300 million years ago
Around 300 million years ago plate tectonic movements caused areas of land (now known as Africa and Europe) to crash into one another. Intense pressures squeezed all the sediments that had been laid down in the seas that once separated the two continents, piling them up, during a time known as the Variscan Orogeny, to form a vast mountain chain.
These mountains stretched from eastern North America (which was joined to Europe at the time), through Cornwall and Devon to Belgium, the Czech Republic and beyond.
Needless to say, caught in the middle, this event had a very fundamental effect on the rocks of Torbay. Sediments of the Devonian and the Carboniferous were folded and fractured as they were crumpled and pushed northwards by the collision.
At Babbacombe they were even turned upside down, and the dark slates at the bottom of the cliff are actually younger than the pale limestones of the Downs at the top!