It doesn’t take much to persuade me to go on a road trip.
Throw in a spurious World record, a Wildlife park and a themed-pub – and I’ll be practically firing up the motor in preparation for the off.
Combe Martin is the kind of place where the term ‘village’ is applied very loosely. Over 4,000 people live in the centre and surrounding areas of this civil parish – hardly what you’d call a humble community. This is a storied settlement whose history can be traced as far back as the Iron Age, as such it’s streets are rife with local history, stories that have been passed down through generations of families who have been more than happy to lay their roots down in this charming North Devon seaside ‘village’.
Jack Pullman meets me at the outer reaches of the village, at the top of it’s village street which, he tells me, is often erroneously thought to be ‘the longest village street in the world’:
“I think it’s actually one of the reasons people come here – they think that this place holds some kind of World Record, that it’s a legendary English village. I just call it home.”
Jack’s lived here all his life (he turns 22 in February) and is therefore forgiven to take the joys of this unique village for granted. He has ancestry based in Combe Martin going back nearly 300 years. In any other part of England this would be heralded as something special and the family would be considered close to royalty, however in Combe Martin things are a little different.
“We don’t really get that many new people come here that often. Of course, we get loads of tourists and that during the Summer, but as far as people actually moving in – not so much really!”
When Jack talks I have to concentrate very hard on the words that he’s saying. His accent is a rare one in the UK, a true Devonshire dialect. The closest cultural reference that I could give would be Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. He’s not quite full-bore pirate yet, but he might just get there if he stays in Combe Martin long enough.
As we start strolling down the very long village street we pass ambling shoppers, old women and working men with their dogs, all of them smile and wave to Jack as if he’s an old friend. Some of them even shake my hand enthusiastically with rough-worn hands, wafting unfamiliar scents of tweed and waxed cloth into my nostrils.
I ask Jack if he’s a particularly popular person and he laughs, shaking his head as if this kind of question is typical of an ‘out-of-towner‘.
“It’s just the way people are round here. I’ve met those people before, but I don’t really know them. I bet you if you see them again, when you’re walking by yourself, you’ll get greeted exactly the same. It’s certainly not like London down here!”
Our first destination is Ye Olde George & Dragon, a pub whose 400-year old heritage should surely negate the need for any such descriptive prefix…
This Look Inside is continued in the next post…