I woke well rested on the 21st to a lovely Devonian July morning. I skipped breakfast as I did in those days, said goodbye to the lovely landlady and took off into town. I had been sad to leave Lundy but had delayed the “end of trip downer” by my very pleasant day in Ilfracombe and had even planned a lateish train to eke another few hours out of it. These days, I would probably just have kept on moving but I didn’t travel like that then (well, only occasionally).
I am conscious that I have not told you much about the town. My general impression was that it was a very pleasant little North Devon seaside town with a bit of a bias towards tourism. It is a small place of some 11,000 souls and has survived over the centuries as a maritime staging post and fishing port. Like most of the fishing fleet in the UK it is diminished now to the point of extinction, more or less destroyed by EU regulation. I only hope there is enough will and money to restore the UK fleet when we get out of that appalling farrago of self-seeking, unelected, bloated Eurocrats and can again fish our own waters properly and sustainably.
As a staging post it’s major function is as the departure point for the wonderful M.S. Oldenburg (as mentioned in previous entries), the non- aerial route to Lundy which is still very popular and rightly so. It no longer serves as a place to embark British troops to go and quell the “rebellious Irish” as it has been in the past.
Times move on and for whatever reason the “modern artist” Damien Hirst seems intent on buying up the whole town even though he is not from there. He has several properties already and when I visited in July 2013 I was informed he was in negotiation to buy even more. His totally incongruous and massive statue dominates and somewhat demeans the harbour area. Still, if he can earn a reported £10 million plus for a dead animal pickled in formaldehyde he can probably afford it! Leaving the ludicrous Mr. Hirst aside (and I would), on my brief acquaintance with it Ilfracombe seems to be a pleasant enough place to spend a couple of days so what interesting things could I find?
Literally a couple of minutes down the hill from my hotel was the rather lovely Church of the Holy Trinity. It is no secret from my writings that I find cemeteries / graveyards / churchyards (call them what you will) endlessly fascinating and never pass up an opportunity to visit one if I can.
The church was originally built in the 12th century and modifications began in 1321 on the orders of Bishop Stapledon when the nave was lengthened and aisles added. This was the first of numerous alterations over the centuries resulting in the rather pleasant building you see today. Regrettably, it did not appear to be open so I had to content myself with a wander round the fairly extensive churchyard which was, after all, my primary purpose. I did, however, spot a fine example of a sundial on the exterior of the building (pictured).
It was a fascinating place and I had it all to myself, spending quite a bit of time there. I noticed an interesting thing I have only rarely seen in UK graveyards, namely the fairly anonymous gravestones with only initials and year of death given. I am guessing these must be paupers graves when there was insufficient money or family to erect a more ornate memorial. One example is given here.
With the possibilities of the graveyard exhausted another very short walk of about the distance Usain Bolt covers in less than ten seconds took me to the War Memorial and Garden of Remembrance.
I have written elsewhere about my interest in these memorials and even contribute to the excellent Imperial War Museum Inventory of War Memorials. I never pass up a chance to pause at one, take a few images for the website and spend a few moments in quiet contemplation of the many millions who have given their lives, and continue to do so, in defence of my country. In fact, and purely coincidentally, I originally composed this report on Remembrance Sunday 2013.
The memorial itself is of a not uncommon design, a column surmounted by a bronze statue of “Victory” which was sculpted by Courtenay E.M. Pollock (1877 – 1943) and was unveiled on 11th November 1924. The names of the dead of both World Wars and more recent conflicts are commemorated here.
Omward, ever onward, and the time to go was approaching but not before time for another pub visit. Again time has dimmed the memory and my inexplicable failure to take an identifiable image means that I cannot remember the name of the pub where I spent a few hours. What the images do suggest is that the establishment boasted a skittle alley, which you rarely see any more, and a rather incongruous chopped motorcycle.
My images also remind me that there were not one but three varieties of Thatchers cider on draught and I have no doubt I sampled them all. I don’t recall ever having seen the Cheddar Valley before or since.
Time waits for no man and all too soon it was time to make the slow walk to the bus and onward to the very pleasantly preserved Barnstaple railway station for the beginning of the long but uneventful trip back to London where I arrived fairly late in the evening so it was off to my own bed, leaving the pile of mail on my mat to be dealt with on the morrow.
So ends the tale of my trip to the West Country and Lundy Island. It was a wonderful week away in glorious weather with as much history, mystery, scenery, flora and fauna as you could wish for in one of the most beautiful regions of my country. Whilst all this was wonderful I always maintain that my travelling is not so much about places but about people and I had made some new friendships not to mention spending my time in the company of dear friends, some of whom I had not seen for a while or only known online hitherto.
As always and as I conclude this piece, I would most sincerely ask for any feedback on what I m trying to do here. Do I write too much? Are there too many (or too few) images? Is my writing style rubbish? Would you like more links and practical information or less on the principle you can find them for yourselves? Honestly, any and all constructive criticism is more than welcomed. I want to try to make this site as interesting as I can and I am only able to do that if I know what you like and dislike. Don’t pull your punches, I rarely do!
I do hope you have enjoyed my efforts here and I am already planning my next travelogue so stay tuned and spread the word.