MELISSA THOM, founder and CEO of Bristol Academy of Voice Acting, embraces a favourite spot both personally and professionally – Hope Cove.

My favourite stretch of coastline in the UK is south Devon, where I grew up. I prefer it in winter, when there are sunny days, blue skies and a cold bite in the air. Walking the path from Hope Cove to Bantham is an act of memory and nostalgia – it brings that sense of peace you can only have when you are in the place of your childhood – everything is familiar.

I have many happy memories of spending days on the beaches at Bantham and Blackpool Sands. My mother is Mauritian and the best cook in the world, so we would always take a Mauritian picnic with us, which Mauritians take VERY seriously. We’d have lots of accoutrements, which included chairs, blankets, lots of Tupperware and bright reusable plastic beach bags, filled to the brim with potato salad, curry, samosas, rice and mangoes.

These days, once you get on the coastal path, not much has changed. We don’t picnic there anymore, but I am grateful for the coffee truck on Bantham Beach, where we can grab something warm after a day’s surfing, running down the dunes or crabbing along the estuary, with a slab of cheap back bacon from the village shop.

The best bit about these coastal memories is bringing them to life for our children. We often head down to stay at Hope Cove, taking in this walk, looking at the wild hedgerows and putting the world to rights. We head to South Milton for a bit of rock-pooling, then grab a takeaway from the shack and sit by the sea. I love how the green grass meets the sand in this part of the world, and if we avoid the August madness of crowds, it’s usually pretty peaceful.

I’ve also weaved this beautiful area into my professional work, running voice retreats down in Hope Cove as part of Bristol Academy of Voice Acting (BRAVA). I founded the Academy in 2021 to enable professionals to add voice acting to their skillset and to develop voice and presence in the workplace and beyond.

It’s so important to get our talent out of the booth or office and experience our voice as part of an ensemble – it can bring out very powerful things. We’ve been known to take a bracing dip in the sea in February – which makes a cheeky evening whisky all that more rewarding. We always sit by the fire telling stories – the art of telling stories builds communities, and I feel we’ve lost so much of that over the last few years.

Taking my family and my work back to this part of the world a few times a year is important to me. There’s a connection to the area that I don’t feel anywhere else and there’s really nothing better than a deep lungful of fresh sea air and a bagful of happy memories.