Plymouth to Dartmouth

Wednesday 29th July 2015 – eastward ho!

Leaving the compact anonymity of my B&B for the open road!

Having been unable to sample the joys of the Quality Hotel.

The Quality Hotel closed in 2014 and was demolished two years later after the site was bought by the city council following vandalism and fires.  

The ten-storey concrete block was built in 1970 in the 350th anniversary year of The Mayflower ship setting sail from Plymouth for North America.

Gilpin Demolition

Plymouth Hoe’s fifty million pound hotel and apartments project appears to have ground to a halt with no building work happening more than a year after developers vowed it would start in 2018.

Henley Real Estate, the firm behind the plans for an 11-story hotel and a 15-floor block of flats on the demolished former Quality Hotel site, has gone silent on plans and not responded to emails and phone calls from Plymouth Live.

When we visited the site the only sign of life was some weeds growing out of the ground.

I’ll leave them to it, I’m off in search of the South West Passage

The South West Coast Path itself is 630 miles long and is the longest established National Trail in the country. Starting at Minehead in Somerset it runs along the coastline of Exmoor, continuing along the coast of North Devon into Cornwall. It follows the entire coastline of Cornwall, goes across the mouth of the River Tamar and continues into Devon. After running along the south coast of Devon it then follows the Dorset coastline before finally ending at Poole Harbour. 

However if you follow the Coastal Path you’ll miss this delightful concrete fire station training tower in Plympton.

Along with the longest corrugated iron structure in the West Country.

You’ll miss getting slightly lost and a cup of tea at the Dream Bites roadside café in Modbury.

Dream Bites café, we’re all is welcome, from cars to Biker’s to Ride outs to Puplic and to work companies even you the cyclists!

GREAT FOOD GREAT PRICE.

You’ll miss the deep hedged lanes of Devon.

Where the four x fours force you into the roadside brambles with consummate ease and regularity – even on a designated cycle route.

Respite from such trials and tribulations can be found upon siting a water tower or a deserted butchers – down at Slapton Ley.

Slapton Ley is the largest natural lake in south-west England. Although it is only separated from the sea by a narrow shingle bar, it is entirely freshwater. 

Much beloved of my old pal Harry H Potts and family.

Then it’s up a hill down a hill to Dartmouth.

I made enquiries at several sea front hotels – who upon assessing my mode of dress and transport, despatched me to a back street pub B&B, suit y’self suits me, and my pocket.

The Seale Arms was just the job.

Quick change for the artist – let’s have a look around.

It’s full of historical architectural detail.

And slightly more hysterical architectural detail.

Time for a pint – chatting in the pub to yachting types, for it is here that the sense of tradition, the sea, power and wealth traditionally resides.

A short walk home.

Night night.

Ilfracombe to Okehampton

Today Monday 27th July 2015 – leaving Ilfracombe the royal we head south along the Tarka Trail, giving Cornwall a swerve.

Though first we feast on a slightly out of focus fry up at the digs.

Inspired by the route travelled by Tarka the Otter, this 180 mile, figure eight route traverses unspoiled countryside, dramatic sea cliffs and beautiful beaches. The southern loop incorporates the longest, continuous off-road cycle path in the UK. Walking or cycling, you can experience the best this beautiful area has to offer.

Though first a little look at Ilfracombe.

Looks to me like local Marland Brick

Then away we go following the former train line out of town.

The Ilfracombe Branch of the London & South Western Railway, ran between Barnstaple and Ilfracombe. The branch opened as a single-track line in 1874, but was sufficiently popular that it needed to be upgraded to double-track in 1889.

The 1:36 gradient between Ilfracombe and Mortehoe stations was one of the steepest sections of double track railway line in the country. In the days of steam traction, it was often necessary to double-head departing passenger trains.

Named trains such as the Atlantic Coast Express and the Devon Belle both started and terminated at Ilfracombe.

Despite nearly a century of bringing much-needed revenue into this remote corner of the county, passenger numbers dropped dramatically in the years following the Second World War, due to a massive increase in the number of cars on Britain’s roads, and the line finally closed in 1970.

