Thinking of Moving to Ilfracombe? Go for it.

The Personal View of an Ex-Londoner

I would say that the best decision I made was moving to Ilfracombe from my home in Walthamstow, London. Not that I hated Walthamstow, specifically. I had lived most of my forty plus years in London and hated most of it. Not the city itself, and not individual people, but the cost of living just drives everything and everybody until it becomes the most impersonal and unfriendly place in the country.

Not that everything is perfect here, but compared to London I would not swap back for any (plausible) reason. Sure if you paid me a million pounds to live there then I would go back, but if I won a million pounds I would stay in Ilfracombe.

Pro and cons of London compared to Ilfracombe

And for London you could read Birmingham or most other big cities as well.


  • Vastly less traffic, my son and I no longer require asthma pumps on daily basis. Drivers are annoyingly polite.
  • You get to know loads of people really quickly and you can’t get down the High Street without having to stop for a chat. Don’t upset people though because you still have to see them
  • Some jobs are seasonal but there are still plenty of good jobs. Even working in Barnstaple you only have half an hour each way by car.
  • No, it is NOT perfect here either. If anything some drugs are more readily available. And yes there is violent crime, but not so much, and the papers are mainly full of stories about dog crap, or pesky seagulls.
  • People still moan but mostly those who have lived here all their lives and don’t realise that it’s worse in big cities.
  • Some incredible local talent with most venues offering free live music weekly, a great little theatre, cinema, and night club and a night out needn’t break the bank.
  • We sold our three edroom end of terrace house in E17 (a low value part of London) and bought a seven bedroom terraced house in the centre of town. We had £30,000 left after all costs.
  • House price info from Right Move
    “The majority of sales in Ilfracombe during the last year were terraced properties, selling for an average price of £144,794. Flats sold for an average of £130,925, with detached properties fetching £230,006.Ilfracombe, with an overall average price of £166,160 was cheaper than nearby Woolacombe (£307,735), Combe Martin (£178,171) and Braunton (£248,692).

    Overall sold prices in Ilfracombe over the last year were similar to the previous year and 16% down on the 2008 level of £197,112.”


  • Traffic pollution, congestion, and road safety issues. Asthma was a big problem. Took ages to drive anywhere.
  • People rarely know their neighbours, and nobody talks on public transport, or in the street. Surrounded by people, you can still feel completely alone.
  • Huge choice of job opportunities, some jobs can only be found in the biggest cities. Often you have to commute for two or more hours a day just to get to work.
  • Street violence, drunkenness and abusive behaviour fairly common in a lot of areas. Drugs and drug crime all too common, local papers full of stories about stabbings and shootings.
  • People moaning about things like overcrowding on the tube, traffic, the cost of living, pollution, and each other.
  • Top west end shows and huge international music acts (if you can afford them) immense choice of restaurants, nightlife, tourist attractions (except you never really visit them do you?)
  • Property prices are high in London. If you own your own home then you can probably trade up and get some money left over for yourself. If you are renting then the chances are you will get a better deal in Ilfracombe
  • House price info from Right Move 
    “Last year most property sales in London involved flats which sold for on average £391,595. Terraced properties sold for an average price of £507,732, while semi-detached properties fetched £469,713.London, with an overall average price of £456,932 was more expensive than nearby South East (£296,292),

    During the last year, sold prices in London were 8% up on the previous year and 12% up on 2010 when the average house price was £406,347.”

So what are you waiting for?

House prices in town are finally on the rise so there couldn’t be a better time to buy. There are signs of investment and improvements going on all over town right now, with some high quality new shops opened up lately, and every likelihood of a resurgence in the town in the coming years.

Estate Agents in Ilfracombe


Ilfracombe Bike Show September 14th 2013

2nd anual Ilfracombe Bike Show


On Saturday 14th September bikes from all over will descend on Ilfracombe, gathering on the seafront around the Landmark Theatre.

Organised by M.A.G. (Motorcycle Action Group) this will be raising money for

Entry for all bikes £3 which includes parking on the seafront. Trophies will be awarded in various categories.

Money raised will be donated to Motorcycle Outreach, Devon Air Ambulance trust, and M.A.G.

Further details from or telephone 08442 480174


Honey Jacks at Sunwest Festival

Last minute replacements wow the crowd

On the Sunday evening I spotted a post on Facebook that said Honey Jacks were playing their debut gig, stepping in for Tuesday Syndicate on the Monday afternoon. 

