The Torrington Plough Arts Centre has been flourishing in the town since 1975. Richard, the manager, told me that they put on 250 different events last year. We joined the long list of performances at the venue on Saturday evening and the photo is of me signing books in the foyer.
We arrived (from Exmouth) on a beautifully warm and sunny day. Our hotel is in Bideford and we take the opportunity to drive two miles up the road to the only town in Britain with an exclamation mark – Westward Ho!
Fowler’s guide to English usage warns writers to use exclamation marks sparingly so I’m particularly fascinated to learn about the villages literary heritage. It’s title comes from the novel ‘Westward Ho!’ by Charles Kingsley. Published in 1855 this Victorian best-seller actually led to the creation of the place when a development company realised that the novel, set in Bideford, had led to huge public interest in this spectacular North Devon coastline. They created the town to provide accommodation for tourists!
It’s other literary connection is that Rudyard Kipling was educated at the United Services College, constructed here as part of the development and dedicated to providing officer material for the army and navy. Kipling took a different course, becoming the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907.
All that fascinating history and a three mile stretch of golden sands. Westward Ho! fully deserves it’s exclamation mark.