Category Archives: Ilfracombe

Ilfracombe is the jewel in the crown of North Devon. It needs a little polishing, quite a lot of polishing, but its natural beauty is undeniable and its community beats like a human heart.

Ilfracombe: the talking town

I’ve had a weekend off. Unusual. I’ve been walking around the town where I live: Ilfracombe. And over two days, I’ve stopped and talked to so many friendly people. It’s been marvellous.

Ilfracombe: the talking townNow, I’m really a city boy, brought up to sit, or stand, on Tube trains, po-faced, not uttering a word.

For years, when I commuted, the Evening Standard quick crossword was my only travelling companion.

But here in remote North Devon, a quick walk down the High Street takes an hour. There are so many people to wave to, to stop and talk to, to joke with.

Many people say there’s no shops here, nothing to buy, that you can’t shop here. I shop here all the time, buy much of what we consume in the High Street and enjoy shopping because there’s none of the hassle of supermarkets or online shopping. It’s the same as meeting and talking to friends.

It started on Saturday morning when a chat with a fellow dog walker turned into an impromptu business networking session. Then a stroll into the harbour and along the seafront in the afternoon led me to talk with café and shop owners, to thank another shop owner for helping out at an event and to meet the owner of a new shop.

On Sunday morning we caught up with a dog walker whose young relative is recovering in hospital after an accident, while in the afternoon we walked to the harbour and seafront again as it was such a beautiful day and a cream tea was required. We chatted to more shop owners we bumped into along with more dog owners and friends.

The whole weekend has been one long social event, just through walking round our town.

Being part of such a friendly community is one of the best gifts in my life.

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Thank you, Ilfracombe, for the best decade

10 years ago this morning, we set off in our two cars from Windsor on our big move to Ilfracombe.

Were we doing the right thing? Would we settle in? How would we feel in North Devon?

The answer is that the 10 years have sped past and we’ve never looked back.

We know so many more people and dogs, spend so much more time out in the open, walk more, eat far better and feel life is far better here.

Thank you, Ilfracombe and everyone we know here.

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What is service?

We went on a special shopping trip to Marks and Spencer in Camberley earlier in the year. It’s a big store and very smart. We went there specifically because it is big and a close family member in a wheelchair wanted to be able to see a good selection of clothes. It was easy for her to do this.

She looked at various items and picked one out, but they did not have her size (she takes a fairly standard size). We asked a shop assistant, but were told very politely that all the stock in that line was on display.

We moved on and she found something else she liked, but again we couldn’t find it in her size. We asked again and heard once more that all they had was on display.

She found a third item and, you guessed it, they did not have her size. We asked but knew the answer before the shop assistant spoke.

So we left without buying what she originally wanted. This has stuck in my mind because to me this is not good service. The whole point of a big store is that they should have a very wide selection. If they don’t, there’s no point in going.

Contrast this with a trip to our local, independent butcher, Mike Turton’s, in Ilfracombe today. Mrs Z asked for some lamb mince for a recipe I will be cooking on Saturday. There was none prepared.

The next thing Mike went and got a whole lamb carcass from the fridge and started jointing it. He then minced a quantity of meat and wrapped it for my wife.

So not only did he go out of his way to provide what we wanted, but we know that the mince is really good quality unlike a pack you buy in a supermarket, which now we really can’t trust.

This demonstrates the powerful opportunities available to independent shopkeepers to sell higher quality goods than big stores can ever hope to match and deliver service which none of them can even approach.

That’s why I’ll be supporting Small Business Saturday on Saturday 7 December 2013.

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Discover and rediscover Ilfracombe through the art of Ilfra-Expo

I was lucky to be invited to the launch of Ilfra-Expo on Sunday 14 July 2013 for a whistle-stop tour of the art installations around Ilfracombe. It made so much of an impact that today we took the day off to go round again at a slower pace.

Richt street art | Ilfra-Expo Ilfracombe Art FestivalLike many people, I’m often rushing about from one meeting or activity to the next, sometimes too pre-occupied with what’s next on my schedule to notice and appreciate the ordinary environment.

