Since I moved to South Somerset, shopping has been a bit of a puzzle. Where do people go? Bruton is fine for bread and milk and a few other basics, but don’t ask for a printer cartridge. Oh no, for that you have to go somewhere big like Frome. But actually Frome isn’t that big and it’s a good 12 miles away and once you get there you might wonder why you bothered.
Shepton Mallett is nearer and smaller, but at least it’s got a Tesco’s and a Boots, though not much else. The high street shops are mostly boarded up. Wells is a 15 mile journey and once there you might be forgiven for thinking you’ve arrived in a shoppers’ paradise. There’s actually a Waterstone’s and a few decent clothes shops, East for example and Fat Face. But not much else.
To find a Monsoon or a PC World or a Body Shop (of the human rather than the automobile variety – there are lots of those) you have to go to Bath or Taunton or Yeovil. Now they may not look far on the map, but via Somerset’s wonderfully windy roads, used by everything from heavy lorries to tractors, bicycles, learner drivers and elderly retirees, you’re talking about a good hour’s journey. Not to mention parking once you get there.
So I decided the best option was to shop online. Not ideal because you can’t see colours or try anything on, and although you can send things back it’s a hassle. And you might not be in when they’re delivered. But better than spending all that time in a car when I should be writing. So I ordered a pair of trainers and a Craghopper’s waterproof jacket and yes, they may not be quite what I wanted but they’ll do. But when it comes to Body Shop, online just doesn’t work. How can you choose foundations of lipstick or blushers from those little dots of colour?
And then suddenly it dawned on me. Street. The Clark’s Village. They’ve got a Body Shop. It may be 20 miles but at least there’s easy parking and I can get there in 40 minutes, more or less. I hadn’t been there for years, so I’d forgotten just how many shops there are. A shopaholic’s paradise. And guess what – there are whole shopfuls of trainers and Craghopper waterproofs much nicer than the ones I’d just bought!
And on the way back the traffic on the last roundabout was at a standstill. There must have been an accident. So I had to take a detour. Never mind, only another 5 miles and 15 minutes!
I used to moan about Barnstaple. But now I see that I was mistaken. In comparison with South Somerset, North Devon is truly a shopper’s paradise.