In Conversation with Outside Devon
Located just minutes from Bantham on Devon’s south coast, Outside is a multi-use space that opened its doors in August 2022. A crowdfunded initiative supported by locals and skaters alike, Flatspot took a trip down to test out their skate bowl and learn more about the growing project that’s built on two acres of farmland and led by a goal of providing sports, education and opportunities to the growing local community.
Founded by long-time friends Paddy Wellens and Ben Howard, the site features an amazing skate bowl designed by Betong Park and built by the legendary Opus Skateparks, the same crew behind Rob Gurney’s Farm Bowl also located in Devon. One of the best spots in the country, the Outside bowl is joined also by an on-site ceramic studio, a surfboard shaping shed and cafe that’s proud to serve farm-to-table produce sourced both locally and from their own on-site polytunnels and veg patch.
Hosting farm tours, feast nights, weekly skate lessons, ceramic classes and film nights, the space aims to expand its already popular offering as we transition into the new year. Stay up to date with the latest events and workshops at Outside Devon here.
Flatspot: - Hi Paddy! If you wouldn’t mind introducing yourself, detailing your relationship with Devon and explaining what Outside Devon is?
Paddy: My name is Paddy Wellens, I grew up in Devon, in South Brent on the edge of Dartmoor. Growing up I was obsessed with football and then got into mountain biking and surfing when I was about 15. I went to school in Totnes, grew up here, passing this site everyday on the way to the beach from 15 up until we built this land.
I’ve known my business partner Ben since he was about 17, 18 and all of us surfing would come to the beach in the winter and hunker down - there was no cafe there or anything and we just dreamed of a place like this - a place to connect us all. We had done quite a few events where people had come from Brixham, Paignton, Torquay, Plymouth to surf at Bantham but there was never anywhere to hang out and connect. So the Outside idea was born from all of those years from 15 to being an adult with three little kids - wanting to create a better place for them to live but also a better place for all of us, of all ages.
To create a place that had all that energy that would be exciting for lots of different people to pass through - from the skate bowl to the farm, to the workshop spaces and a really nice place for good food, good coffee and a place where we can show surf films, skate films and a real nice place for our community to meet on the way to and back from the beach. We had lots of different names before it came to ‘Outside’. ‘Outside’ came about during the Covid pandemic when we were all accepting that being outside was a pretty cool thing, especially being blessed to live somewhere like Devon, so yeah let’s hang out outside.
Flatspot: How did the project come about and what inspired you to bring this place to life?
Paddy: I lived in Biarritz for a couple of years, came back ten years ago, lived in Totnes and realised we didn’t want to be in Totnes. We kept moving closer to the beach, reconnecting with this area where we grew up surfing. Bringing up our kids here was a real inspiration to create something exciting for us. Ben was up for it and it grew into a bigger beast than we first anticipated.
Flatspot: It’s exciting that Devon now has a space that facilitates creative freedom and makes these pursuits more accessible, as well as bringing a community together. Do you feel as though having a space like this in rural Devon is important?
Paddy: 100% yeah - we floated this idea out into the community for planning and we got 400 letters of support saying yes, yes, yes, so we knew it was important and we hoped people would buy into it and think that it was important.
There are kids who have grown up around here who have never been to the beach, their skatepark in Kingsbridge isn’t great so it’s important to have this space. I think rural communities get a little bit left behind - the benefits of the coast and Dartmoor are amazing, but also you lack other things so we’re trying to host graffiti workshops here as well, things that you’d be more exposed to in cities which doesn’t happen in rural Devon but can still happen here.
Flatspot: How have things been since you’ve opened and what’s been taking place here?
Paddy: It’s been good, yeah! It’s been a big learning curve but it’s been great and has been really well received. People have been navigating their holidays in Devon to come and skate the bowl. We’ve had people from Liverpool, Leeds and Brighton coming to skate the bowl, and then with everything else like with the pottery and the food, we’re getting a really good reputation for being a nice warm place to hang out. It’s going really well and I know we’re going to get better as we evolve.
It’s been genuinely really exciting but it’s also been quite overwhelming, we’re not coming from a background of restaurants, we’re just people from Devon winging it a little bit. We’ve got a really good team of people who really care as well, they've been there from the beginning and they’ve bought in that they're coming on this journey. With our chef for example, we sold it to him when it was just a muddy field and a skate bowl and he was like ‘I’m up for this’, so it’s been cool.
It’s not just us the creators, it's the people who started with us who have come in on this journey.
