|The Ballards - Devon and Cornwall|
At the South-Western tip
of England are the two counties of Devon and Cornwall. When I grew up
in the sixties holidays were Devon and Cornwall.
You didn't go abroad unless you were rich.
Nowadays, of course, everyone goes abroad, and Devon
and Cornwall have gone in to decline.
Nowadays the 2-week family holiday is the only time
the entire family gets together, such is the pressure of work, and most
people are damned if they will let the weather spoil the highlight of
And the rest of our generation are simply more adventurous; our expectations are Oman and Thailand, not Polzeath and Trebetherick.
But Devon and Cornwall are still there, like abandoned
toys gathering dust on the top shelf, waiting hopefully for the day they
are returned to favour, and dreading the visit of Mum and The Black Bin
Liner on a Tidying-Up mission.
When diesel becomes too expensive to use in aircraft, the counties will once more become the playground of the British holidaymaker; in the meantime they bask in reflected glories of earlier days.
When I was young my Godmother ran the hotel (and later the pub) on Burgh Island (some now know it as "Inch Loss" Island, after a Breakfast TV challenge) off the South Devon coast and we would go down to visit.
The hotel was built in the 1930s and is a testament to
30s Art Deco, all compound curves and rusting ferro-concrete.
The weather is always awful and there's actually very
little to do on the island.
Due to the corrosion of the salt water and the lack of
availability of stainless steel and German hydraulic motors in the 1960s,
these were always going wrong and getting stranded mid-Bay, much to the
amusement of all.
In recent years Cornwall has finally woken up to the need to compete.
The surfing on the North coast is marketed as being very
good and dominates North coast tourism, but tends to bring in tourists
from the bottom end of the market who don't spend a lot of money in the
region. Efforts to push surfing upmarket have largely failed.
Whether longer-term this is a sufficiently rich income stream to sustain them remains to be seen, but the one unalterable fact is that 9 times out of 10 the weather fails in some way.
Going back after thirty years I was struck by how small and shabby everything is.
Polzeath is absolutely tiny: you're through it in 2 minutes.
How did this ever sustain our childhood holidays?
Further evidence of London's lack of regional infrastructure development.
"A" roads are virtually all single-track; the
traffic is horrendous and the answer to this has (of course) been increased
use of speed cameras.
However, walking the South Coast path is a wonderful
experience: once away from the villages you can walk for miles without
seeing a single person.