Honey_Jacks_sunwest_1This would be just before my own band were due to play and I was looking forward to checking out this band in particular.

You see three members of the five piece “Honey Jacks” were previously part of “Surrogate Suns” (my last failed project).

Honey_Jacks_sunwest_2The Suns imploded, suddenly (without rancour) due to the fact we were all gently pulling in different musical directions.
Honey Jacks were named after Honey Jack Daniels, a drink which Surrogate Suns were also rather fond of.

Honey_Jacks_sunwest_3The band consists of

  • Karen Yates – vocals
  • Nick Filby – lead guitar
  • Tony Dredster – rhythm guitar
  • Dan Emery – bass
  • Jay Allen – drums

I was a bit worried at first, because I expected there would be a lot of songs in their set that my band also did, but in the end it turned out that I recognised very few of their songs.  Honey_Jacks_sunwest_4Only Stevie Wonder’s Superstition crossed over, and their version was quite different from ours.

Musically the band were immensely tight, as you would expect from musicians who have worked together in other bands for some time. Not only were Nick, Jay, and Tony, part of Surrogate Suns but perhaps more importantly, Jay, Dan, and Tony were the powerhouse behind “The Padawans” who were a popular band for many years before I even moved to Ilfracombe, and Nick was in a band called “Monster“, with Jay, before that.

Honey_Jacks_sunwest_5Karen’s vocals were sufficiently powerful not to be lost in the thunder of such a high octane backline, yet still melodic and soulful.

Nick is also a guitarist who does not allow the excitement of playing live and loud stand in the way of playing it RIGHT.

All in all, this was a superb first outing for a band which I hope will run for a good long time. 

Sunwest festival review The Liquidators AKA

Another fabulous fun filled weekend at the Landmark

This is going to be one of them there “work in progress” type posts.

So many great acts to review, so many photographs to crop and compress.

First off, and simply because I happened to be going through the pictures of them just now. The Liquidators AKA.

Liquidators AKA had the audience dancing all night.

Liquidators AKA had the audience dancing all night.

I didn’t review them before the gig because I couldn’t find any good quality recordings of them online. What a superb party band they are. Obviously the AKA gives the clue that they are a Ska band. The affectation seems to stem from The Specials who had to add AKA because there was another band in the USA of the same name. As it happens they renamed the band “The Liquidators” adding the AKA after some line up changes but they could just as easily have called it The New Liquidators, but that wouldn’t be “ska” would it?

The Sunwest audience were on their feet from the off, and one or two were leaping about like loons for most of the night. I don’t know how they manage it. Me? I tapped my foot a fair bit. You may consider this my highest form of physical praise.

Musically they were tight and polished. If I have a criticism it is simply that each tune sounded a lot like the one before it, but maybe with more familiarity that opinion will change.


The effect of Damien Hirst’s Verity on art in Ilfracombe

Art on the increase thanks to Damien Hirst?

This is an article which will inevitably fall far short of what I would like to realise on first writing, but I feel it is worth making a first attempt and then improving over time.

Verity was delivered in October 2012. The arm was damaged and had to be repaired. She was polished before standing her up/

Verity was delivered in October 2012.
The arm was damaged and had to be repaired. She was polished before standing her up

In October 2012 amid much fervent discussion amongst a divided community, a team of engineers arrived at the pier end with an abnormal load.
Damien Hirst’s 66foot tall statue was laid down unarmed on the bed of a huge lorry. Surrounded by photographers, and journalists, the statue was polished, erected, and fixed into place looking out across the sea roughly in the direction of Lundy Island.

Verity_greenSome despised her, others hoped she would bring new prosperity to the town, quite a few admired her for art’s sake. Huge numbers turned out to watch as she was lit up and officially “unveiled” and then Christmas came and the snows of winter. Spring gave way to summer and the tourist season began in earnest. The local paper claimed a victory of sorts for Verity; based purely on an increase in parking in the municipal car parks, however, the statistics they quoted actually showed an increase across North Devon and Ilfracombe itself was not noticeably ahead of the trend.

Sadly, the reality so far is that tourist spending in the town is not noticeably better in 2013 than 2012 despite the considerably better weather.


Damien Hirst’s new gallery on the Quay. Formerly the Driftwood Gallery.

Nevertheless a certain sense of change has stolen over the town. The evidence is in the number of art galleries, and other art related things that we have hear this year compared to last.

