, so blinded by ambition had he become, that he used his clients savings to fund the developments and was sentenced to prison for 12 years where he died in 1907.
This account of Sir Colonel Lake’s drive to create this resort led me to think about where do you strike a balance of ‘yes, you can do it…..anything is achievable if you have the vision’ or as some people may think ‘oh no, that would never work – it’s doomed to fail’. For me, its about encouraging confidence to take a risk and not be put off by those around you who are not able to dream of new possibilities. However, it’s important to be prepared for the risks so that they can be managed. Colonel Benjamin became blinded by his own determination to see it through regardless of the cost to himself and others.
People unknowingly continue to enjoy the legacy that Benjamin left behind while they swim in the pool created on the beach, enjoy a ride on a steam train at Woody Bay Station or take lunch at Hunters Inn. If you ever find yourself out on the beautiful North Devon coast between Lynmouth and Combe Martin spare a thought for Benjamin and be inspired.