There is a place down in the south west of England. It holds many memories, some good and some not so good, but it is a place where a young girl learnt who to be. She learnt how to swim in the sea and body board there. She learnt the names of wild flowers and butterflies on its cliffs. She climbed various tors and explored bogs for treasures, fed wild ponies and listened to local ghost stories. She learnt to drive on its country lanes and main roads, how to control the clutch and hill starts. She learnt how to love and how to recover from a broken heart and disappointments. There were kind people there who became friends for a time, there were also unkind people there who taught her how to be strong and self-reliant.
The town market place has a tall memorial at its heart, mounted at the top of three large steps decorated with plaques and miss-you messages. It is a single traffic system around its centre, there is an indoor market selling local produce and pet care and home entertainments. A tackle shop and a sports shop, several chic bistros and cafes dotted between, a listed cinema too. The small town centre has a cluster of typical highstreet shops and another, smaller, memorial in the middle of a concord in dedication to the local air force.
Just on the edge of town is a hidden garden with a bandstand, couples frequently picnic there any dry day in the year. Sheltered from noise and passing traffic is has a small cottage by its entrance for the grounds keeper-turned-tourist office.
Just the other side is the beginning of the docks and boat slipways, sweeping the coastline for 6 miles up towards the imposing cliffs. The docks developed into its own little ghetto of wooden fronted apartments painted red, yellow, blue and green surrounding the marina of fancy sailing boats. A few fishery shops on its outskirts. When you walk away from the docks classic hotels and B&B’s line its roadway along with a few bars and a large outdoor adventure park. She spent hours on weekends searching the rock pools for crabs and starfish with her Dad. The rocks coated in thick green algae and full of brown waxy seaweed. The beach was sandy, tall dunes separated the main beach from the road topped with long spikey grass.
The cliffs were her favourite place of all, right at the end of the prom, separating her town from the next. Red clay walls, bumpy and ridged going up many feet high. Often climbing them to the top and sitting a while looking over the estuary and sea to a town not too far away but by car a good 40 minutes. On clear days she could watch the train pootling along the coastal line from her town to theirs.
This place is home (Exmouth, Devon).