England is overcrowded and the overcrowding is spread across the country almost perfectly. This is because tourists (local and otherwise) are almost perfectly informed by the media. This means there are no hidden gems, whatever it is you're seeking.
It used to be that one had a choice ... a trade off between warmer weather with jam-packed coastal towns on the one hand and riskier weather with a little more breathing space, on the other. Actually, families with progeny didn't really have a choice for approximately 15-20 years - school terms take care of that. The parents may have looked wistfully at relaxed out of season getaways but reality always won out when the summer holidays loomed. Depending on the age and spread of the progeny it could be one of three options: get out the bucket and spade and head to the beach; head to the beach with leaflets on contraception and the evils of wacky-backy carefully secreted in the luggage; both.
Cynical youths might suggest that parents had finally been hoisted by their own petard. School holidays were timed for harvest time so that help was at hand to bring in the crops. Cynical parents would counter that the days of Cider with Rosie had a) their compensations and b) disappeared before the Spanish Civil War when Laurie Lee went off to participate in the Iberian peninsula, leaving the Woolpack in Slad to become a gastropub.
My friend, Richard, and I had a premonition of things to come. This was a few years ago when we were walking along the Cotswold Way in preparation for an expedition he was about to undertake in the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa. Our training trek had to be gruelling and involve him lugging half a motorhome up and down some VERY STEEP TERRAIN. Not unlike the places Shan and I have recently traversed in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.
The registration on the car behind Richard, depicted above, was a polite version of our exclamation when we had trudged up hill and down dale from Painswick to the seemingly empty Woolpack.
"Have you got a booking?" the person on the door at the Woolpack demanded.
"Afraid not," we admitted shamefacedly, "but you appear empty at the moment? Just a sandwich?"
The outdoor terrace was deserted.
"We pride ourselves on our food and serving our clientele who've booked," he countered, rather more aggressively than was necessary. We suspected that our walking gear was the problem rather than the lack of a slice of ham or a few of bread. The Chelsea tractors were beginning to arrive and this unfriendly chap was becoming increasingly edgy.
"R**ATS" we exclaimed as we turned and commenced the hungry trek into Stroud, where we ended up in a Wetherspoons. Happily neither of us had heard of Tim Martin at that stage, so we gorged on chips and beer and telephoned for an airlift. Shan and Kate to the rescue. My next expedition with Richard was in a desert.
That's enough of Laurie Lee! Get on with it, Ed.
Apologies if the chain gets a bit confusing with the intervening tangent, humanely interrupted by Ed. What I was leading up to was this. Covid-19 changed all that in 2020. If the state interventions into Covid-19 haven't been confusing the Hell out of you, you're a much more together person than I am.
OK so school holidays dominate the summer, which often means that those who can holiday at a quieter time of the year go for that option, taking the weather risk on the chin. Besides, this year Shan and I were on the fringe of the Coronavirus risk group so the breathing space would be appreciated and we had Campy's girth to satisfy.
We should have been alerted by the difficulty in obtaining campy space in advance. It is never wise to make impromptu trips in a motorhome in England. There's an oxymoron in there somewhere, I suppose? It needn't be that way. But even if it has to be, why are we so marginalised when we get there, all booked and paid for? Stuck several miles from any attraction or source of fun, food and/or drink. If it's the traffic that's the problem, why is every seaside town choked with white vans and fawbeefaws? Answer me that. There is an alternative.
Padstow could be so beautiful. Instead, it was choked with motor vehicles, many of them travelling too fast, and people who would generally have gone back to learning by that time. Covid-19 was merely the catalyst for overcrowding that was waiting to happen.
Sure, the two of us are fit enough to walk or cycle a couple of miles into town. But the journey could be made so much more inviting. There's plenty of room away from cheating death on the busy A389 to create an attractive path.
As soon as we got into the town it was obvious that most visitors and a number of shops and hostelries didn't give a flying fig (I'm being polite) about social distancing. I lost it when three large male 20-somethings were coming at me walking abreast on the pavement. Normal people in that situation would form a temporary single file, intuitively on the left. Shan and I did that. They didn't and I was deliberately shouldered out of the way. Where did that contempt come from?
"Rick Stein's ruined this place," I spluttered to Shan.
"Do you think so," she countered sagely.
"Some people would welcome the economic activity he's generated," my wife pointed out, not unreasonably. "Think about Faz (our name for our home town, Faringdon, in Oxfordshire). We could do with this kind of regeneration."
Of course she was completely on the button but allowed me recognition that there could be some checks and balances to mitigate the impact if it were properly thought out. She knows I like that kind of intellectual conundrum.
"Get rid of all unnecessary motorised traffic for a start," I murmured after a few minutes reflection.
I'm not proposing to go into long and boring detail of how this might be achieved but Padstow lends itself to a number of options including a funicular (Linton/Lynmouth has one) from the Pay and Display on the A389 and perhaps something like the solution below to gather visitors from their accommodations and deposit them at their chosen attractions:
After all this is what seaside trams used to to do in places like Swanage. Maybe a little less twee? A modernised electric version without some of the ultra-touristic trappings. Perhaps lose the choo-choo in favour of Porsche, Lambo. and MacLaren replicas?
Actually, Shan got a bit enthusiastic at this point and introduced Tom Kerridge and his input to revitalising Marlow. As an aside to Mike BinTwo, the Hand and Flowers does a fine line in Orange wine but not quite up to your standard, Mike. I reckon the Pet Nat could be something his sommeliers there, and in the Coach, could/should be interested in exploring. I WISH I'd had a chance to share that bottle of El Bandito that was in Campy all throughout our western adventure.
The other missed opportunity for us in the Camel Valley was a self-propelled Camel Wine Trail. Lovely and flat for cyclists but HTF do you get there. Sure you can hire a bike, which is what we did on a previous visit. Hire a bike in Wadebridge and Bob's your Auntie. We had our own bikes but were told that the only alternatives for accessing the Camel Trail from the Padstow Touring Park were either a death-defying stint on the precipitous A389 to Padstow (and back again) or drive to Wadebridge. It could be so much more inviting.
What could Faz do better than Marlow and Padstow. OK, I need more practice with Photoshop but this cartoon created a a bit of excitement in our community. Only thing, we need Tom or Rick ... maybe even Heston could be persuaded? Or a coalition? There are a few adventurous landlords but it takes mega self-belief to embark on a Brayston Padstein, Bring it on. The "tram" could feed our attractive Georgian Market Place, three major supermarket chains, a Travelodge and LOADS of parking. The rest would follow ...
Coming some time: a list of annoying items ... there are some but I'm having too much fun for prolonged curmudgeonliness
 Editor ... allegedly a typical interjection when an editor decides the author is waffling beyond the readership's will to live. Immortalised in Private Eye
 Not to be confused with Branston Pickle. We did note that England does love a double-barreled name for its towns and villages and, perhaps especially, hamlets. Sadly, I think someone's already written that book.