Comedian BILL BAILEY describes the wild, alpine beauty of the North Devon coast – his favourite place since childhood – and explains why a sea view is best for creative thought. Interview: Alex Reece
I started going to North Devon from childhood, really. We were living between Bristol and Bath, so that was one of the destinations for a family holiday. I spend a lot of time there now because we have a little holiday bungalow near Combe Martin.
When I got the house, I said to my dad, ‘I have a real affinity with this place.’ And in his typical, inscrutable way he just thought for a bit, then the next time I saw him, he’d dug out a photograph of me, aged one, on Woolacombe Beach. I was digging a sandcastle, which now my own son has done. So, you know, [sings] ‘The Circle of Life’ is complete.
People are quite surprised when they come and stay because they think of Devon as rather green with rolling hills and cream teas, and South Devon certainly is like that, but North Devon is very different. It’s much wilder and more sparsely populated. There are thousand-foot-high sea cliffs and these plunging valleys. It’s almost alpine, the look of it. I often sit in the house and just realise, yeah, this is why writers and poets go to places like this.
When you live in the city, the skyline is a jumble of architecture from all different eras and there are cranes and skyscrapers and this and that. But when you're here, and you’re looking out over the coast, your gaze is not interrupted and you’re able to access that part of your brain – the creative part – which is somehow distracted by too much urban clutter.
I go to North Devon as often as I can. There are wonderful beaches: Saunton Sands and Woolacombe Beach, which I’ve been going to since year dot. We went in the sea there on New Year’s Day – we put our wetsuits on and went surfing. It’s great for kids, great for families; there are lots of walks and activities to do. It’s my new favourite place. Well, it’s not my new favourite place – it always has been, I suppose.
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'North Devon is much wilder and more sparsely populated. There are thousand-foot-high sea cliffs and these plunging valleys. I often sit in the house and just realise, yeah, this is why writers and poets go to places like this'