Much of the course of the line is still visible today, and sections of it have been converted into public cycleways.

Wikipedia

A delightfully decorated prefabricated concrete railway hut.

Huts old railway huts, council take ’em and they cover them in colouring book Constructivism.

Eventually I find myself outside an inter war Modernist Masonic Hall in Braunton.

Dozens of Devon councillors are also Freemasons – is yours?

Conservative Cllr for Topsham Andrew Leadbetter is a well-known Mason.

Devon Live

We leave behind – the shadowy world of secret handshakes, favours for friends and strange initiation ceremonies.

For the equally shadowy world of military installations.

The water tower at RAF Chivenor.

Originally a civil airfield opened in the 1930s, the site was taken over by the Royal Air Force in May 1940 for use as a Coastal Command Station. After World War II, the station was largely used for training, particularly weapons training.

In 1974 the station was left on care and maintenance, in 1994 7 FTS left Chivenor, merging with No. 4 Flying Training School RAF at RAF Valley, and the airfield was handed over to the Royal Marines.

Wikipedia

A most delightful cycle path alongside the estuary of the River Taw.

The River Taw rises high on the slopes of Dartmoor and together with its tributaries, the River Mole, Yeo and little Dart, runs north through beautiful rolling countryside down to Barnstaple and into the Bristol Channel.

Passing under the Torridge Bridge at Bideford – a 650 metre long concrete structure built in 1987.

Photo James Ravilious

Three piers are in the river. Each of the piers in the water is protected by concrete fenders twenty four metres long by eight metres wide by eight metres high. The concrete piers of the bridge are around twenty four metres high.

It was designed by MRM Partnership.

Here we are in Barnstaple by the Civic Centre.

It’s described as an ‘iconic’ building, but not many locals would agree, this huge building widely considered to be one of the ugliest in Devon could soon be under new ownership. The council has confirmed that following a tender exercise, it is working with a preferred bidder to finalise the details of the sale.

Devon Live

In 2014 Barnstaple based Peregrine Mears Architects believed the civic centre could provide up to 84 modern apartments.

Artist’s impression by Peregrine Mears Architects – looks a little too wobbly to me, Peregrine Mears Architects should get right back to the drawing board, where they started from.

The Neo-Classical facade restrained Deco of The Venue.

Formerly The Regal Cinema – opened on 30th August 1937

Architects – BM Orphoot

Revellers dancing at The Worx nightclub – as The Venue was to become.

The building in Barnstaple is for sale with Webbers estate agents for just £225,000. The striking building in a prime position on the town’s Strand was originally opened in 1937 as the Regal Cinema.

The building will probably be best known under the guise of Kaos, the name it was given during the 1990’s and at the height of its popularity.

Other nightclub incarnations at the premises included Babylon, Rockabillies, Coco, Club Tropicana and of course The Venue.

Devon Live 2019

The Tarka Trail crossing the River Torridge, just south of Bideford, utilising the former railway bridge.

The old home town looks the same as I step down from the bike, and there to meet me is – well nobody.

And I realise, yes, I was only dreaming.

I’ll go to Okehampon then – take a look at the lovely tiled Post Office, whilst completely ignoring one of the oldest Norman castles in the country.

Walking around town in search of a B&B proved fruitless, though I was directed to an out of town Roadhouse aways away.

Welcome to Betty Cottles Inn – land of the lost apostrophe.

Rooms are not as photos/described on hotel booking sites, wi-fi hardly ever works. I prepaid/booked for nine nights, I checked out after two days. Needless to say I didnt receive a seven day refund. Owner with attitude problem, he had my money, and was not keen on helping with my concerns about the property. Musky smell to carpet in bar and restaurant areas. Not been cleaned for a long time. Rooms unsafe and not private, with curtains not long enough, lock on room doors inadequate.

Neil H – July 2109

You sneaked in a female into your single room without paying for her and got caught so obviously you have retaliated by way of a negative review. You were probably the most rude and hostile guest we have ever had and have had to report you to booking.com for guest misconduct and also banned you from being able to book here again.

