"Hi, I found your web-site while surfing just now, and wondered whether you might answer a question for me. I have for many years collected old postcards of the North Devon area and came across one captioned 'Toms Tea Rooms Steerage Valley'. Is this by any chance an older name by which the Sterridge Valley is now known, and if so can you cast any light on the history of the tea rooms? Thank you for your time. Robert Salter."

So began a trans-Atlantic exchange of e-mails and it was not too difficult to establish that the postcard Robert had purchased was, indeed, of Berrynarbor, that members of the Toms' family still live in the village and his investment of 2.50 had been well worthwhile. Robert has now gone on our mailing list and at my request has kindly filled us in on his connection with Berryarbor:

"I now have the postcard which prompted these communications in my possession and it appears to be the same one that Tom Bartlett has, published by Hawke of Helston. The message on the back reads:

My dear Dad, This is the cottage where we are staying. It is a very pretty little place. Well, we have not been very fortunate with weather so far. It has rained all morning but we are hoping for the best. The place is very nice but very hilly. I must tell you that there are pigs at the farm. I think you would like this. Well cheers, Best Love, Joe.

Not fortunate with the weather? Hilly? I guess some things never change!

My parents, John and Beryl Salter, became engaged in 1955 and as a consequence were in the habit of looking in the windows of estate agents. That summer, on holiday with my mother's parents, Arthur and Hilda Coleman, they spotted a plot of land for sale at Goosewell for the princely sum of 250! According to my mother, grandfather purchased it on the spot. It consisted of a field, a couple of buildings which were over-grandly referred to as 'chalets' and a wonderful view of the Hangman Hills and Exmoor. The property was owned by three elderly sisters and it was not long before grandfather moved a caravan on to it.

I was born in 1957 and for as long as I can remember, we always took our family holidays at the caravan, spending the morning shopping in Ilfracombe and visiting the various local beaches in the afternoon. We often stopped off at Watermouth Castle as they had a little coffee shop there - nothing else, and quite different from the major attraction it is today.

Towards the end of the '60s, as grandfather approached retirement, he was granted planning permission for the bungalow, now known as Woodside. As my father recalls watching the moon landing there in 1969, we are pretty sure that it was built during the winter of '68/'69.

We continued to take our summer holidays there - in a little more style. At least we had running water now, having previously collected it in two milk churns from a well on the right hand side of the Old Berrynarbor Road. Other fond memories include cool summer evenings sitting in the garden of Ye Olde Globe, staggering up Haggington Hill, under the spooky [supposedly haunted] bridge and on past the Richards' farm. When we were good we were allowed in to Ilfracombe and would stroll around the harbour eating fish and chips. I wonder why those occasions were so rare!?

I started work in 1975 and my first week's holiday was spent working for John and Ann Brain, clearing the woods at Watermouth for more villas to be built. I had free lodging for my labours and certainly enjoyed a glass of cider, or two, and a ploughman's in place of the juice and crisps [with a little blue bag] of the evenings a few years earlier!

Since then my visits to North Devon have been less frequent, but I still have a deep affection for Berrynarbor and North Devon in general. My grandparents relocated to Goosewell in 1977. My grandmother died in 1983 and is buried in St. Peter's graveyard. My grandfather remarried and is buried in the graveyard of Shirwell church.

What am I doing in the States? Well, I've been living here since 1992, working as a contract analyst / programmer, first in Arkansas, then Texas, and now at Fountain Valley, Orange County, Southern California. The weather as I write is just perfect but I must admit that writing about Berrynarbor has almost made me wish that I could trade the Pacific Ocean and 80, for the Bristol Channel and whatever s it can muster!

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R Salter, 07 Jun 2003 Hit Counter