Historic beauty spot celebrates this Sunday to mark ten years since its restoration
TODAY it is a Mecca for walkers, cyclists, local people and visitors – as well as featuring in two episodes of James May’s Toy Stories on television - but little more than a decade ago Fremington Quay was a dangerous and run down derelict site.
The once thriving Victorian freight port and railway station was overgrown, the quay walls were unguarded and crumbling and although the Tarka Trail passed through it, potholes were its most distinguishing feature.
All that changed in 2001 following a £750,000 project that saw the site restored following years of decline, transforming it into one of North Devon’s favourite beauty spots.
This Sunday (September 18,) a community celebration organised by Fremington Parish Council will take place at the quay to mark the tenth anniversary of its restoration, with plenty to see and do from 12 noon until 4pm, including the Fremington Quay Olympics plus live music, a barbecue and beer tent.
Parish council chairman Councillor Rodney Cann was the driving force behind the restoration, forming a project group and attracting funding from the county, district and parish councils plus European money and South West Water.
The station was rebuilt as a café and heritage centre, the quay refurbished plus paths laid for walkers and cyclists to enjoy the trail.
“It was about 1995 when I came up with the concept of restoring the old Victorian quay,” said Mr Cann.
“The track there had become almost impassable, much of the quay wall had collapsed into the river and there were three cottages which had become derelict.”
Part of the deal to redevelop the quay was to allow the developer to build the small collection of houses now on the site and the work was carried out by Pearce Construction, but it was not all plain sailing.
“We ran into all kinds of problems,” Mr Cann continued, “an old well was discovered that had to be restored, while the stones to rebuild the quay wall were discovered on the river bed.
“It was designed as a ‘clean’ project with a minimum of car parking and we anticipated about 20 visitors a day to the heritage centre and a tiny café.
“The reality is it has been so successful it’s exceeded all our expectations and I am particularly proud of it.”
With 60,000 visitors a year, success has bred its own problems:
“Now we are looking to the future,” Mr Cann added.
“Car parking has been a major problem and we are looking at putting in additional parking, but in keeping with the area. We had the foundations laid to double the size of the centre if need be and we’re looking into that.
“We’ve had lots of requests from various boats about pulling in there and it was one of the major disappointments that the walls were too fragile for boats to come alongside. Now we’re looking at the possibility of pontoons that will rise with the tides and allow boats with visitors to moor there.”
On Sunday the celebrations will include the Quay Olympics with youngsters and parents taking part in “traditional” Olympic events including the sack, egg ‘n’ spoon and wheelbarrow races.
The Gaia Trust will also be on hand at the Heritage Centre on Sunday, with a display on its nearby Home Farm Marsh reserve.
The parish council is also holding a Children’s Colouring Competition for those up to seven-years-old and a Photographic Competition with the theme of “Quay Life” for eight to 16-year-olds. All entries must be handed in at the Heritage Centre by 12 noon on the day. Colouring pictures are available from the quay, council offices and Beechfield Road Tuck Shop. Or call the council on (01271) 321063 to find out more.