Matthew owner at Betty Cottles Inn

I ate a reasonable meal in the Carvery and chatted amiably with a representative salesman on the move, whilst seeing off a few pints of Guinness – any port in a storm.

Night night.

Great Yarmouth to Cleethorpes

You’re getting three for the price of one – Larry and Johnny only offered two between them.

Friday 5th September Great Yarmouth to Cromer.

Saturday 6th September Cromer to Skegness.

Sunday 7th September Skegness to Cleethorpes.

The royal we however are unable to display the fine array of snaps to which you have become accustomed – normal service will not be resumed as soon as possible.

How so you ask – I’ll tell you how so, you may recall the seafront snaps taken on Great Yarmouth prom under the cover of darkness.

Well you see, I inadvisedly rested my camera upon sandy surfaces in order to steady the shot. I subsequently discovered that sand and photographic technology are a poor pairing.

I killed my camera.

To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower, hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.

I think not.

There’s only one thing for it – two Tesco Value disposable cameras!

With diminished means the royal we hurried on, with diminished returns in view, it is with heavy heart and sand filled socks that I present such thin gruel.

No pearls from this grit filled oyster, all chaff and no wheat – that’s me.

It was hard work editing these images – resembling archival material discovered at the bottom of a 16th century tar barrel.

They’re not even in the right order.

And I’m unsure of many of the locations.

Please accept my profound apologies, I’ll never do it again – I promise.

Appleby’s Famous Farm Ices – Main Rd Conisholme Louth LN11 7LS

This is all the information we have available, if you pop in, please ask them to get in touch with Big Barn to add more.

Stymie Bold Italic aka Profil double whammy coming right up!

Gammon is a traditional gentlemen’s hairdressers in Long Sutton, call into Gammon’s and experience the atmosphere of Long Sutton’s only male hairdressers.

We are exclusively a traditional men only salon, catering for all ages. Running a drop-in system, and with two chairs available waiting times are kept to a minimum.

At Gammon Traditional Gentleman’s Hairdressers you can also purchase a range of Electric Razors and Toiletries along with a large variety of Gifts. 

Gammon Traditional Gents Hairdressers also stock fragrances for him and her that include:- Chanel, Safari, Polo, Ghost, Opium, Quorum, Tabac, Lacoste, Calvin Klein, Dolce and Gabanna, Poison, Davidoff, Iceberg Twice, Jazz, Aramis, Sergio Tacchini, Azzaro, Farenheit, Giorgio, and many more.

Welcome to Giles Bros located in Kings Lynn town centre. Established in 1921 and still trading from the same premises offering MOT’s on all makes of vehicle in the centre of King’s Lynn. If your looking for a reliable and friendly service you have come to the right place. Please feel free to look around our website and see just what we offer.

Although modern motor vehicles have changed so much since the early days our customer commitment hasn’t.

There has been a pier in Cromer since 1391, but history really relates from 1822 onwards.  In this year, a 210 foot wooden jetty was built, but unfortunately it was washed away in 1843.  It was then replaced with another slightly longer one, 240 foot, which lasted until 1890.  This one was also destroyed by the stormy seas and the remains were consequently sold at auction for £40.

Following this, very sensibly, an iron jetty was built that was 500 foot long, together with a bandstand which was eventually extended into a pavilion.

During the war Cromer Pier was sectioned for defence purposes.

The poor Pier also had its fair share of being damaged too, which I suppose is understandable, being stuck out in the sea!

Explore Norfolk

St Magaret Witton-by-Walsham one of the enchanting Norfolk churches I passed by and the only one I entered. It had provision for an unattended brew and home made cake, just the job.

The church is an elegant, well-kept, peaceful building, but it is also rather quirky. There are two splayed round windows in the lower north side of the nave it seems reasonable to think that they are genuine Saxon windows, and this is a genuine Saxon piece of wall. As is the lower part of the south wall, for both sides have long and short work ironstone blocks forming the corners with the west wall.

In the early 14th Century they began to expand the church, but rather than rebuild it they heightened the existing walls, which is why the tower and the church still make an awkward juxtaposition even today. There is a clerestory on both sides of the church, but an aisle only to the south, contemporary with the clerestory, rather than with the 15th century crowning of the tower with a bell stage and battlements.

