Surfer-dudes in North Devon

I cross over into England and start today from Weston-super-Mare. Now this resort town has three things, in particular, going for it. The first is the vast stretch of beautiful, soft sand that cries out for sand castles or jogging or picnics. The second is the pier which looks great whatever the light although it is closed between 4 and 10 so can only stand to be admired from a distance. The third are the beach donkeys – sadly they were not there although there was evidence of their presence in the hitching posts, the blowing hay and the neat baskets of poo.

Burnham-on-Sea is a few miles down the coast. Now here must be the UK’s smallest pier, if it even conforms to the definition of a pier. I call it the Thomas the Tank Engine of piers. Compared with its piers around the coast (you see what I did there?) its name pulls well above its weight.

There is not much else in the town, not even a place for a decent espresso. However at the top end of the beach a white-washed watch tower poses historical questions.

Now isn’t this the saddest of images. Some poor child’s bicycle abandoned in the sinking sands of the beach.

So many questions – did they forget it? Did the tide snatch it and return it in some guilty moment? Did they stomp off after a tantrum abandoning it to the elements? We’ll never know.

Hele is one side of a headland.

Ilfracombe is the other side. The harbour is framed by terraces of elegant houses along with working buildings and overlooked by Damian Hirst’s overwhelming statue of Verity.

Lee is my new favourite. A small cove hides a few well maintained houses with names like Shell Cottage, that cluster around a large abandoned hotel which awaits the developer to spoil the character of the place which, at least at the moment, remains isolated, peaceful, harmonious.

Woolacombe and Putsborough are the anchors that tie each end of the world-famous surfing beach to the land. A host of those black leeches wait in the water, horizontal & patient, until thrown into a frenzy by the build up of waves. The call is out that the surf is up and the surfer-dudes are out in full searching as a pack to find the right wave. It is quite a spectacle. Shame about the modern beach huts.

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