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Home Travel StoriesExploring South Devon

The English Riviera - Urgh

By Ren Withnell

Ride Date 11 September 2018

Hmmmmm. What to do today? The weather today is grey and misty with the potential for some rain. It is rather comfortable in the static caravan so it requires a little effort to get ourselves together. 

We, well, I, well we figure if the weather is not going to be ideal we'd be best heading north up the coast. We are here and while we didn't particularly enjoy riding through the chaos of the conurbation formed by Paignton and Torquay we ought to at least have a look. Maybe you can tell I'm not particularly enamoured with this thought.

Sharon decides she's coming on the back of my bike and I'm glad. It is much easier in the pandemonium of busy towns if there is only myself to look out for. I'm not expecting to be revelling along glorious roads so she may as well sit back and relax.

Out through the ordinary estate, along the main road out of town and almost immediately into the various outlying areas of Paignton. Please don't get me wrong, the area is fine but I could just as easily be in Fleetwood or West Kirkby, there's nothing to differentiate or amaze and no reason to have travelled here. 

I somehow find my way to Goodrington Sands and it appears to be closed on this damp Tuesday morning. There are arcades and the expected assortment of seaside shops but only one optimistic cafe has it's dull doors open in the hope of snaring a passing holidaymaker or hungry local. We stop long enough to take a few images before getting back onto the bike. The mizzle comes and goes.

Closed shops, a container, grey skies and mist at Goodrington Sands
I guess the weather isn't helping Goodrington Sands to look it's best.
Orange sands at goodrington beach yet the weather takes off the shine
There is a proper beach filled with...potential?

We went to Blackpool (Sands) yesterday and now today we find ourselves in Preston. Great - we really could have saved ourselves a fortune by staying home. Preston seems to be lacking a university and a Harley shop but it has acquired a beach, how odd. 

A long line of beach huts by the sea wall at Preston Sands Devon. The weather is still grey
Preston, not quite like the Preston I'm more familiar with.

This area promotes itself as "The English Riviera". This is meant to conjure notions of sun kissed beaches, smart hotels, posh malls and cute little coves. There should be flash sports cars, beautiful people and pristine countryside. I have been to the French Riviera and I must admit there are a lot of similarities, just not the ones we're supposed to find.

Both areas are rammed solid with traffic. Both areas are filled with housing estates and confusing roads and shopping malls and traffic lights and roadworks and noise and bustle. Note to self - the concept of "Riviera" is a marketing ploy not reality.

Of course I am lost in the melee of streets and vehicles. I'm kind of heading towards Torquay in my head but I've no idea where the bike is going. Purely by accident I spot a sign to "Cockington" which Sharon mentioned this morning. I desperately follow this in the hope of actually achieving something today.

Cockington. It's as though we have fallen out of the frying pan straight into a big squishy bucket of fluffy marshmallows topped with sweet chocolate sprinkles with bows on top. It's as though we travelled back in time. Thatched cottages, flower filled gardens and craft stalls. We park the bike and spend a moment sorting ourselves out so we can take a stroll.

thatched buildings, trees and quaint streets in Cockington
Cockington is a total contrast.

It is chocolate box pretty however it feels rather too much of a cliché, rather too quaint and too idyllic. I wonder if someone from say 1675 would actually recognise it without the mud and the horse poop and the disease riddled street urchins. Despite this I am relieved to be out of town and I'm happy to meander while Sharon looks at every trinket and nik-nak in the cramped little windows of the tiny little shops. 

There's a cafe and the gardens, there's a run down waterwheel and an odd piece of ironmongery, there's gravel paths and weeping willows and there's a grand building suitable for your wedding reception. It is all so lovely and cutesy I want to grab it's little cheeks! Then you look up the hill between the trees at the rear end of some very ordinary 60s or 70s properties. Whoops, that was planning for you back in the day.

A large grass and tree filled garden with a large hall set in it all
Oh it's all so sweet and lovely!
Behind the thatches and trees up the hill are modern houses spoiling the illusion
Ah - Cockington your surroundings are showing.

We miss Torquay. I don't know how and I'm not worried about it but we end up at another pretty place called Shaldon. This is much more like my kind of thing. Narrow streets with higgledy piggledy houses and shops, all by the coast. Unlike Cockington it does feel like people live here and there is life. I get lost down the lanes, happily so.

Odd houses and a narrow street in Shaldon
Ooooh! I wonder what's down there?

Then we cross the estuary on a low flat bridge and into Teignmouth. Ah, Shaldon it seems is the little sister to Teignmouth. We're back into town and the suburbs once again. Dawlish next?

It's not going well today is it. Dawlish is a town, just a town, just another town. We end up stopping the bike at "Funder Park" in Dawlish Warren. We contemplate our predicament over a brew from the concession as a couple of solitary children scream passively from the swinging pirate boat on the small and quiet amusement park. 

Funder Park is a small fun park on this grey day
Shall we have some fun at Funder Park sweetie? No I agree, a brew will do.

