Marie Antoinette would have loved it

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September, 2022

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United Kingdom

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No disparagement to a picturesque little town in North Devon, but it must always have been the kind of place to attract the well-to-do. First glance suggests an assortment of cottages beside the Torridge estuary – think Aldeburgh in the south-west. Unlike Aldeburgh, which mostly comprises now-picturesque cottages that were once the fishermen’s hovels depicted in “Peter Grimes”, Appledore presents a series of Regency facades no fisherman could ever afford. These surely were the weekend retreats of local worthies.

Several waterside cafes were offering fresh crab: needless to say there were no vacant tables, although it was well before lunch time. We did find a free table, in an alley with no view of the estuary, and had a generous “snack” with coffee. There was no need afterwards to think of lunch so we chose a walk. Literally it was a walk up and down, as the hillside Appledore is built on is fairly steep. Occasionally we noticed “no car” signs that were clearly superfluous. The buildings are for the most part scarcely more than a stretch apart, literally a fathom.

Work was under way in one of the cottages, presumably for another second or holiday home. Not that we begrudge that; if people can afford it they are keeping a building in repair that may otherwise have been left to decay. The traditional employment of fishing has been reduced to a leisure activity so any work is welcome. The alternative is to found just outside Appledore, in industrial units providing work for people living in houses in uphill areas away from the water.

Many of the buildings we noticed in the “old town” were small; there was little space for them to be extended back from the facades. There are noticeably large houses overlooking the water; presumably these were for the local gentry or professional class. The whole place has a coherence that must have made it worth living in. It is picturesque but not depressing, unlike Westward Ho just along the coast, which presents a very different view of how people like to be beside the seaside.


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