Ilfracombe – A review post

The forecast last night was dire and when we woke this morning we were pleasantly surprised to find it wasn’t as bad as we’d feared – ie it was cloudy and grey but not hammering it down. We’d had a slightly broken night, E trapped herself in a corner of the travel cot at one point and got lost under her covers at another but it still seemed quite luxurious/ degenerate *delete as appropriate to have all three of us slept in till 10am. I thought we’ve probably all been more ill than we’ve actually let on though S insists it’s just been a cold I think it’s been a virus of some kind. Anyway, we pottered about for breakfast and the weather cleared enough for me and E to have coffee and read outside watching birds for a while.

We decided to go to Ilfracombe for the afternoon. I’m a fan of British seaside towns, especially as they seem to get a bum deal these days and I like the fact that they try and offer a variety of things to do while all seeming very similar. The weather worsened as we drove. We arrived in Ilfracombe under a low lying cloud and mizzly rain filled the air. Still, it wasn’t too bad and there was an art exhibition, a museum, an aquarium and craft centres so we figured there would be something to do. One of the things I like about British seaside towns is their ability to provide entertainment whatever the weather. I have fond childhood memories of a fabulous hillbilly rifle range that squirted water at you if you hit targets and whack-a-mole games in a Herne Bay’s arcades where we went several times. I also got my love of craft things from long holidays – painting stones, embroidery and jigsaws, as well as reading filled my time. Yeah, you may think I was boring but I was happy enough.

Anyway, a good town can make you forget the weather. Ilfracombe didn’t seem to be trying very hard at first glance. The crazy golf was shut for a start. And if I was a struggling Devonian or Cornish fisherman I doubt I’d appreciate a chippy that advertised Whitby scampi. We didn’t eat at that one – if I’d wanted fish from Whitby I’d have gone there for my holidays (nothing against Whitby, I love it there but really…). S was hungry so we stopped at Maddy’s chippy and they cooked us fresh fish which was lovely and chips which could have done with a couple of minutes more. We sat outside on a bench and scoffed the lot between the three of us.

Verity - the non-flayed side

Verity – the non-flayed side

Then we wandered down to the harbour front. It’s a working harbour tucked into some hills which reminded us very much of areas in New Zealand. The front of the harbour is dominated by a sculpture by Damian Hirst, who works in Devon and who loaned the work to the council long term. It was put in place in October 2012 and is called Verity. She’s an enormous pregnant woman holding a sword aloft and carrying the scales of justice. On one side. On the other Hirst chose to flay her (it’s not clear why) so you can see her muscles, her breast ducts, her skull and the unborn foetus. I think I liked her. I certainly like the idea of a massive pregnant woman with a sword administering truth, I just wasn’t sure of the skull part. Anyway, I’ll post some pictures up when I have the lead for my camera and you can decide for yourselves. Here’s one though.

We decided a visit to the aquarium was in order. It’s tiny and sits on the front next to the hut that offers information about ferries to Lundy (I really want to go to Lundy but S gets seasick and it takes two hours. I get seasick too but am willing to overlook it to see puffins. When E is bigger I shall take her for a day out together.) Anyway, the aquarium. I thought it was a really good local attraction. It didn’t try to be more than it was, or could be – it didn’t have the space or, I imagine, the resources to show off with loads of tropical things. What it did have was local fish and put them in seven zones – starting off with local streams, moving to rivers, the harbour and then across to Lundy. The fish were therefore all native species and it was good to see such a variety still. E enjoyed it and pointed at a number of things she recognised from her underwater reusable sticker collection. Then she discovered stairs to a viewing platform and wanted to spend the rest of the time climbing up and down them so we had to carry her away eventually before she broke into the staff area.

By now the weather was much better and we stopped to look out over the Bristol Channel from atop a cliff before turning back to the car. We stopped on the way to have an ice cream each – delicious selection from an Italian ice creamery – I had a hazelnut cone, S a chocolate cone and E chocolate tub (though S gave her the end of his cone which she dipped in the tub till I decided she’d had enough and confiscated it – hahahaha)

On arrival back at the cottage, Martin was having his hanging baskets done. Clearly the season is about to go big for them. There are now many petunias and the like. E is asleep, wine is at hand and I have only had two Nurofen today. This feels like an achievement.


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