Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Beautiful Bideford: So Much To Offer
Bideford may not seem remarkable to the average tourist. Yet after reading Charles Kingsley's novel Westward Ho!, I enjoyed exploring the north Devon city where his protagonist Amyas Leigh grew up, attended school, and set off from on his maritime adventures. Kingsley references lay everywhere. His name adorned local businesses and streets. Restaurants and public houses took their name from characters in the novel. The Burton Art Gallery & Museum offered up a Charles Kingsley room. And of course, there was his statue, where he stood atop his gleaming pillar, surveying (or guarding) the park.
There's the Long Bridge, one of the longest remaining medieval bridges in England. Cars and pedestrians cross it constantly. Standing along its thick stone walls, one can soak in magnificent views of the surrounding houses and countryside.
From there, we could also see the barge where we ate lunch. At least, we fancied we could. It's really back there, resting behind the other ships that seem intent upon hiding it from view. From the Long Bridge, Bideford's modern counterpart looks like it must run directly over the barge, but it's far enough away that when you're on the barge, you can't hear the cars passing by, the drivers intent upon traveling to and from work, and otherwise going about their daily lives.
Bideford has plenty to offer, including historic churches, summer festivals that celebrate the regions heritage, and a weekly Panniers Market. It even has a Citizen's Advice Bureau. There, Bideford residents can emulate the example of Compo Simmonite in the Yorkshire town of Holmfirth. As related in the show Last of the Summer Wine, he once visited his local bureau with Nora Batty to confirm that renting a room from her for twenty years constituted a common law marriage. Much to his chagrin, the resident legal export couldn't confirm his contention, but still, isn't it nice that residents have a place to learn the answer to practical questions like that?