Thursday, December 3, 2009

The discreet charm of Topsham

There aren't many places you can go to these days which are unspoiled and I almost hesitate about telling you about this one. It's a small historic town called Topsham on the mouth of the River Exe in Devon. Its character has been preserved by the fact that it's only about 4 miles from Exeter and that there are much better known (though far less salubrious) resorts nearby such as Exmouth, Dawlish and Teignmouth.

I first went there eons ago when I was at university in Exeter but must confess we never got much beyond the Bridge Inn. Nowadays I appreciate its more old-fashioned virtues - the fact that it has its own butcher, greengrocer, baker and (very good) cheese shop Country Cheeses, a three-storey antiquea centre and a disproportionate number of charity shops (Devon Air Ambulance being a particular favourite). True there are a fair amount of chi-chi boutiques and home furnishing shops but it doesn't seem to pack the place with 4 x 4s.

There isn't anywhere remarkable to eat but there is somewhere to stay - an unreconstructed inn (inn not a gastropub, note) called The Globe. You can also stay - as we did last night - in their newly renovated apartments which look over the estuary (and, it must be said, the antiques centre car park) but which would be a good hideaway if you wanted to escape from the world for a couple of days and immerse yourself in second hand books.

There's a lovely walk along the strand at the end of the town which has some enviable Dutch-style houses with gardens that run down to the water (below). I fantasise about living there but I know I'm too much of a townie to contemplate it seriously . . .

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