Tag Archives: North Devon

If #ndevon had a Monster Raving Loony candidate

Monster Raving Loony Party candidates used to feature heavily in UK general elections, but you hear little of the party these days. I’ve always respected them because their slogan, which applies to most political parties, is totally honest: Vote for insanity.

Whether we vote for them or not, it’s what we seem to get.

Once, I almost voted for the Windsor candidate on the strength of his policy to carpet the M4 to reduce noise pollution.

The party is fielding candidates in 16 parliamentary constituencies this election, but sadly North Devon is not one of them.

This got me thinking about potential Loony #ndevon election promises had they fielded a candidate here. Here’s a few suggestions:

1. The cream of Devon

Attractions such as Damien Hirst’s Verity already prove how edgy art draws tourists to the area, but we need to be even more adventurous. We need to combine our cultural and culinary heritage with brave, bold art to create world-class attractions. I believe this suggestion for Lantern Hill, Ilfracombe would top all Devon attractions . . . with added cream and jam.

2. A361 doubles and trebles all round

Will we ever get the dual carriageway we need to overtake those slow lorries and pesky lovely caravans as they crawl up the hills? Why not just nip down to Junction 27 one night and switch the Link Road carriageway for that of the M5? That way we can whiz over the hills doing 85 keeping to the legal speed limit on a 3-lane motorway, while leaving Exeter with our old overtaking lanes every couple of miles. Simple.

3. Consolidate Barnstaple supermarkets

Barnstaple is rapidly becoming a supermarket lovers’ dream. But why stop? Let’s get rid of all the small shops, connect all the supermarkets and flatten everything else to make a big car park patrolled by North Devon’s cuddly traffic wardens? (You can adopt one, but remember a warden is not just for Christmas, it’s for life or you’ll get a fixed penalty fine.) Call the new town Tescaple and it’ll be just like every other town in England with the same lack of character.

4. Improve accessibility

North Devon’s hills are a nightmare for the elderly, those with limited disability and cars with worn-out brakes. Let’s flatten out these nuisance hills so there’s no more dangerous descent into Lynmouth or staggering up hills to see what’s over the other side: usually nothing but another boring hill in the distance.  This will encourage a lot more people to cycle (especially me) and can be used to attract more tourists from East Anglia and the Netherlands, who will love it as a home from home.

Let’s start with the modest aim of a Flat North Devon, but our eventual objective has to be: a Flat Earth.

5. Make Exmoor more exciting

Exmoor is so boring: quiet, full of sheep, hills, no shopping malls, no internet to post bored selfies, quiet, boring. See, I told you.

To attract more young people, we intend to use a LEADER 5 grant to make Exmoor more relevant. Our first project will be to introduce ‘bleat boxes’ attached to sheep so that the latest Top 10 singles by whichever teenage pop idol is flavour of the second can blare out across the wilderness to kill yawn-inducing tranquillity. The bleat boxes, tastefully finished in faux wood veneer to blend in with the environment, will be attached to the sheep like panniers and be powered by solar cells.

That’s the limit of my suggestions on a Bank Holiday evening.

What would your suggestions be?

And is there a Monster Raving Loony representative in North Devon with official policies?

Posted in a musing. Tagged with , , , .

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.

Posted in Ilfracombe. Tagged with , , , , , , .

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.

Posted in Ilfracombe. Tagged with , , , .

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 ilfraexpo.co.uk for more details and visit my board on Pinterest for more photos.

Posted in a musing, Ilfracombe, robertz Ilfracombe reviews. Tagged with , , , , , , , , .

A superb steak at The Lamb, Ilfracombe

The Lamb has recently reopened as a steak house restaurant, so as it is just a couple of minutes’ walk away in Ilfracombe High Street, Mrs Z and I thought we would pop along for a meal. On the evening we visited, the restaurant was full (always a good sign) so we opted to sit downstairs in the bar with a G&T and a pint of Old Appledore.

Along with the main menu, there was a wide range of specials with a number of fresh fish dishes. If I hadn’t set my mind on a steak, I would have been hard pressed to choose.

Mrs Z selected mackerel with salad and potato salad as a starter and I opted for mushrooms in garlic and brandy, served with a hunk of bread and salad. Both dishes were delicious and well presented: I sneaked a taste of the mackerel and made a note to order it next time.


For our main courses we chose Lamb Wellington and ribeye steak. Mrs Z’s lamb was wrapped in pastry and served with mashed potato and vegetables and looked very appetising, while my medium rare steak was succulent, tender and served with onions rings, tomato, chips and salad. It was so good that I tucked in before remembering to take a photo.


Mrs Z was tempted by creme brûlée for dessert, which she said was delicious, and we both finished with coffees.

The atmosphere at the Lamb was very welcoming and the service from Tom, who is also landlord of the Wellington, and his staff was attentive while enabling us to enjoy a relaxed evening out.

We both enjoyed superb meals and want to go back to the Lamb soon and sample more dishes from the menu. The Lamb is a very welcome addition to Ilfracombe’s selection of fine restaurants.

Posted in food & drink, robertz Ilfracombe reviews. Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , .
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