I am probably being too harsh. Thing is I'd passed through Lynmouth and Porlock along the north Devon coast in winter 2017. I was impressed by the beautiful countryside and the pretty villages. I had hoped this area would be the same yet alas so far it's more akin to Blackpool or Brighton. Not to worry, we are here to learn and we are learning.

Bovey Tracey seems to be a little more like I'd hoped. While it distinctly lacks any sea it has a healthy mix of old and new, quaint and functional. Unlike Cockington this is a living place with parents collecting little ones from school and shops that sell everyday things. We take a walk around then buy something for tea.

The town centre at Bovey Tracey is quite smal
Simple, charming and yet living. Bovey Tracey town.

We're parked across from Arnold's Ironmongers. Aesthetically I'm reminded of shops from my youth, imagine Arkwright's from Open All Hours with hardware rather than food. The sign however proclaims 3 storeys - a look through the window reveals a veritable Aladdin's cave. Think of B&Q in the '70s all squashed into wooden shelving on wooden floors. Fabulous.

Arnold's Ironmongers, it looks like a small local shop but it's huge inside
There's far far more going on inside than the outside suggests

Back at the caravan with tea being made we discuss our day. Yes Cockington is lovely if a little too contrived. Shaldon was a haven and inland Bovey Tracey was pleasant. Torquay and Paignton, Teignmouth and Dawlish? If our young ones were still young ones then I can understand the attractions but for a curmudgeonly old grumpy motorcyclist like myself? Naaaaah, might as well have gone to Blackpool.


If you'd like to publish your own travelogue on Bikes And Travels contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Riding To Devon It's a long and arduous trip down south to Devon. Or - perhaps Ren is being a drama queen and a bitter cynic.
A Walk Around Brixham Our intrepid motorcycle muppets don't even touch a motorcycle today. In fact it's quite a day for doing things differently for Sharon!
Dartmouth, Slapton and Salcombe South of Brixham the coastal landscape is proving to be quite rural and enjoyable for Sharon and Ren.
The English Riviera - Urgh The dynamic muppets take a haphazard tour of The English Riviera. What will the crankiest two-wheeled twit make of it all?
ButtFast And Buckfast Abbey Ren is having and uncomfortable day. There are things that should not be shared and Ren is sharing them here. Oh dear.
Rocks And A Better Brixham Sharon And Ren scrabble over rocks on Dartmoor and Ren reviews his opinions regarding Brixham
Torquay By Ferry Sharon and Ren bob along the ocean waves to see what Torquay is all about. Context dear boy, context.
Home Travel StoriesExploring South Devon Random Link

Reader's Comments

pocketpete said :-
Might as well stay at home lol. Funny we travel around the UK to place we haven't been to before but its surprising how similar it all is. I think that's why I love Scotland its just so desolate and underpopulated with actual wildlife that you get to see.

The problems with places like Cornwall & Devon and parts of the lakes is the other hundreds of thousand people who all seem to be going to the same place you are. I think that's the appeal of the highlands.
27/11/2018 08:12:25 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I quite agree about Scotland Pete. There are other areas which seem to have largely escaped the exponential growth in road traffic too - Mid and North Wales and the Welsh Marches are my favourite biking locations within striking distance from home, and the roads are often pretty deserted, which is great.
28/11/2018 09:01:56 UTC
Upt'North said :-
I know it seems like a bit of a thread hijack, BUT I DIDN'T START IT ED.
Traffic is getting worse, it's definitely so. Not just here either, Northern France was heaving in June this year. Perhaps people have more leisure time? At least on a bike you can filter, don't start me on Germany??.
My view on Scotland was the same as many, keep going until you get to Highlands and Islands. Now living near the border on the East Coast I realise I was a bit daft because there's a lot more to Scotland. I'm not saying that Glencoe on a crisp May morning isn't something to savour, it is but you can have empty roads, great roads and maybe better weather further south. Turn off the M6 onto the A7 and you won't be disappointed, the borders are a great motorcycling destination. With Hawick, Peebles, Moffat, Melrose and Kelso being little gems. The A68 amazing.
Also the SW of Scotland and Bute are empty and easy to get to.
Just saying, oh and don't come to North Northumberland, it's horrible, no it is, stay away, it's all mine.
Upt'North.

28/11/2018 10:12:03 UTC
Pocketpete said :-
I know the peak district really well. There are many lovely quiet places if you have local knowledge I'm sure the coast of Devon and Cornwall have those spots as well it's just finding them...

A bit like the lakes stick around snap Penrith area no tourists. The wigton side is also nice. Just avoid Windermere.
28/11/2018 10:34:22 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I think local knowledge is key. If I'd had a guide while down in Brixham someone could have taken me to the quietest roads, the best cafes and the prettiest vistas.

If you read my stuff regularly you'll know I absolutely adore Scotland, particularly the Highlands. You'll also note I'm planning to look around the South-West and Kintyre next year. As for Northumberland - I think we should all go pile round to Upt'North's place and bring the value of the area down.
29/11/2018 09:29:06 UTC
 

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