When the Tudors extended the tower, they needed a way for people to get up to the bell stage. Rather than build a stairway inside the tower in the conventional manner, they built a stair turret inside the church, against the west wall of the nave, which is at once awkward and intriguing. Tucked in beside the stair turret is a large converted barrel organ. I remembered the late Tom Muckley observing that small villages like this usually owned just one barrel organ, which was used in the church on Sunday and then moved to the pub for the rest of the week.

Norfolk Churches

Well there you are an unfitting end to a grand tour.

What have we learned along the way?

Everyone I met along the way was both helpful and friendly – save for a minor rebuttal in Southend.

The coast is plural and singular, whilst there may well be typologies to be found, the variations within are manifold.

It pays to take time to look around, slow down from time to time, rest your legs, open you eyes.

Sand and cameras do not mix.

Good night John Boy, good night Ma, goodnight Pa – night night Steve.

We all learned a lot today on the Modern Mooch

I’ll let Bobby Bland have the last word.

Clacton to Great Yarmouth

Day four Thursday 4th September 2014 – leaving Clacton on Sea for Frinton on Sea is the equivalent of crossing continents, time zones, aesthetic and social sensibilities.

Leaving the razzle-dazzle, frantic fish and chip frazzle, for the sedate repose of germ free Frinton.

Green sward and restrained modernist shelters adorn the foreshore.

I love the bold optimism of Maritime Moderne – the bright eyed, forward looking window grid of these fine flats.

I have a cautious admiration for the faux Deco newcomers.

The modernist estate was attempted many times in the interwar years; visions of rows of fashionable white walled, flat roofed houses filled developers eyes. In practice the idea was less popular with potential house buyers. In the Metro-Land suburbs of London, estates were attempted in Ruislip and Stanmore, with a dozen houses at most being built. One estate that produced more modernist houses than most, albeit less than planned, was the Frinton Park estate at Frinton-on-Sea on the Essex coast.

Oliver Hill was known for his house designs, which spanned styles from Arts and Crafts to Modernist. Hill was to draw up a plan for 1100 homes, as well as a shopping centre, luxury hotel and offices. The plan was for prospective buyers to buy a plot and then engage architects to design their new house from a list of designers drawn up by Hill. The list featured some of the best modernist architects working in Britain at the time; Maxwell FryWells Coates, F.R.S. Yorke and Connell, Ward & Lucas.

As wonderful as this sounds today, the buying public of 1935 did not quite agree. The majority of potential buyers were apparently put off by the Estates insistence on flat roofs and modernist designs. Plan B was to build a number of show homes to seduce the public into buying the modernist dream. Of 50 planned show homes, around 25 were built, with about 15 more houses built to order. The majority of these were designed by J.T. Shelton, the estates resident architect, with a number designed by other architects like Hill, Frederick Etchells, RA Duncan and Marshall Sisson.

Modernism in Metroland

One million four hundred thousand pounds later

Nine hundred and fifty thousand pounds

These survivors are now much sought after residences.

The Modern House

The town is also home to this traditional confectioners – Lilley’s Bakery.

Leaving the coast for pastures new – well, a ploughed field actually.

Crossing the River Orwell over the Orwell Bridge on my way to Ipswich.

The main span is 190 metres which, at the time of its construction, was the longest pre-stressed concrete span in use in the UK. The two spans adjacent to the main span are 106m, known as anchor spans. Most of the other spans are 59m. The total length is 1,287 metres from Wherstead to the site of the former Ipswich Airport. The width is 24 metres with an air draft of 43 metres; the bridge had to be at least 41 metres high. The approach roads were designed by CH Dobbie & Partners of Cardiff. 

The bridge is constructed of a pair of continuous concrete box girders with expansion joints that allow for expansion and contraction. The girders are hollow, allowing for easier inspection, as well as providing access for services, including telecom, power, and a 711mm water main from the nearby Alton Water reservoir.

The bridge appears in the 1987 Cold War drama The Fourth Protocol, in which two RAF helicopters are shown flying under it, and at the end of the 2013 film The Numbers Station.

