OK, that’s another slight bending of the truth in the interest of including a song lyric pun. But although we started the day in Cornwall, and are finishing it in Somerset, the bulk of the afternoon was spent on the English Riviera on the south east Devon coast.
We began the day with a hearty Cornish breakfast near Bodmin, before driving down to Falmouth for the first pier of the day. The Prince of Wales Landing pier there is not a pleasure pier: there is a short promenade to where people can board boats, some benches, and that’s about it. We were expecting it to be deserted at 10.00 on a Sunday morning, but there were actually quite a few people about – some fishing, some waiting for a ferry, but several just walking around. This gave us more of an audience than was anticipated, which was a nice start before the long drive east to Devon.
The next two piers were both in the Torbay region: Paignton and Torquay. None of us had been to either of these towns before, and did not really know what to expect. We certainly hadn’t expected such a contrast between the two. Paignton didn’t really fill us with joy from the start: we spent ages trying to find somewhere to park; the fish and chips we had were OK but not great; and then the pier (despite being very nice structurally) was not the most appealing: lots of arcades in the shore half, and lots of other attractions in the other half, which wouldn’t have been so bad were it not for the loud piped music giving us competition as we played!
As we walked back to the car, however, something magical happened. A young boy of about 10 or 11 cycled up to us with a friend, and shouted “Are you from CHICKS? Is Steve still there?”. He’d seen the CHICKS t-shirts we were wearing, and assumed we worked there too. We explained what we were doing, and he told us that he’d been on a CHICKS break himself, which he’d really enjoyed. James let him (and his friend) play his cello for a few minutes, and we could tell that he was really grateful to the charity. Having seen what great work they do when we visited their Daleside retreat house in June, this just redoubled our determination to raise lots of money to enable more disadvantaged children to get these respite breaks.
Then a few miles round the coast to Torquay Princess pier, which despite being in a very busy resort, had a much more relaxed feel. In fact, there is pretty much nothing on it besides some benches, but this just revealed the lovely architecture all the more. We gave a slightly longer performance here, looking at the boats in the harbour and the hotels on the hills overlooking it. A beautiful setting indeed, but we needed to press on and get to the final pier of the day.
Teignmouth Grand pier has seen better days in some ways, and the far end of the pier is shut off (we think for structural reasons). We were met here by a couple from CHICKS as well as some other friends, so we had a warm welcome! We played out on the deck beyond the amusements, but as there was limited footfall here we moved after about 15 minutes to the front of the pier where there were many more people about. The sun was shining strongly by this point, but the wind was also gusting occasionally, blowing down our music stands on at least three occasions! Nevertheless, we played on and made the most of our last Devon slot.
And so onto Somerset, where we’re staying tonight with our friends Liz and Guy. Tomorrow we’re keeping fingers crossed for better weather than forecast, and we should be playing at Burnham-on-Sea at 10.00, Weston-super-Mare Grand pier at 12.00, Birnbeck pier at 14.00, and Clevedon pier at 16.00.
Ten days and 42 piers gone, four days and 16 piers to go!
Weather report: More consistent good weather today than we’ve had recently. The temperatures varied between 18.1 and 27.3 celsius, with humidity between 39.5% and 57.2%.
Quote of the day: “Are you from CHICKS? Is Steve still there?” As reported above, when we see the benefits of the charity work that is done, it just encourages us further. And we’re pleased to report that Steve is still there! (Although we didn’t know that in time to tell the boy in question, unfortunately.)
Pier of the day: Teignmouth