Although even this is, according to some observers, more co-incidence

Driftwood Gallery on the site of the old Waverly Pub.

Driftwood Gallery on the site of the old Waverly Pub.

The Driftwood Gallery had been at The Quay next door to Damien Hirst’s restaurant, but the artist recently acquired the building to use as a gallery himself and so the Driftwood had to relocate.

The Driftwood Gallery Ilfracombe.

The Driftwood Gallery Ilfracombe.


The Waverly Pub, which has presumably fallen victim to the waning fortunes of pubs everywhere closed down and has now re-opened as the new home of the Driftwood.

This has given the gallery a lot more space which they have used effectively.


Echo Beach gallery at 4 Broad Street, Ilfracombe.

Echo Beach gallery at 4 Broad Street, Ilfracombe.

In addition to this another new gallery opened on Broad Street in the same general area.

Echo Beach is at 4 Broad Street and brings the total of galleries in the harbour area to three, compared with the one of only a year ago.

Echo Beach, window display.

Echo Beach offers paintings sculpture and ceramics from many local artists, and has a broad range of prices from a few pounds to several hundred pounds.

These galleries would appear to be geared up for the visiting art lovers that Verity is expected to attract, since the art is, in the main, significantly beyond the means of the average ‘Combe resident. Although Echo Beach does offer quite a lot of more affordable pieces than the others in the harbour area. Run by Nina Lording, who previously ran the Driftwood before striking out on her own, the gallery is more interested in local artists. Nina was at pains to point out that all these artists have been based in North Devon for a long time before Damien Hirst moved to the region and that the art scene has always been vibrant here.

Further up into town there is another new gallery on the High Street

Jessica Dove Gallery 8 High Street, Ilfracombe

Jessica Dove Gallery
8 High Street, Ilfracombe

Gallery Jessica Dove occupies a shop that was only a year or two ago a charity shop. I personally have nothing against charity shops and get a lot of my stuff from them but I wouldn’t argue that we need more of them and fewer art galleries or other high value establishments.

As well as these galleries there are several other places of interest to artists, and art lovers alike. Many of these have been here for some time and some are new. Verity is not our only statue.

StatueThe most obvious one that springs to mind is that of Ekaterine Frolov, who fell to her death from the top of Hillsborough in 2000. Her family endowed a statue in her memory but it was very sensibly sited at the top of Capstone rather than Hillsborough, since far more people would see it.

I have been asking around and surprisingly most of the locals don’t even know about our other statues. War_Memorial_IlfracombeAt first when I ask them “do you know any other statues in Ilfracombe, apart from the three I already know about” they are confident they know of others and then they start to realise they cannot even name the other two.

The third one that I am aware of is the war memorial, erected after the Great War; and having bronze plaques added, following the Second World War; the statue of an angel stands atop a stone column in a pleasant little garden area, and is a popular meeting place.

Not far out of town near the village of Bradiford there is also the Broomhill Sculpture park which is well worth a visit for all art buffs.


Paintings on display, and available to purchase, at the Landmark Theatre.
The featured artist changes from time to time.

In many other locations in town you will find places where local artists’ work is displayed and available for sale. These include the Landmark Theatre, restaurants, hotels, and bars, as well as the local delicatessen in the High Street. All well worth checking out.

Encaustic art at Lulubelle’s

Encaustic_art_at_LulubellesLulubelle’s is an art and craft shop in the High Street with an eclectic mix of stock. Much of what is on sale here is created by local artists, but pride of place must surely go to shop owner Lyndsey’s stunning wax paintings.

Encaustic art is the process of scratching into coloured wax that has been spread onto card.  Whilst it is possible to achieve interesting effects fairly easily with little practice this lady’s work shows a level of skill with multiple layers and intricate detail. There are works at every price point from keyrings for a few quid to large framed works for considerably more. The photograph doesn’t really do justice to any of them at this scale.

I am creating a map of some of these places but I know there will be many that I miss, so I would welcome comments from anyone who knows of another place that deserves a mention.





The Seahorse – Ilfracombe pub listing

The Seahorse pub, Ilfracombe

Wilder Road,
EX34 9AJ



Seahorse-2The Seahorse is arguably the most child and family friendly pub anywhere, there is an area set aside specifically for young children with a TV tuned permanently to cbeebies or similar, and dotted with all sorts of books and toys and small seating.