Wikipedia

Time for a Stymie Bold Italic stop – much to the obvious consternation of an over cautious customer.

It seems to still be extant – but with a tasteful coat of subdued grey paint according to its Facebook page.

Having completed this journey in 2016, then reacquainting myself in 2020, I have little recollection of visiting Ipswich, but I did, yet there are no snaps.

I photographed this and several other water towers, precisely where, I could not honestly say.

Suffice to say that it is somewhere – as is everything else.

An admiring nod to Bernd and Hilla Becher.

This the only time that I chose to have a glass of beer whilst awheel, normally waiting until the evening – I couldn’t resist this charming looking brew pub in Framlingham.

Earl Soham is a village close by, on the A1120. The Earl Soham Brewery beers started out in  life being brewed in local man Maurice’s old chicken shed. You may be pleased to hear they have a slightly more sophisticated set-up now, without forgetting their humble roots.

If you haven’t tasted them before, we think you’ll be as delighted with them as our regulars, and you can be guaranteed of a warm welcome if you come to try them out.

The Station

The sort of wayside boozer where I could have easily idled away an hour or two – hopefully I’ll pass by again some time and linger longer.

Another water tower – somewhere.

The most enchanting of shop fascias.

Something of a curiosity – David Frost’s father’s ironmongers in Halesworth – and the Ancient House with its ancient carving.

The bressumer beam at the front of the is linked with Margaret de Argentein in the late 14th and 15th century, it is believed t it could have been a manor or toll house. 

Currently trading as a Bistro with paranormal problems;

Things in the window were swaying the other day and when we went to stop them they almost fought back.

I’ve seen two ghosts in the kitchen. One was clearly a man, the other was when I thought my daughter was over my shoulder but when I looked around she wasn’t there, and we were the only two in the building.

Eastern Daily Press

The long and ever so slightly winding road of the lowlands, sad eyed.

Service station highlight of the tour – with its National graphic identity intact.

A no longer a bakers bakery.

Ghost sign.

All at sea again – caravans to the left of us, sea to the right of us, onwards onwards.

The eternal puzzle of the paddling pool.

Terracotta tiling on the Lifeboat House.

Crossing the estuary of the River Yare – yeah, yeah!

Finally arriving in Joyland.

Rides include the world famous Snails and Tyrolean Tub Twist.

A huge toy town mountain incorporates the Spook Express kiddie coaster, Jet Cars and Neptune’s Kingdom undersea fantasy ride, Pirate Ship, Major Orbit, Balloon Wheel and Skydiver complete the rest of the rides.

Hungry – why not grab a bite at the American Diner.

I actually went to the Wetherspoons.

Though the town is full of tiny pubs.

And a chippy.

I wandered the highway byways and promenade of Great Yarmouth, all alone in a neon nightmare!

Finally settling down for a pint or two – again.

Lastly encountering the late night skaters.

Night night.

Water Towers

There are vertical features in our landscapes.

Prominent architecture, largely functionalist.

We can travel from pylon to pylon, spire to spire.

I espy water towers, and espouse the recording thereof.

I was first aware of the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher  many years ago, as a young art student I developed an empathy for their matter of fact photography, and a warm sense of the familiar with the largely industrial, everyday subject matter.

I have often made light hearted reference, to their austere conceptual grids.

The bungalows of Humbertson Fittes Lincolnshire

becher's bungalows copy

The British Rail freight van stables of Greater Manchester

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 16.54.23

And of course water towers, some are familiar to me in the areas around south Manchester, easily accessibly by bicycle across the Cheshire Plain. So over time I have set out with a clear intent or serendipitous disposition, a modern day Don Quixote, sans Sancho Panza, tilting and snapping at towers.

Access is not always easy, or permitted for that matter – there are gates and fences to overcome, brambles and barbed wire to catch yourself on, but it’s always worth it. As a typology they are various, in design, structure and materials.

Summer 2014 I cycled from Hastings to Cleethorpes, following where possible a coastal route, in search of nothing in particular. Needless to say I found several water towers, eight of note – amongst other things.