Saturday, June 12, 2010

What ho!

One of the first things we did when we bought our current home was to drop the name it had been given when it ceased to be a farmhouse. "I refuse to live in a house with an exclamation mark," I said. The house had been called Westward Ho!, now it glories in being plain number 20.

We went to visit the seaside village the house had been named after, which itself had been named after Charles Kingsley's book.  We didn't stay long, finding the place run down and rather tacky and we haven't been back in the 21 years since. Until yesterday, that is, and what a transformation: bright new seafront buildings, everywhere trim and sparkling clean, everyone friendly and helpful.

In case you think I am making up the exclamation mark in the name, here's a picture of the Post Office:
(click on picture for a clearer view)
There is a beautiful 2-mile long sandy beach:
plenty of rock pools to explore
and the pebble ridge, which protects the nearby golf course from the sea.

Until 2008 local people would gather on the beach twice a year for "potwalloping."
Everyone would gather the pebbles that had been washed down by the tides and pile them back onto the ridge. I hear there was much frivolity and local ale involved. The ending of this practice has endangered the oldest golf course in England and destroyed another local tradition.
 For those who find the sea too cold or too big, there is a very convenient beach pool.

Until yesterday, I thought that North Devon beaches lacked beach huts but Westward Ho! has a row of them. Behold:
I got really excited when I saw them. We used to have one on the beach at Eastney when we lived in Hampshire and we had great fun there when the children were small.

Up the hill, beyond the beach huts, we saw what we thought might be Bates' motel.
The closer we got, the more convinced we became so we turned back at this point.
Heading down to the esplanade again, we looked across to "our side of the bay." You can't make out our village because of the mist but the headland is Baggy Point.
  We couldn't see any evidence of the shabby seaside resort of twenty years ago. The ice cream van, a stall selling shell fish from Lundy Island and a couple of cafes provide the seafront refreshments.
and we didn't have to have fish and chips, we sat outside at a bistro, enjoying the sea view and a very pleasant lunch.
Having wasted twenty years, thinking Westward Ho! was a place to be avoided at all costs, we fell in love with it. Should we move to one of the seafront apartments? Or perhaps this would suit our taste and pocket more:

I would still find it difficult to live in a place with an exclamation mark, though!!


  1. Love your post on the Devon seaside.

    What an odd coincidence. My last post featured beach huts too!

  2. Al, I've just been over to have a look (not spent much time indoors recently, so I am way behind in my blog reading). Your beach huts are actually on the beach, as ours was in Hampshire. I think the tides are much higher here on the north coast.

  3. Your pictures are wonderful.

    A beach hut might be a bit too small, but you might like to "down size" one of these days. I highly recommend it.

    Although living in a house with an exclamation point! might offend our sensibilities, it's preferable to one with a question mark?, I think. :-)

  4. Dear Mo, I thought Northwards Ho!! would be more in your psychological scheme of things than Westward Ho!. I am slowly getting things in order to go Eastwards Ho! - Greece here I come! (Is that exclamation mark correctly used?) Don't you just like the challenge of punctuation? How about the move to get rid of the apostrophe in English teaching? This could start another blog debate with your friends. JG

  5. e
    As I spend my days asking "Where are my glasses?" or "What did I come into this room for?" I'm wondering if my house has a secret question mark already. Thanks for the tip.

  6. John
    I hope your journey goes smoothly with no volcanic ash or strikes to disturb it. I don't think I'll get into the apostrophe debate, it raises my blood pressure too much.

  7. Tally ho! Just another pointless axclamatory greeting. On the bus route to work many years ago there was a row of tiny cottages. The one in the middle was called 'Tuc Tin'. It also is just a number these days. Love the pictures of the beach huts.

  8. Exclamatory, even. I really must find my glasses...

  9. Oh, M, your enticing photos make me want to drive over there immediately. I have a very, very soft spot for Westward Ho! It was here in 1963, at the tender age of 15, that I wandered into a secondhand bookshop and picked up a pristine first edition of Thomas Hardy's 'Jude the Obscure'. It cost 15/- (75p) or, for your US readers, less than $2. Worth rather more than that now, although I would not, under any circumstances dream of selling it. Ever.

  10. Rattling On
    I think axclamatory is a great word. It should be accompanied by an appropriate downward arm movement to carry the right amount of threat.

  11. D
    What a find. I didn't see any bookshops but I only walked along the streets in the immediate vicinity of the seafront. Let's go exploring one day.

  12. Great post - we had an almost identical journey to yours - never been before though and thought there was nothing really there - when you read the guide books they go on and on about the ! that you think "gosh is that all there is there"

    Feel in love with the place immediately and have started to visit frequently - we have also just started a website to try to let people know what Westward Ho! is all about. (

    Great Pictures as well - thanks for making me smile today - not there this weekend :-(


  13. Roger

    WE were really surprised, in a very pleasant way, by what we found and will be going back very soon.

    Good luck with the website. I'll add a link to it in my sidebar.

  14. Looks absolutely lovely. Wish I was there.

  15. Hello there
    Really enjoyed your pictures and it looks like you had a great day out - I must say that house on the hill does look rather spooky lol
    Take care

  16. Oh, what a lovely place! One of my favorite things about England is the beach huts that dot the shore. They are so cute! You should definitely get one and put your own punctuation mark on it. :)

  17. Karin

    I'd love to have a beach hut again. I'll be making enquiries about the one in the photo. It is very small but there is probably room for a kettle otherwise it would have to have another exclamation mark!

  18. Hi,

    Many thanks indeed for the link to our new Westward ho! website - very appreciated.



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