Ilfra-Expo changes this.

By creating a trail around the town, it starts at the Info Hub in Ilfracombe High Street, where we saw Jonathan Powell’s When We Build Again vision of the future constructed from derelict remains plus Nick Davies’ PsychoGeogging video tour round Ilfracombe.

We progressed along the High Street to the Royal Mail building (formerly the Post Office) to view Sam Aldridge’s Two Circles, a scale version of a Barbara Hepworth sculpture made with cardboard. It reminded us what a spacious building this is and makes you ask why it is not still a Post Office?

Next, Betony May’s Imprint in the window of Hairport, based on old postcards of Ilfracombe. View it in the day and then at night to see different aspects.

On down Fore Street to see Richt‘s marvellous decoration of the courtyard which has transformed this area. More, please!

After the End by Erin Rickard | Ilfra-Expo Ilfracombe art festivalOn Sunday I visited the RNLI Lifeboat House to view Erin Rickard’s video installation, Work in Progress, focusing on the horizon towards Wales and the view back to Ilfracombe. Opening is limited, but it is well worth a visit, not only for the installation but also to see the lifeboat up close and the displays in the Lifeboat House.

The interior of the RNLI Shop in Broad Street is a masterpiece in itself and Gemma Copp’s video installation Rising Tides explores escapism and the obstacles that hold us back from escaping.

On up to St Nicholas Chapel on Ilfracombe Quay, thought to be the oldest working lighthouse in the UK, and affording magnificent views of the harbour, town and Bristol Channel. Here Alex Duncan’s Water Fearing has created objects exploring our relationship with the sea.

A walk back along the quay and on to St Phillip’s and St James’ Church in St James Place. Adjacent to the altar lies Erin Rickard’s After the End, a memorial of personal significance to Erin.

Onwards to the Tourist Information Centre at the Landmark Theatre and the Memory Map, an interactive artwork sharing memories of Ilfracombe.

Outside Ilfracombe Museum are illustrations inspired by Ilfracombe’s tranquil beauty and Victorian heritage by Hannah Davies and Lianne Harrison. I could look at them for hours.

Finally, Sean Puleston’s triptych in Runnymede Gardens recalls William Blake’s ‘glorious Devon’ comment, for Ilfracombe is truly: Glorious.

As a resident of Ilfracombe for almost 10 years, Ilfra-Expo has opened up my eyes to the town to see things I have not yet discovered and re-examine those I take for granted. We have still to see several of the exhibits, but even so the trail has achieved what many have been striving to do: to create an experience that brings together all areas and aspects of the town: high street, Fore Street, harbour, quay, St James Place and the seafront. What is more remarkable is that the whole event has been created on a shoestring budget. This demonstrates that communities can often achieve more faster with volunteers than rooms full of officials in meeting after meeting.

Another spin-off for me was visiting new places to eat and drink. We all have our favourite restaurants and cafés, which we tend to stick to, but Ilfra-Expo created within us a feeling to explore, to try something new. Ilfracombe is lucky to be the restaurant capital of North Devon and even its modest cafés you can experience great food, which we did.

A massive thank you to Erin Rickard for having the vision and commitment to organise Ilfra-Expo and to her team of volunteers. I’ve been round most exhibits twice now and I hope to visit many again during the next two weeks. It is wonderful too that some exhibits are permanent, adding to the visual attraction of Ilfracombe even more.

There are plans to make Ilfra-Expo an annual event to attract even more artists to Ilfracombe. Yes, please.

With six art galleries in town and Damien Hirst’s Verity, Ilfra-Expo demonstrates that Ilfracombe is fast becoming the art capital of North Devon.

Visit for more details and visit my board on Pinterest for more photos.

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Time to book your holiday in Ilfracombe!

If I didn’t already live in Ilfracombe, I would book my holiday here. Plenty of accommodation, dining and activity ideas in the 2012 Ilfracombe brochure.

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