Slapton Ley was part of the Whitley family estate that was sold off in the 1950s. Slapton Wood is mentioned in the Domesday book, the Ley had an established reputation for Pike Fishing and wildlife, and the beach a popular tourist destination. The beach was used by American soldiers practising for the D-Day landings and Exercise Tiger.
In the 1950s the Whitley Wildlife and Conservation Trust was set up after the death of Herbert Whitley a keen naturalist who established Paignton Zoo. An advertisement was placed in the Times to find a suitable tenant to manage the nature reserve for education and science. FSC responded and the deal was done on Slapton Sands to lease the National Nature Reserve and buy Whitegates Hotel.
Ian Mercer was the first Warden and is pictured with family and staff in the Centre grounds (file 0002) and with FSC wardens and the Slapton academic team in the nature reserve (file 0009).
In the 1960s Devon County Council closed the village school that was originally opened following the Elementary Education Acts 1870-1893. Devon County Council established an Outdoor Centre in the 1960s and in 2011 the Start Bay Centre was sold to Field Studies to safeguard this provision.