September 16th 2014
Mid-September, and the tourists are drifting away. Not all of them, by any means; when we first moved here, we thought November to March would be a bit like the towns of the old West, with dust and grass blowing down the deserted streets and only the occasional elderly resident venturing out into the wind and rain.
No, it’s not like that. Even in December, the turkey and tinsel coaches keep unloading, and all through the winter, the appearance of sunshine – not particularly uncommon during the winter months here – will bring in the day trippers and even the weekenders, adding to the rich mixture of accents and, yes, languages, which can be heard in Devon towns. In July and August, the population of the south-west triples, and so, unfortunately, does the demand for water, though after last winter, no-one would dare to start talking about a shortage of water.
Devon has had a good summer. Perhaps our austere times are making people more willing to save money with a staycation rather than pay out for flights and foreign hotels. Perhaps the uncertainties and violence clashes which habitually hit our television screens are causing people to be more doubtful about venturing abroad. No doubt the beautiful summer has helped, but the sheer volume of visitors and the heartening mixture of generations they represent begins to suggest that the British seaside holiday really is experiencing a comeback. And, of course, the years have taught Devon to make indoor options readily available, as will be seen from any visit to a modern holiday park.
The whole county was apprehensive, to say the least, about the approaching summer after the copious footage of storms, winds and huge waves splashing onto promenades beamed around the world over the winter. A lady who has only recently set up in one of the many B and Bs around us here was speculating in February that she would be struggling for 30 or 40% occupancy if the Devon horror spectacular went on and any more rail lines were seen dangling in the English Channel as they were in Dawlish.
But Devon is resilient, as it’s had to be over the years; the trains run again at Dawlish, the people are enjoying the beaches and cafes again, and summer is proving reluctant to drift away. We have been out and about getting stocked up with Vitamin D, as we were again today. Now is the time of year when Devon has its festivals, towns and villages taking their turns, one week at a time, a kind of locals’ knees up to sign off another season, but a knees up they are quite willing to share with visitors. Autumn or no autumn, Devon’s arms are still open.