Flatspot: The bowl was built by Opus Skateparks who are renowned for making some of the best built skateparks in the UK. How was the formation of the bowl, from getting permission from the council to getting the designs together?
Paddy: We originally just wanted a small little kidney bowl and as we talked to the community we decided to keep that backyard pool vibe but extend it a little bit so that two people could skate at the same time.
Like you said you enjoy that little quarter but someone could be skating the bowl, without having a skatepark. We always wanted to have a bowl and give it a nice surfy feeling as it’s on the way to the beach. As it evolved it kind of changed a bit but in a good way - when we got our fourth drawings back from Daryl we were like ‘Yes’ that looks amazing.
Because we’re in the AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), we needed to find a balance between it looking good within the landscape but also being really good for skating. So we sent it to loads of mates who skate and they were like ‘It looks sick!’, trying to figure out how they would skate it from the drawing.
We met Ryan up at the Farm Bowl, and we instantly felt he was the man to build it. Rob from the Farm Bowl was pushing Ryan as the best, and Ryan was a bit embarrassed by that but we could tell he probably was from just looking at his work there. So, from the early days we knew he was gonna be the guy to build the bowl. Then they started a year ago based off the drawings and made it happen - they’re all skater led so made little tweaks and changes as they went through the construction process until we have what we have today!
Flatspot: When I last visited you emphasised the importance of continuing to host events as the rush of summer dies down. You’ve already started pottery workshops and are due to begin surfboard shaping classes and a group harvest meal. Do you plan on hosting more community events and workshops in the future?
Paddy: Yeah definitely. For all of us living here, the winter is the long, maybe boring part where not a lot happens. So for us, creating an interesting programme of events to get our community through the winter is really important.
Continuing our feasts and getting other chefs to come in to do meals, we’ve currently done two but it’s been our chef Joe who has run them. We’re hoping to host a ‘Looking Sideways’ live talk here with a couple of local people to run an exhibition - Alex Williams has got one of the biggest surfboard collections of boards from the 1900s up to now, so we’re gonna do some exhibitions, some music maybe, we’re gonna run a film with Mickey Smith - So yeah definitely, a host of different events throughout the year, keep bringing new stuff into the local area.
Flatspot: Let's talk about the cafe! Your kitchen uses ingredients from your allotment and other local producers and you use Yallah coffee, who are known for incorporating sustainable practices throughout the processing and transporting of their beans. Did your team feel as though it was important to integrate sustainability into Outside Devon?
Paddy: Definitely, it’s really important to us. I don’t want to be hypocritical because I know that we can do much more and we want to. It’s early days but we want to have solar and wind power. In time, we wanna make this place as sustainable and as good as it can be for the environment. All of the owners are surfers and care massively about the planet and its people. A lot of the food that we use in our cafe is grown by Robyn on our farm and where possible we want to extend that into the future!
Flatspot: How do you see the future of the space? Do you have plans to develop the space or work with all of the great facilities that you already have?
Paddy: We do! We have all these early drawings of the site and we wanted it to be a really wild, flowing space, with bits of sculpture and art, maybe some bits of skateable art in amongst it, which looks beautiful but can also be skated.
We want to create some more workshop spaces, potentially a place to finish our surfboards and maybe a little jewellery workshop and, over time, a few other little workshops across the site. Maybe a small space for retail for skate and surf stuff. And just little add ons, the main part of them are down - we want to grow the farm and link all the areas on the site together so that it feels more connected. So that you people turn up and feel like they can walk down to the farm and have a walk around and make it feel as welcoming and open as possible.
We want lots of flowers, trees and colours in the land and we’re currently working with a good ecologist who’s advising what we put in the land. So yeah, lots of little finishing touches over the winter and adding to our programme with the workshop - lots of exciting things to come!
Flatspot: To conclude things, can you tell us your favourite spot in Devon and why you enjoy living here?
Paddy: Favourite spot in Devon… without giving anything away. I love Dartmoor, I grew up on Dartmoor so all of my early years were spent going up to Avon Dam and Shipley Bridge, so I’ve got the fondest memories of going up to the Dam and swimming in the river, so that’s one of my favourite places in Devon.
There’s a place called Jack in the Box, an amazing little drop off with deep reddy water, you jump in and it’s like jumping into the nectar. Then any of the coast between Sawmill Cove and Mothercombe, that part of the coast. I love living in Devon, it’s a great place to bring up the kids, good surf, occasionally good surf! From my experience, everyone who grows up in Devon moves away from Devon and then comes back to Devon! Most of us have come back!
Follow Outside Devon on Instagram here.