The Bells Are Ringing:
On a recent pet/house sit in Holsworthy, Devon we were delighted to find ourselves a fairly short distance from the seaside town of Bude, North Cornwall, where we tied the knot on 22nd September 1973.
A trip back to the place where we were married has never been at the top of our list of things to do. My memory of Bude, North Cornwall, is that of a rather dowdy little place and no match for the glorious South West, where we have now lived for over ten years.
On a holiday to Devon, back in the eighties we did take a day trip to Bude with the children. It was a dull, overcast day and my opinion didn’t change. It was still a lack-lustre town. What a difference thirty-five years can make.
In 1973 Ray and myself were working for the summer season in Bude and arrived mid-May. First day, I ran down the to the odd shaped beach and was intrigued with the outdoor swimming pool built into the rocks on Summerleaze Beach. I jumped in without testing the waters and met with a freezing shock I still remember to this day. I think my heart stopped momentarily. The pool, back then was fed by the tide. I have read over the years that because the pool had fallen into disrepair and deemed unsafe, the council were going to fill it in. Wanting to hang on to their pool the local people set up the Save Bude Pool Society and over the years they raised enough money to have it completely refurbished. Visiting the pool last week was a revelation; it really is fantastic. An Olympic sized pool, sitting beautifully in amongst the original rocks of the first pool, (that was built in the 1930’s). Bude is geared for all water sports and claims to be the first surfing beach in Cornwall, ahead of Newquay, all started by an Australian back in the 1950’s.
The hotel we worked at in 1973 ‘The Grenville’ is still there in a prominent position overlooking Sumerleaze Beach, but, is now an outward-bound sports centre. The town itself is small but offers a lively mix of all you’d expect in a popular, busy, seaside town. Lots of teashops, restaurants, galleries and boutiques. Also, along with beach carparking, which you do have to pay for, there is free parking for up to an hour in several spots on the high street and surrounding area.
Bude has a canal and a castle, which can be clearly seen from the beach. The castle area is now a Heritage Centre and provides a fascinating insight to the history of Bude, which I have to say I’d either forgotten or just wasn’t interested in back in the day. The dock area has also been developed over the last ten years with galleries, workshops and cafes bringing it up-to-date and so much more appealing.
There is an easy walk on an even footpath from ‘Summerleaze’ Beach along to the next beach ‘Crooklets’ where you will find more beachside facilites.
They say you should never go back because things always look, smaller and grubbier than you remember. But, taking a good look at Bude on a beautiful sunny day we were not disappointed and pleased to see that it has moved with the times and is no longer that dull little backwater I recall. Having said that, I get that dull at twenty can appear quirky and interesting at sixty five. We even went to take a look at the catholic church we got married in, St Peter’s. My husband always called it the ‘Scout Hut’ which I have to admit was a fair description. Bude is largely Methodist, like most of Cornwall and their churches are old, picturesque and would provide a perfect backdrop for any wedding picture! However, in 1973 convention, society, my parents, all dictated that the catholic girl would be married in the catholic church. Ideally, we would have returned to the Midlands for our nuptials but time, the reading of bans etc. didn’t allow because we were moving abroad after the summer season. So, our families travelled to Bude for the wedding. St. Peter’s is still on the same site but now a brick-built affair. My brother, then aged fifteen, told me years later he’d commented to my mother on my wedding day; ‘this won’t last – it’s just a flash in the pan.’ Almost 46 years later here we all are and he, is finally happily settled into his third marriage.
Of course, Bude has always held a special place in my heart, but even more so now that they’ve cleaned up their act. It’s somewhere I would thoroughly recommend for a holiday, a day out or perhaps even a place to get married.
The Castle, Heritage Centre, Bude Cornwall