Seahorse-3They also welcome bookings for kids birthday parties, in fact my kids have been to them there and had a great time.

The pub hosts Karaoke every week. It is a large pub with helpful staff and the only drawback from my point of view is there are no real ales.


Back to Ilfracombe pub listings


Tarr Steps, Dulverton ancient stone bridge

A cheap half day out for the kids

Tarr Steps, "clapper" bridge.  According to Wikipedia The name "clapper bridge" comes from the Medieval Latin "claperius" which means "pile of stones".

Tarr Steps, “clapper” bridge.
According to Wikipedia The name “clapper bridge” comes from the Medieval Latin “claperius” which means “pile of stones”.

It’s just  in Somerset, but it is within an hour’s drive of Ilfracombe, going through Combe Martin and across Exmoor.

The Tarr Steps is not made of tar, and it isn’t steps. It is actually a bridge made of large flat stones.

Wellies or crocs recommended, plus a change of clothes or some towels at least.

Wellies or crocs recommended, plus a change of clothes or some towels at least.

The bridge is approximately three thousand years old. Originally built by the Devil for a bet (at least according to legend)

It has been damaged by flooding several times most recently last year (2012) after which is was rebuilt by a team of seven men, and in 1952 when it took fifty sappers from the Royal Engineers to rebuild it. The advantage of modern heavy lifting equipment presumably.

Here’s a short video about the rebuild.

The stones are all numbered so that future rebuilds will be less difficult.

The bridge crosses the river Barle which is a tributary of the Exe, The water is shallow during dry weather and passable by off road vehicles.

Visitors are directed to park in a car park (£2 flat fee all day) which is a short (1/4 mile) walk from the river itself, although there is a blue badge car park at the bottom of the hill, and people can also be dropped off and picked up if the walk is too much for them. There are toilets at the car park.

My wife fell in but unfortunately I wasn't filming her. It was a hot sunny day so the puddle she is standing in is all from her. She had to put a blanket on the seat for the drive home.

My wife fell in but unfortunately I wasn’t filming her.

There are no litter bins at all here, nor are there any dog poo bins. Visitors must take litter away with them but there is no problem at all with dog poo providing it is not bagged, or deposited near the paths or in the river.

There is an ice cream kiosk, we didn’t dare ask the prices, and a tea rooms with pleasant garden. Sorry, but again we didn’t enquire about prices. We decided that it was bound to be expensive and so we brought a picnic lunch.

As well as the bridge and the river, which the kids enjoy splashing about in (wellies or crocs are strongly advised as well as a change of clothes for when it all goes wrong!) there is also a very pleasant footpath and bridleway through the woods which eventually reaches Withypool .

View Tarr steps in a larger map

I took some photos at Sunset during the Make the Move theatre group end of season party. Just thought I would share them here.

A lot of these are PANORAMA shots so you will have to click on them to see them in full.

Quince Honey Farm – South Molton

Learn all about bees and honey
at this long running attraction

Entrance to Quince Honey Farm, South Molton.

Entrance to Quince Honey Farm, South Molton.

My daughter has been nagging us to take her to the honey farm for ages now, and with the summer holidays more than half gone it was high time we did.

Location and contact details

Quince Honey Farm,
North Road,
South Molton,
EX36 3AZ
Telephone 9am to 5pm:
01769 572401
Watch people working on each stage of the process.  This lady was making frames for the honeycomb.

Watch people working on each stage of the process.
This lady was making frames for the honeycomb.

There were mixed reviews on Trip Advisor ranging from five star to one star and some of the comments almost put me off. As a result we decided, since money is tight right now that I would just take Ellie, and keep the costs down as much as possible.

To be honest, Trip Advisor is a dangerous tool, sure you can get forewarned about possible holiday disasters, but you are going to take on board the opinions of people who may be completely different to you.

A lot of information is presented on display boards but it is well written and laid out, and is not the only source of information.

A lot of information is presented on display boards but it is well written and laid out, and is not the only source of information.

One of the negative comments said  “It is so old fashioned and the way the information is delivered i.e. posters and displays on walls does not engage with young children. ”
Well when we went there, (only one month later) we found there were flaps to lift to find answers to questions. I doubt very much if this was added recently so, presumably, they missed that as they rushed round.

There were several different types of beehive and some of them could be opened by pressing a button which controlled a motor. Exactly the sort of thing kids love.

There were several different types of beehive and some of them could be opened by pressing a button which controlled a motor. Exactly the sort of thing kids love.

