Maybe it was being on the Jurassic coast, the Dorset and East Devon coast which is now a World Heritage Site. It’s so named because of the layers of rocks from different geological periods which are a famously rich source of fascinating fossils – think Mary Anning. Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, the words themselves have such resonance and give us a view into a distant time, up to two hundred and fifty million years ago (yes, 250,000,000 years ago) when instead of a pleasant temperate seaside of pebbles overlaying red rock there were deserts and tropical seas.
Here was I, at Sidmouth, at the Sidmouth Folk Festival, where every sort of traditional music, dancing and singing are performed in venues and on the streets, and along the promenade. I stood by the rail overlooking the pebbly beach, and gazed out across the sea which was lolloping about at low-tide. To be honest, although I like the idea of folk music etc, I’m not really that interested in it, and wouldn’t choose to listen to it, except husband’s ukulele band was performing.
So I was looking out across the sea, and east and wet along the coast, and thinking about Sidmouth and the previous times I’d visited. I think the first time I came was with the children and a friend, Janet, and my son’s pressing interest was visiting the public toilets on the sea front. It was not to use them, but because they had what was then a new type of hand-dryer, which claimed to blow water off your skin and dry them in ten seconds. It was a dull sort of day, and we waited in the carpark under skies threatening to rain on us, as son was trialling the new hand-dryer. He was disappointed in its performance.
Another memory was discovering the very obvious fact that Sidmouth was on the River Sid, hence its name – we were amused, or maybe the children were, or maybe only I was because I had two Uncle Sids, and it seemed funny their name was commemorated in a river. This is a concentrated version of Wikipedia’s entry for the River Sid:
The River Sid, situated in East Devon, is often claimed to be the shortest complete river in England]. It flows for 6.5 miles southwards from a source in Crowpits Covert at a height of 206 metres above sea level. The source is at the head of a goyle or small ravine.The underlying geology is impermeable silty mudstones and sandstones of the Triassic Keuper marl, overlain with permeable Greensand and clay-with-flints. The junction between the Greensand and Keuper Marl forms a spring line. The river flows through Sidbury and Sidford to Sidmouth and is fed by springs flowing from East Hill and water from the Roncombe Stream, the Snod Brook and the Woolbrook. In Sidmouth the river outflows at the Ham through a shingle bar.
We visited Sidmouth on another occasion; today as we wandered through the crowded town looking for coffee, I remembered a rather nice bag shop I went into with my daughter on another visit. She is very fond of bags and handbags and fell for a pinky-beigey-orchid-taupe sort of a coloured bag, in a very soft leather with a gold chain. It just looked like a pink bag to me, but she thought it very special, and as it was approaching her birthday, I bought it for her.
We had come to the Sidmouth Folk Festival once before, and while the ukes played I’d wandered about looking at the other performers, the traditional dancers, the various clog dancers dancing in various clogs, the Morris, the garland dancers, unusual instruments of every variety, singers – the streets were full of music and song and crammed with people, many in bright and unusual and sometimes downright weird and strange costumes. We had been trying to find somewhere to eat, but of course everywhere was packed, and we ended up out of the city centre in a pub which sold no food, and I don’t remember the beer being that marvellous either. I think we may have found a pasty, but it may have been a sandwich, or a roll, but we did eat something somewhere in the end.
I’ve been to Sidmouth on other occasions too, and these memories, some of them little more than a vague image, floated through my mind as I stood in the sunshine today, chatting to others and listening to the WUPS, the Weston Ukulele Players, who are very good – especially my bass playing husband!
My featured image is of the Sidmouth Folk Festival – but not this year!
I’ve never been to Sidmouth, in fact I’ve only visited Devon twice in my lifetime, but your post has whetted my appetite and a visit may be on the cards soon.
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Considering we live in the next county, Somerset, we’ve hardly explored it at all – must do better! But Sidmouth is delightful, small but very interesting, and lovely walks. It’s also in easy reach of other nice places, including Lyme Regis.