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News & Advice

Alastair Sawday: Despite extreme weather, there's plenty to see out west


Pondering the floods, rains, and high winds that have battered Britain, especially the South-west, for so long, I wondered at the double-double whammy that must be the impact on those who live by being hosts. They can lose both their homes and their businesses in one fell swoop; and potential visitors misread the news and stay away. Yes, houses have been flooded on the Somerset Levels, but the nation thinks the whole county is awash.

At Sawday's we have done an informal survey of our South West B&Bs and other "special places", and there are two main responses. First: "Yes, it has been grim, whether from floodwaters or from bad weather"; and second: "But we are still here – so tell people to come".

Bad weather alone can keep people away. Here, is Peter Evans in Wales: "There have been only rare visitors, for the paths are too dangerous, rivers and streams too swollen for kayaks and canoes, and winds too strong for hang- gliding. The wind has even blown rain through the two-foot thick wall. There is limited cooking over the range, no emails or telephones. And the chickens hate it. But it is still gorgeous."

Phoebe Judah, from the Somerset Levels, told us: "People feel that the whole landscape down here is a no-go area; but my property is completely approachable and the views of the glimmering water – and all the wildlife it brings – are beautiful."

According to a recent business survey, Somerset trade is down by a quarter overall, but people are resilient, with many of the locals determined to stick it out. I write this from Cornwall, where we have just had a glorious, and sunny, cliff-top walk next to a sea washed by light. Our drive here, through Devon, was beautiful too. One Devon owner wrote to say that "people staying with us at Mazzard Farm this week are having a great time".

Yet Cornwall has suffered from a news-induced panic too. Ian Rose told us: "We are unaffected; the daffs and wild garlic are appearing, and the Roseland Peninsula is as beautiful as ever. However, mass panic has killed bookings."

Lastly, a flooded Somerset B&B owner, Sara Jocelyn, offered us her take on the recent deluge: "I stood in the kitchen with the current flowing over my insteps and into the dining room; the water came through the walls too. Today the neighbours are taking down half a wall built in 1642. 'Look what we've found' they said, 'an angel!' It is a thin metal plaque of an angel with long wings, poised in clouds, carrying a martyr's palm. Who put it in the old lath-and-plaster wall of Row Farm House in Laverton?"

I hope everyone has enough of that sort of spirit to take themselves to the places such as Laverton and see our glorious – if, in place, waterlogged – landscapes for themselves.

Alastair Sawday is founder of Sawday's, the guide to special places to stay in the UK and Europe. See sawdays.co.uk