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Bideford >  Google™ Map Sep 2023  Devon Coat of Arms

byden vessel, tub + ēa river + ford Old English. Population - 18,260.

England-Devon Flag UK > England > Devon

Sep 2023

Devon Coat of Arms

Lil' biddy Bide plays 'Buda' to the other side's 'Pest' only there's nothing much east of this river, this being the River Torridge, of course. It's no Danube, for sure, so that's where the ropey analogy with the grand, Hungarian capital ends, if it ever really got going?

Bideford - River Torridge

Hang on! You say there's nothing much on the other side? What about the Bideford Railway Heritage Centre, 'A visitor centre & museum devoted to Bideford railway history, with exhibits & tea in old rail cars', they say.

Not that it was known at the time and not that there's that much interest in this kind of thing, honestly, they just seem to follow you around although one of us is a little more interested than they'd like to admit.

Nothing much on the other side? Outrageous!

Unlike Barnstaple, Bideford's Long Bridge isn't strictly necessary because, unlike at Appledore, it's said you can wade across the Torridge when the tide's oot, unlikely!

Bideford - River Torridge

Both of those places have been ticked off today so this is a quick and late-afternoon pit stop but SlyBob could still go a pasty on a park bench although expectations aren't high.

Earlier in the week, a couple of older, Ilfracombe locals derided the state of both high streets but, sorry Ilfracombe, your harbour excepted, this is far more charming.

Bideford - Mill Street
Bideford - Mill Street

Bit of a problem on the pasty front, however, there's only a sole purveyor of the pastry although a wrong turn might have been taken away from the main drag.

Because of the time of day, they've none of the traditional or the acceptable alternative of a cheese filling left so some sort of spicy sweet potato will have to be settled on, which is more hmm than mmm.

These are also world-famous Devon pasties, at least that's how they're known in Devon. You know, the ones with crimping along the top and not their semi-circular Cornish counterparts where the crimping is around the edge?

Bob would like to think that he's lived a bit, he even knows the respective, under-the-counter county flags used to differentiate. This, however, is a revelation to now know to have been frequently and ignorantly devouring a Devon when all along the assumption was a Cornish-style bit of baking.

You live, you learn, you pass knowledge on and the circle of life continues. The biggest shock, though, is the, quite frankly, blasphemous content of spicy sweet potato!

With the pasty less-than-satisfactorily covered, that just leaves a park bench and the more-than-satisfactory Victoria Park delivers on that side of the deal.

Bideford - Victoria Park
Bideford - Victoria Park

If it's not already then it should be up for some annual, blooming prize or other, all delightfully maintained by the local council. Opened in 1912 to celebrate the reign of you-know-who, They even claim a swimming pool, just shown, which is a paddling pool, really, but it's still deeper than the Torridge when the tide's oot.

  The Burton at Bideford Art Gallery and Museum (Kingsley Road)

What it says but what they don't say is it's free to enter, donations welcome. The sale of local artists' work and standard gift-shop fayre funds the upkeep as well as the rotating exhibitions and the small, local museum.

The Burton at Bideford Art Gallery and Museum

It's not known if Café du Parc do traditional pasty fillings but they do do patisserie, probably. The operator is French, you see, with crepes and galettes prominent on the menu although it's not known if spicy sweet potato is an option.

The Riverbank Car Park is handy for the park but, not unexpectedly, even handier for the river and what could be called, not unreasonably, a promenade.

Bideford - Riverbank

Bideford shares a history of shipbuilding with Appledore and between here and back to the bridge, the Quay is where it all went on. Unlike Appledore, which is less than three miles north and downstream on the way to the ocean, the tradition doesn't continue and work here is purely restorative, these days.

There's a project currently underway to get the SS Freshspring up and puffing again under her own steam. Ferrying fresh water to offshore vessels was her original function but she spent her later years rotting in various berths between Ardrossan and Sharpness.

Bideford - Steamship Freshspring

She was brought to Bideford in 2016 but despite National Lottery funding and a small fee for admission, there doesn't look to be an ETA and that's an Estimated Time of Afloat.

It's slow progress and gawd knows what they'll be putting in Bideford's pasties by the time this boiler's back in working order.

Meanwhile, back at Victoria Park, you'll find it behind Kinsgley Road and that'll be Charles Kingsley, no less, author of the historical and nautical romp of a novel Westward Ho!

Before things head out to sea and the Spanish Armada sets sail, the story starts in Bideford, which Kingsley describes as the 'Little White Town'. It's quite white, alright, including the modern bus shelter although some parts have since progressed to pale pastel.

Bideford Quay (Stop D)
Bideford - Bridgeland Street

The cleansing properties of the lime in the old whitewashed walls were thought to curb an outbreak of cholera, you see, so no, it's not a deliberate attempt to discourage diversity in this part of Devon but not all were convinced.

Complaints were made to the council, seriously, and a motion was proposed to change the Welcome To signs to 'Charles Kingsley's Little White Town' to neutralise any notions of neo-nazism.

It came to pass that any repainting wasn't required but was it white supremacists, Piers Morgan or common sense that prevailed? You decide but it's bet that even Kingsley's vivid imagination couldn't have contemplated this kerfuffle over 150 years later.

The council, however, will be handling at least two new strongly worded complaints... To whom it may concern, have you seen what they're putting in your pasties?

What's What
 The Burton at Bideford Art Gallery and Museum
 Bideford Railway Heritage Centre
 Steamship Freshspring