The Bude Stone

A souvenir of a perfect day in Bude, Cornwall – I’m sitting between Uncle Richard and Aunty Annette,with my mother at the back.

The rocky coast of Cornwall is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Little towns and bays nestle amongst the cliffs, each with its own distinct character.

In 1957, I spent a wonderful late summer touring these towns with my parents. Mum and Dad were part of a carnival that visited places such as Clovelly, Barnstaple, Bideford and Bude. Part of the touring company on this trip was a dance duo, old friends of my parents, whom I called Uncle Richard and Aunty Annette.

We loved every minute of the tour, but at Bude we had a special treat. No one came to the fair. The other attractions in that beautiful little town proved too strong for the tourists, so the fair closed early and we got the day off. Show people and travellers rarely get to play tourist – other peoples’ holidays are our working days. It was delicious fun to get away, like playing hookey from school.

First we looked around the town – especially the churchyard, for we all enjoyed studying old headstones. We had tea at a charming inn with white washed walls, sitting outside under a magnificent bank of wisteria, sipping shandies (beer and lemonade) and enjoying scones with jam and fresh clotted cream.

Finally we went down to the beach, but it was too crowded so we braved the climb down to the wonderfully named Strangles beach, where many ships have foundered over the centuries. My father took a picture of us all sitting on one of the jagged rocks, then he went for a stroll. He was an inveterate beachcomber, and among the treasures he found that day was a small, perfect white pebble.

Later, he polished the stone and painted the word Bude on it in bright red and yellow letters as a memento of the day. My mother kept that stone in her china cabinet and would take it out and show it to her grandchildren and great grandchildren, and tell them the story of the Bude Stone.