|Burgh Island at low tide (Photo: SP Tiley)|
The day after our wedding reception, when the house was full of the grown daughters’ friends, my husband and I wanted some peaceful togetherness, alone…except for my dog. She had been a bit neglected regarding walks and treats in the run up to the event. So we decided to take a drive to the beach. It was midwinter; surely there would be a place within a couple of hours of our Maryland home where Brownie could play in the surf.
When we moved to England, we―and the dog―were elated to find more than half of all Devon and Cornwall beaches allow dogs year-round, while others prohibit them between Easter and Oct. 1, the main beach season. Still, it was no hardship to find dog beaches in July, and the three of us happily visited several favorites whenever the sun peeked through.
One beach we thought might be fun was at Bigbury-on-Sea. There, the public beach is half doggie/half undoggie during summer months. But there was still lots of room! Plus, at low tide, one can walk to Burgh Island where there is an ancient pub and a swell hotel.
No, Deborah. In fact, according to Devon Life magazine, “Nearly 75% of accommodation providers within one mile of the path consider it to be an important selling point for their business. It’s also a key attraction for day visitors to the region, who account for 40% of the annual tourism spend.”
“When we owned the island we allowed access to all of it and I would often meet people at the summit after climbing up there myself.
“We saw ourselves as being entrusted with the island when we had it and when we sold it we passed on our dream. It is a shame that things have changed.”After reading Porter’s book about his project a few years ago, I did want to stay there, at least once. He and his wife had risked everything to take a derelict building and make it very special.
Banning the peasants from the land
But not now. It is people like Deborah Clark who make reasonable progressives into rabid socialists. After initially giving in to the demands of a high-powered barrister Clark had hired to ensure that the hoi polloi could be banned from the island, local authorities thought better of it and reversed the finding, giving Clarke only the closest paths to the hotel as private, and leaving the others open so that hikers could cross the island, look out to sea, visit the ancient hut at the peak. So, against the odds of big money and big ego, the common folk won most of the day.
What the reversal didn’t do, of course, was make the venerable Pilchard Inn accessible to anyone but hotel guests. Hikers and walkers are not even allowed in the door; if they require a pint or a cup of coffee after a hike, it is served to them through a half-door at the end of the building and they can consume it on outdoor picnic benches. But step inside the inn, which once served smugglers and other folks much more ethical and decent than the hotel’s current owners and faux-important guests? Nope. Commoner cooties would doubtless infest the place in short order.
Five months to a stunning flop
Last September, I met the hotel’s bartender. We attended an Agatha Christie Festival event about cocktails at a new restaurant, Port Salut, in Torquay. He is a nice guy and a good mixologist. I was hoping to see him again at events at Port Salut restaurant, also owned by Clarke. I didn’t know about her attitude toward the peasants back then.
So I thought I would just check up on Port Salut before writing about it.
What I found out is that there is a god. Here’s what the Port Salut website had to say:
And meanwhile, I’ll try not to tell the rest of Torquay’s business owners that while they might not know it, they are NOT a worthwhile tourism destination at the moment. Deborah Clark said so.