For a holiday resort, Bude seems a long way from anywhere, and it’s this comparative remoteness that gives Bude its character. Newquay it’s not.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, nearby Stratton was the major settlement in the area which is why you often see Bude and Stratton lumped together in such things as the Bude and Stratton Town Council or the Bude and Stratton Post etc.
The combined population at the last (2011) census was 9.934 with 9,222 people living in Bude, so why did Bude become more important than Stratton?
One word sums it up for me – ‘Sand’.
Firstly, sand became an important additive to the alkaline soil of the local farmland, and then holidaymakers were attracted to its sandy beaches.
Two forms of transport played a big part in these activities; the canal for transporting the sand as fertilizer inland, and the railway for transporting people to the coast. Both were important to the town, but both became economic casualties, and it’s one of the main reasons that Bude is still a low-key resort.
The Canal was the first important thing to happen to the town, but the introduction of the railway in 1898, and then its subsequent withdrawal in 1966, has had the most profound effect. Bude is “more distant from the rail network than any other town in England and Wales” according to Wikipedia, and if it wasn’t for the A39 (euphemistically called the Atlantic Highway), then it wouldn’t have much of a road network either.
For years I’ve tended to regard Bude as a small quintessential English holiday town, but on a recent visit I felt that it was trying to shake off that stereotypical image. These days there seems to be a host of things to do for people of all ages, but at the same time successfully maintaining its low-key appeal.
The coastline around Bude is still the main attraction for me, just as it’s always been for families who come here to lie on the beaches. Nowadays though, walkers and sunseekers have been joined by a younger crowd who like to ride the Atlantic waves that crash onto this stretch of the North Cornish coast.
I need to re-emphasise though, that Bude doesn’t cater for the après surf crowd in the same way that Newquay does, and as much as Bude likes to encourage people of all ages these days, I wouldn’t want you to think that it’s changed its identity altogether – after all, it’s still a long way from anywhere, and you wouldn’t want to get here and find out that it’s not the place for you, now would you?