There were numerous different types of beehives, with active bee colonies, some of which had buttons that you could press and a motor would open the hive for you to see inside.

There was also a film that you could sit down and watch although we didn’t bother.

I even learned stuff myself, because I was there talking to my daughter about it, and reading the information to her. She had a booklet with quiz questions to answer, as well as mazes and puzzles etc, a really well thought out booklet, although she isn’t much into writing so that ended up being done mainly by me. Did you know the honey is extracted from the comb in a centrifuge? I didn’t.

Soft Play area.  Fairly substantial play area with no time restriction. Socks must be worn  but can be bought in the shop for £1

Soft Play area. Included in the entry price.
Fairly substantial play area with no time restriction.
Socks must be worn but can be bought for £1

Sure it wasn’t the science museum, and certainly not Legoland; but there was enough to keep my seven year old daughter occupied for the best part of an hour, and that is not counting the soft play area which was pretty extensive and included in the entry price. (£5.25 children; £5.95 adults) I might add, the soft play area had no time limit.

Soft play is quite large, as you can see, I couldn't get it all into one shot.

Soft play is quite large, as you can see, I couldn’t get it all into one shot.

The cafe smelled wonderful but I avoided the temptation to eat there as prices were typical for this type of attraction. I did have a decent mug of coffee (£1.90) and I got a jug of squash for Ellie which filled up at least four glasses (£2.05)



I also learned that humans have been climbing up to collect honey since before written history. Of course I should have known this since most primates do so, but I didn’t realise there were cave paintings and carvings dating back thousands of years depicting the activity.

In the shop they sell a wide range of honey and bee related products, as well as socks, which is thoughtful, because many children will arrive in sandals, but have to wear socks on the soft play. My daughter included.
We bought socks, a large jar of heather honey (£4.50) a jar of honey marmalade (£3.50) very nice, and a beeswax tea light 65p.
I wasn’t willing to pay four quid for a candle shaped like a Christmas tree, but then I wasn’t buying gifts for friends back home.

All in all, I would say it is certainly worth a visit with most age groups of children. It is tolerable value at just over £22 for a family of four (children are ages 3-16) although, if you are on a tight budget, make sure you feed everyone before you go, so they aren’t hungry; and maybe show them the price of a jar of honey in Tesco for comparison first.


Landmark Sunwest festival – Ilfracombe Fri 23rd – Mon 26th August 2013

The 2013 Sunwest Festival Aug 23 – 26

at The Landmark Theatre, Ilfracombe

The LandmarkThe Landmark Theatre host three festivals a year.
The first is the Beer Festival which takes place over the Mayday bank holiday
Second is Sunwest which covers the August bank holiday
and last is the Folk and Cider fest which is in October.

Real_Ales_The bands play in the Pavilion; with a huge array of real ales and ciders, in casks, sold in the bar area. Usually there is a barbecue outside as well as bouncy castles and some stalls.

This is a FREE FESTIVAL, although of course it is not acceptable to bring your own drinks. The beers are not especially expensive, £3 a pint last time I was there, and it is only through drinks and food sales that the venue can possibly hope to pay for the bands.

And there are some superb bands. Here’s the poster.Sunwest_poster

  • Mango Factory are a musical “smoothie”, blending elements of funk, soul, blues, and soca.
  • Rosco Levee are bluesy and rocking despite being from Kent.
  • Tuesday Syndicate and Sam Downden are both local artists that I have just not got around to seeing yet so I am looking forward to checking them out.
  • Badly Worn Toy are my band; I can’t comment on them because I have never been able to be in the audience while I am on stage singing.
  • The rest of the bands are new to me but I do know that all the bands are carefully selected and there is never a bad act at any of these festivals.

Here’s the confirmed line up with days and times

Friday 23rd August

9.00pm – Rosco Levee – original blues rock from Kent

Saturday 24th August

  • 2.00pm – October
  • 3.30pm – Yazzy
  • 5.00pm – Hip Route
  • 9.00pm – The Liquidators AKA

Sunday 25th August

  • 2.00pm – iFires
  • 3.00pm – Lionstar
  • 5.15pm – Sam Dowden
  • 6.30pm – Such and Vincent
  • 9.00pm – Mango Factory

Monday 26th August

  • 2.00pm – Jenna
  • 4.30pm – The Tuesday Syndicate
  • 7.00pm – Badly Worn Toy