Slapton village is situated about half a mile from the beach and separated from the sea by the freshwater Slapton Ley. Surrounded by reedbeds, marshes and woodland habitats, Slapton Ley is one of the country’s top wildlife spots and is a designated National Nature Reserve. An important staging post for wintering and passage birds including swallows there are several bird hides dotted around the Ley. The Field Studies Centre offer a wide range of educational and recreational courses including free activities for children during the summer holidays.
Before the opening of the coast road along the shingle bank, in the last century, Slapton was only accessible along the narrow and winding lanes from inland; consequently, it has almost always been a peaceful place. This peaceful existence was temporarily shattered however, in late 1943 when the are was evacuated to allow American troops to practice for the D-Day landings on the Normandy beaches. A total of 750 families and all livestock had to move out, and 30,000 American troops and 16 million tons of equipment moved in. The area was mined, bounded by barbed wire and patrolled by sentries.