Explore More in... Bude
PUBLISHED: 01:16 20 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:43 20 February 2013
This is a popular seaside resort with plenty of attractions and every August it becomes a haven for jazz lovers. Words and photos by Ian Wilkinson...
Best known for...
Wonderful beaches and of course the surf. When Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote of the long wave and thundering shores of Bude in the latter half of the 19th century, he could hardly have foreseen the impact that surfing and surfers would have on the town just a hundred years later. Indeed, the town can claim to be at the very forefront of surf safety. A few years ago a group of young Aussies started an informal surf rescue service on Crooklets Beach the beginning of the RNLIs lifeguard service.
But theres more to Bude than surf. Of all north Cornwalls resorts the town offers a remarkable array of attractions and activities. There are two golf courses, a large open-air swimming pool, superb walks ranging from strenuous hikes on the Coast Path to gentle inland lanes, and a year-long programme of entertainments and cultural events.
There are eight beaches to choose from and if you dont feel energetic you can just watch the surfers, listen to the sounds of the waves or snooze in the sun! For a little more comfort, try the excellent Lifes a Beach cafe on Summerleaze Beach.
How about a gentle walk along the canal? It runs inland from the sea locks by Summerleaze Beach and eventually passes out of the town into open countryside. Near the locks are restaurants, craft workshops and a kiosk where you can hire a rowing boat for an hour or two. The South West Coast Path is always a joy to walk and the stretch from Bude northward to Marsland Mouth and southward to Crackington Haven via Widemouth Bay is no exception.
The Bude Marshes Nature Reserve is tucked away behind the TIC and runs parallel to the River Neet and the canal. It was the first officially designated reserve in Cornwall and during the past few years wildlife, particularly bird life, has flourished. At this time of year you will see mallard, buntings, willow and reed warbler, and moorhen as well as the more common species. Otters can be spotted (with luck!) along the banks of the Neet. The best time to see them is at dawn and dusk.
If this is your first visit there is no better place to start than the excellent Tourist Information Centre. Located in the large car park as you enter the town, its helpful staff are extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic and can assist in finding accommodation, planning a family day out, or informing you of local events.
Historical information about the town can be found in the Heritage Centre in Bude Castle. For a very modest charge you can see beautifully assembled displays illustrating the natural and human heritage of Bude and the surrounding areas, from early beginnings up to the present day.
Out of town
Bude is an excellent base for touring the north Cornwall and Devon coastlines, but there is much of interest inland too. Just outside the town you will find the pretty 17th-century village of Stratton, site of a famous Civil War battle. At the centre of the village is St Andrews, a fine Norman church, and the surrounding white-washed cottages and historic inns transport you back to a kinder, quieter age.
Another charming village, Morwenstow, lies ten miles north along the A39 Atlantic Highway. This is the most northerly parish in Cornwall and in the past had a fearsome reputation as the haunt of smugglers and wreckers. In the 19th century the eccentric but compassionate Robert Stephen Hawker became vicar of the parish church. The Revd Hawker is perhaps best known for re-introducing Harvest Festival to the Anglican Church and for writing the Cornish anthem The Song of Western Men.
Close to Morwenstow you will find the former RAF station of Cleave. It is now a top-secret GCHQ satellite station and the huge tracking dishes perched on the headland can be seen from all over Bude and the surrounding area. You cant visit, but its worth driving past!
Arts, crafts & entertainment
Two art galleries worth a visit are The Seventh Wave Gallery in Belle Vue, which exhibits work from a number of local artists, and The Gallery, also in Belle Vue, which features the work of proprietor and artist Harry McConville.
Now in its 24th year, the Bude Jazz Festival is a week-long event held every August (this year from 27 August 2 September) celebrating the early years of jazz. It is a major feature in the world music calendar, with visitors coming from all parts of the UK and from overseas. Over the seven-day period there are 142 jazz events featuring 75 different bands in 13 different locations in the town. This year the headline act is the Paul Jones Blues Band and its expected to be a sell-out!
As well as the Festival, Bude Jazz Club, which was founded in 1990, aims to promote New Orleans and traditional jazz. The club holds jazz events throughout the year in the magnificent surroundings of the Falcon Hotel, one of the finest jazz venues in the country.
Food for thought
If the Falcon Hotel is famous for jazz, its also well known for its restaurant. Tennysons serves both traditional and modern international cuisine in elegant surroundings, but if you would like something less formal, the hotel bar has a similar menu. Another notable dining venue is the Castle Restaurant. Chef Kit Davis has 13 years experience in the kitchen and, together with his wife, Katie, has created an informal atmosphere and exquisitely prepared food from their first-floor restaurant.
The town offers some fantastic attractions for children, including some that are just a little bit different. How about walking on water (really!), off-road bike trailing, outdoor lifeguarded sea pool, horse riding, kayaking and, of course, surf lessons! Full details of all activities can be obtained from the TIC.