Saturday, 10 October 2015


I'm home again now. And efficiently coping with three weeks of soiled and defiled clothes that urgently needed washing and ironing! Yes, they were a vile, reeking, suppurating tangle of rags, shoved away in tatty plastic bags; but now clean and fragrant - and ready for more good times.

All the photos have been processed - I've been efficient with that, too. So it's time I wrote a few posts!

I'm going to hop around a bit, and tackle my West Country jaunt by subject, rather than day by day. The main focus was of course the Appledore Book Festival. 'Appledore? Where's that? And what is it like as a place?' I'm often asked. Well, I'll show 'ee.

All the shots that follow have been taken since the end of September, with my new Panasonic camera.

I'll present a sort of tour, to show off the place and make it clear why I personally find it so appealing. It'll be a bit of a cheat, because I'll stick to the photos taken in sunshine that came out particularly well! But then that's most of them. Appledore does have bits that are visually mediocre - it's a working town - but many parts of it really are most attractive, or at least visually intriguing because so old. I'm surprised it isn't more of an artists' colony than it is. In fine weather you always have the blue sky and the blue estuary as a wonderful backcloth; and, rather like St Ives down in Cornwall, Appledore is on a peninsula, between waters, and therefore gets flooded with lots of clear nautical light. It bounces around the narrow streets. Here's one of them, which shows the effect quite well:

It's traditional to begin with the Quay. So be it. Here are some shots to show what the Quay is like. 

The 21A bus is frequent and will take you to Bideford and Barnstaple, the local big towns.

This young lady was enjoying a lunchtime fish and chips. What a relaxed scene! What a view over the water to Instow. The Quay never gets too crowded. It's easy to find a nice spot to plonk yourself down and let things drift. Me, I'm too busy shooting photos to rest!

All the time we've been moving northward - seaward - and beyond the end of the Quay is an almost separate district called Irsha. In the past, the main part of the town was for gentry and sea captains and important tradesmen of some means. Irsha was where most of the humbler folk lived, although nowadays it's as desirable a place to live as any part of town. It has one street, with courtyards off:

The house below is called Dummett Cottage, and I asked David Carter about it - he's a local historian and the leader of the Irsha Walk that I was on (this was one of the daytime Festival events). Dad's family name was Dommett, and Dummett would be a local variant. David gave me enough to think I should make some further investigation.

Irsha ends with the Lifeboat Station, open for visitors. You could peer into all its corners.


They have very recently taken delivery of a new tractor, to push the Inshore Rescue Boat down the slipway and into the sea. The 'proper' Lifeboat floats offshore.

Back into the main part of the town now. More picturesque streets. They seem to get sprucer and better-painted every year. The rough-and-ready and tacky is making way for the artistic and stylish. So far, the character of the place is unimpaired, even improved. The old buildings remain, but they bear little resemblance to their Georgian and Victorian versions, which were dirty, smelly, insanitary, and poverty-stricken. Not so now! You do feel however that the urban archaeologist would have a wonderful time if he could peel back the many layers of paint and whitewash, and dig up the little gardens.

Next is an example of a fresh take on an existing business, to move with the times. This is Susie's Tea Rooms. It used to be a rather traditional cafĂ©, with a rather traditional menu. Now it's swish and trendy, with an upmarket feel. I had lunch there with local friends Sara, Sue and Jayne - but that's for another post!  

John's Delicatessen and Coffee House on the Quay are similarly pitched at the discerning. Happily none of these places have over-the-top prices. Appledore also has the North Devon Maritime Museum, in this fine old house. I do recommend a visit. Next door is a vision of blue and red.

Appledore is certainly not flat. All points lead up to a hill with lovely views. In the next shot we look over to Saunton. You can make out the famous white Art-Deco hotel there.

At dusk, the sunset sky can be magical for long after the sun has set. Here's roughly the same shot as above, and one looking over to Westward Ho! (which is the only town in the country to have an '!' as part of its name) 

I mentioned that Appledore is a working town. It has a number of maritime businesses, nearly all of them south of the main town, on the riverside but a little further up, beyond the old dry dock. The main employer is the Shipyard, which still builds complete vessels for the Royal Navy if they are small. Increasingly it builds just part of a larger ship, on the same lines as the aircraft industry, where a particular factory might specialise in constructing wings, or a nose section. I will simply add two shots from the south end of the Quay, that show the Shipyard in the distance:

I hope you can now see why I love Appledore. I wouldn't want to live there, mind - most houses have no parking handy, and I can't imagine where I'd be able to put the caravan! But as a place to visit, and to book accommodation in, well, there must be few nicer.

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