Position Closed, Lloyds Bank in Ilfracombe - Credit: D Griffin

OPINION: Come on m'dears Ilfracombe's arms are open to the world - Dave Griffin

Dave Griffin

A pinch and a punch for the first day of the month. June is bursting out all over as Ilfracombe’s tourist industry recovers from its two most dreadful years of trading.

The moratorium on travel placed businesses depending on seasonal tourists in financial jeopardy, and they are busy preparing for the hoped-for revival of fortunes.

Our Dotto train is running again, and at last, those ghastly little ‘one way’ and ‘social distancing’ notices are being torn down and binned along with miles of hazard tape ripped from floors.

Let’s hope those ugly screens will disappear, too. ‘No Vacancies’ signs are appearing in guest house windows, and in the Bristol Channel, the Ilfracombe Princess sails, crammed with passengers from Birmingham, Manchester and Wigan.

Brookdale Avenue’s coach park reveals a healthy increase in visitors, some spending a few nights at the delightful Imperial and Dilkhusa Hotels, both situated on the seafront with magnificent views of the Gower Peninsular.

A wide range of northern accents are heard in Ilfracombe during the summer; being loved by Yorkshire folk is an honour! However, the Welsh may be arriving here via a different route if plans for a Swansea-Ilfracombe ferry come to fruition.

If and when it does, a new sign declaring ‘Croeso’ will surely greet those disembarking. Welsh remains a minority language spoken by just 29.5 pct of that province. It has a melodic quality, but is barely used outside of the boundaries of Wales except, oddly enough, Patagonia, in Argentina.

Controversy rages in the valleys whether Welsh should be taught as a first language, but would that benefit children who could find themselves unable to communicate in the rest of the UK? If you are lost in Moscow, Shanghai, Delhi or Reykjavik, you’ll find an English speaker within minutes. It is the international language enabling travellers to circumnavigate the Earth with ease.

Languages are barriers that divide and discriminate. Imagine every human being on the planet speaking with an Oxford accent: what a harmonious place the world would be. Hopefully, before too long, we’ll be accommodating guests from Powys and Monmouthshire.

Speaking as a London-born blow-in, I’m sure they’ll enjoy a Vera Lynn and a pig’s ear, and perhaps a Ruby Murray in one of our rub-a-dubs. And their saucepan lids will love our beach.

ANOTHER BANK WITHDRAWAL

Four years ago, Erica Castle, editor of Ilfracombe’s now defunct Focus, and myself, as author of its ‘Simmer for Five Minutes’ column, were hauled over the coals by an angry Lloyds Bank manager. I had bemoaned the closure of our Natwest and Barclays banks. Braunton, Combe Martin, Lynton and Woolacombe had similarly lost their branches. I had suggested that it was only a matter of time before Lloyds would also depart. Its furious manager, Adrian Startup, told me that there were ‘absolutely no plans’ to abandon Ilfracombe. My grovelling apology was published the following month, echoing the manager’s profound assurance that his newly painted premises would play a key part in our local business community indefinitely. Mr Startup was keen to demonstrate the confidence he had in our local economy. Guess what? Lloyds Bank will be closing its Ilfracombe branch on September 12th.

BEEFING UP THE ECONOMY

Just a few minutes’ walk from my home, a field has become populated with fine Highland and Hereford cattle. Pastures of grazing sheep and cows exemplify North Devon’s farming economy, and their welfare demands skills passed down through generations. Let’s hope the trend to go vegan doesn’t result in a downturn of this county’s livelihood.

In a not-too-distant future, TV dramas might be preceded by apologetic preambles stating that, ‘The following programme contains images of people eating bacon, eggs, sausages and black pudding, which some viewers may find offensive’.

What a world, in which leather jackets and shoes are taboo. There’s always plastic, but that now reviled material has saved alligators, elephants, turtles and whales from extinction, given that those creatures were sacrificed for everything from suitcases and spectacles to perfumes and piano keys.

Livestock farming actually preserves species.

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