Friday, 29 January 2016


Bideford claims to be the place where the last hangings for witchcraft took place in England.  Three women, Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles and Susannah Edwards were tried in 1682 based on evidence which was largely hearsay, but which did not stop the three of them from being hanged.  This event is one of many facets of Bideford’s past on display at the Burton Art Gallery andMuseum. Another exhibit charts the development of Bideford’s famous bridge over the River Torridge, known as the Long Bridge, which was begun in 1280 as a wooden structure graced with two chapels and a large cross in the centre.  The bridge was subsequently rebuilt in stone and widened, and now stands at 677 feet long with 24 arches.  

Bideford was once one of Britain’s busiest ports, and the 17th century quay is a reminder of that time.  Now the quay serves fishing boats and pleasure craft, as well as daytrips to Lundy Island from March to October.  Another reminder of the town’s past economy is the Pannier Market, which continues a tradition dating back to 1272, the year the first market charter was granted.  There is a lovely park called Victoria Park on the west bank of the river where eight cannons known as the Armada Guns are on display.  The guns were discovered in 1890 when the quay was being widened, and some of the old mooring posts were found to be cannons from a Spanish Armada shipwreck.  

Map of the area. 

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Bideford Long Bridge at low tide. Photo by Steve Daniels, via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, 22 January 2016


Instow is a village set on the east bank of the River Torridge, just next to where it meets the River Taw, and opposite where the two rivers spill out into the Bristol Channel.  There is a firm, sandy beach with views across to Appledore on the opposite bank, and the North Devon Yacht Club has its headquarters in the village.  For walkers, the Tarka Trail passes through the village, heading towards Barnstaple in one direction and Bideford in the other.  Instow has long been popular with artists, due to the abundance of interesting subjects, such as boats at rest in the estuary.  Instow Quay was built in around 1620 by the then Lord of the Manor Sir John Speccot.  During the summer there is a ferry linking Instow and Appledore.  A short distance to the south of Instow is Tapeley Park and Gardens, particularly known for its Terraces full of semi-tropical plants and exotic flowers.

Railway buffs may be interested to know that, although Instow is no longer served by the railway, the line having closed in 1982, it has a historic signal box which survives to this day.  The signal box is over 130 years old and was the UK’s first grade 2 listed signal box.  When it was threatened with demolition, the villagers came to the rescue and mounted a restoration fund.  Today the signal box is looked after by the Bideford Railway Heritage Centre and opens to visitors on occasional Sunday afternoons in the high season.  

Map of the area. 

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Instow from Appledore Quay. Photo by Tim Leete, via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, 16 January 2016


Like its neighbour, Woolacombe, Croyde is a small resort with a big surfing reputation.  The village of Croyde itself has a different feel to it from Woolacombe, more quaint and ‘thatched cottagey’, yet still offering the usual facilities for the surfing fraternity in the form of surfing gear shops and a good selection of places to eat and drink.  The village is set a short distance back from the beach, while Croyde Bay is the part adjoining the beach.  The beach at Croyde Bay is relatively small compared with its neighbours, but just to the south are the sprawling Saunton Sands, a fabulous spot for surfing, bodyboarding etc., although judging by recent reviews there is an issue with the cost and standard of the parking facilities there.  As well as surfing there is horse riding from the Roylands Riding Stables, and of course walking.  There is a lovely walk from the village out to Baggy Point, the headland separating Woolacombe and Croyde beaches.  Alternatively for a shorter walk, there is a National Trust car park closer to the headland.  We did the walk one glorious sunny day on my birthday, stopping off for lunch at a tea room with a lovely lawned area with fabulous views along the coast – highly recommended.  The Croyde Ocean Triathlon takes place in July, back in 2016 for its second year.  The event is based on Putsborough Sands, back towards Woolacombe.

Map of the area.

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View of Croyde Bay from Downend.  Photo by Grant Sherman, via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, 7 January 2016


The small resort of Woolacombe, which lies on Morte Bay, nestled between Morte Point and Baggy Point, is reached via a road which winds its way down through steep, grassy meadows full of sheep.  The undoubted star of the resort is its two miles long golden sandy beach with powerful waves pounding the shore, voted the best in the UK by Tripadvisor earlier this year, and 13th in the world.  Woolacombe is the first in a series of surfer magnets along the stretch of coast from North Devon to Lands End, up there with the likes of its neighbour Croyde, and Cornish cousins Bude, Newquay and Sennen, to name but a few.  The beach is backed by high dunes, flanked by Woolacombe Down.  To the north is the much smaller Barricane Beach, which is known for its exotic shells carried across from the Caribbean by sea currents.  The resort itself has a good selection of pubs, restaurants, cafes and a few shops.  The place to head for if you want a front row seat for the resort’s fabulous sunsets is the Red Barn, with a terrace facing out to sea.  If you are a non-surfer suffering from surfer envy, you can learn how to do it with the Hunter Surf School on Woolacombe Beach.  Other activities include horse riding and hang gliding.

Map of the area. 

The fabulous beach

Sunset from The Red Barn

Saturday, 2 January 2016


Mortehoe is a village high up in the roller coaster stretch of coast between Ilfracombe and Woolacombe.  The village is a short distance from Morte Point, which can be reached via a circular walk from the village, also taking in Bull Point with its lighthouse, which came into operation in 1974 and became automated in 1995.  A lighthouse is needed along this coast, which is notorious for shipwrecks.  The Mortehoe Museum tells the story of these and other aspects of village history.  There is a pub in the village called The Ship Aground, which has an anchor outside from one of the shipwrecks, the S. S. Collier, which ran aground at nearby Rockham Bay in 1914 on its way from Milford to Avonmouth.  The village used to be the haunt of wreckers as well as smugglers, but is now a peaceful farming and holiday village.  The parish church of St Mary has parts dating back to Norman times and fine Tudor bench ends.  Like Ilfracombe, Mortehoe used to be accessible by rail via the Ilfracombe branch line, which opened in 1874.  The 1 in 36 gradient on the line between Ilfracombe and Mortehoe was one of the steepest sections of double track railway line in the country.  The line closed to passenger traffic in 1970 due to the massive increase in car use by would-be passengers.  To the south of Mortehoe is Barricane Beach, which is known for its exotic shells brought over from the Caribbean by sea currents.

Map of the area.