Wednesday, 12 July 2017

A few thoughts about Barnstaple.

The mini-monsoon continued for most of the night but we woke to sunshine and big chunky clouds. The small site we are staying on is about two miles from Barnstaple. A bus stops right outside the gate. Having arrived at the stop ten minutes before the bus was due we decided to walk to the town centre instead. 

The Little Lily Campsite is about a 20 minute walk from Barnstaple town centre - but has great views of the countryside.

It soon became clear that Barnstaple seemed to be thriving, a marked contrast to our experience in Bideford a couple of days ago. If you recall, the previous post ended with me speculating whether a town could be both 'vibrant' and egalitarian. Thinking about it further, vibrant is a very silly term - pure gobbldigook really. I think what it actually means is thriving. If that is the case, then I believe Barnstaple has achieved a balance - a thriving place, but one that supports a mixed population. It is neither overtly gentrified nor obviously impoverished. 

It is not a large town, its current population of about 24,000 is roughly the same as where we live now, in Buxton. However, Barnstaple's shopping area is more extensive and there are very few empty shops. The place manages to support both a wide range of national chains and lots of independent shops too. In particular there are many independent food shops, a range of excellent bakeries and the small cafe where we had lunched served freshly cooked food that was simple, yet delicious. 

The Pannier Market sells food some days, but today happened to showcase Mills and Boon

This small cafe has a simple lunch menu, but everything is cooked right in front of you - freshly made and delicious

Waiting for lunch to be cooked...

Homity Pie!

Lots of local shops - many award winning - butchers, bakers - probably a candlestick maker in there somewhere.
As well as that the place has a town centre cinema and a small theatre. I was impressed too by the variety of buildings from all eras from the Georgian onwards. 

The main shopping streets are mainly Georgian and Victorian
But, also a town centre cinema with Art Deco decoration intact

More 30s buildings - now a Thai restaurant

A bit of 50s infill by the look of it.

and the Civic Centre - dating from the late 1960s but half empty and facing an uncertain future 
In short we liked the place a lot, so much so we immediately began to list all the disadvantages of moving here. It's quite remote, almost 90 miles from the nearest major city - Bristol, and further from Dover than we are in Derbyshire. Though the climate is warmer, being in the west it is almost as rainy as the Peak District, and it is the wet days which get us down at the moment. Whereas the area around Felixstowe was great for cycling, the lanes in Devon are narrow and hilly. The Tarka Trail is great, but you can tell the towns are not cycle friendly like in Suffolk. 

So, having visited both areas, we are still torn as to which might suit us better. Property in both areas is pricier than Buxton, Suffolk more so than Devon, but there are houses we could afford in each that would meet our needs. It's a big decision and we need to give it further thought. It might take a while, give me any problem and I will over-think it. It's not just me, In terms of making a simple choice, Gill can make Meg Ryan in 'When Harry Met Sally' seem positively impulsive. Whatever we do, you can guarantee the options will have been fully problematised before any final or even interim conclusion is drawn. In truth we are in no hurry to sell nor under any pressure - even more reasons to prevaricate.