John Balment writes: To Agatha Christie her holiday home at Greenway was paradise on earth – and it is not difficult to fathom why.

This idyllic location on the outskirts of Galmpton was a dream come true for she had yearned to live there since her childhood.

Run by the National Trust this was my first visit to what I can only describe as a magical place.

The house is a jewel box that takes you through Greenway’s history and the families who lived there and it is laid out to inspire and transport you on a journey where the past comes alive.

Outside the 35 acres of grounds sweep down to the banks of the River Dart and Raleigh’s boat house, the plunge pool and the camellia garden.

I was lucky enough to be taken on a tour of the house by Elaine Ward, the head of house and collections manager, who has an incredible knowledge of Greenway.

The various rooms contain furniture, paintings and amazing souvenirs, momentos and artefacts collected from the families and that of the great crime writer from her many trips overseas.

A complete collection of her books is also featured and it is not difficult to envisage how her personal paradise gave her the inspiration for some of her books. She used the house as the location for two of her best-known books Dead Man’s Folly and Five Little Pigs.

She visited Greenway during holidays, her birthday and at Christmas, when there were family get-togethers and parties.

To Agatha Christie it was the perfect place to relax and unwind and get relief from literary work.

Having grown up in Torquay, she was a Red Cross nurse during the First World War and it was at this time that she met Archie Christie.

They were married in 1914, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1928.

Her keen interest in archaeology led to her meeting trainee archaeologist Max Mallowan and they were married two years later, a marriage that was to last 47 years.

Their home was in Wallingford, Oxfordshire and in 1938, while on a visit to Torquay, she discovered Greenway was for sale. Her belief was that it was £16,000 and you can imagine her surprise to find out it was £6,000, and there was no hesitation in buying it.

The Second World War was declared soon after the purchase and the War Department requisitioned Greenway which, first, was used for child evacuees and then by the Admiralty for the US Navy. From 1944 to 1945 it was occupied by the 10th Flotilla of the US Coastguard as an officers’ mess.

A feature of the library is a mural, along the top section of the walls. Painted by Lieut Marshall Lee, it charts the 10th Flotilla’s journey to Greenway from Key West, Florida.

There is so much to see in the house that it really takes the breath away, and it is likewise when you venture outside.

The grounds and gardens cover 35 acres and it is estimated there are nearly 4,000 species of plants.

The main collection is of rhododendrons, magnolias and camellias. It is hoped to receive national status with the latter.

Four gardeners look after this massive well-kept area and they are backed up by 35 regular volunteers. Four or five of them go in every day, while on the first Wednesday of each month around 50 volunteers take part in a ‘garden blitz’.

In the next couple of years it is intended to renovate the original Veitch rockery, many of these elsewhere have been lost.

Garden walks, led mainly by volunteers, take place daily.

On the banks of the River Dart you will find the Victorian plunge pool, which allowed water in from the river. It is hoped eventually to have the mechanism reinstated.

Nearby is the boathouse believed to be the scene of the crime in Dead Man’s Folly.

Elaine explained: ‘We try to give experiences that move, teach and inspire our visitors and it is all about that emotional connection with Agatha Christie.’

That sums it up perfectly.

Last year Greenway attracted 115,000 visitors. It is open daily until the end of October and then weekends only in November and December, and the week between Christmas and the new year.

If you are driving to Greenway, telephone in advance and book a car parking slot or book on line. You can also catch the steam train from Paignton to Greenway Halt and walk through the woods to the house or in the season you can catch a bus, while there is also a ferry to Greenway from Dartmouth.

What particularly struck me about Greenway was the friendliness of the staff who clearly enjoy being there.

Nothing was too much trouble, from the welcoming gentleman at the entrance directing me to the car park, to those in the cafeteria, the gardeners and all the volunteers. They were all a credit.