With all that’s been going on with Covid, instead of our planned trip to North Wales the week before last, we decided to stay at home and do local day trips. One of these was a trip to Seaton. Seaton is a coastal town in East Devon, about forty-five minutes from us. Like many of the towns along that stretch of coast, it was once a busy and cosmopolitan place. In Roman times it was an important port but there had been settlements at Seaton for 4000 years before that. In the 14th century heavy storms caused a landslip which partially blocked the river, and the shingle bank started to build up. The town became a bit of a backwater. It was the railway that turned the town into an Edwardian holiday destination, and much of the town was built during that time. In the 1960s the branch line to Seaton was a victim of the Beeching cuts. It was bought by Claude Lane, the owner of Lancaster Electrical Company, manufacturer of battery electric vehicles.
It’s thanks to Claude Lane that today you can see old-fashioned trams that would be most at home in Blackpool, sailing through the middle of the Devon countryside. Claude was a fanatic about trams. He had built many of his own, operating his tram systems at both Eastbourne and Rhyl. Sadly Claude suffered a heart attack in 1971, so it was down to his nephew Roger, and Claude’s long-time assistant, Alan Gardner, to complete the project of creating a tramline at Seaton along the old branch line and transferring all Claude’s trams on to it.
Nowadays you can take the tram inland, through the wonderful Seaton wetlands nature reserve, via the crossing at Colyford, up to the old Saxon town of Colyton. Here you can have a peaceful meander through the ancient streets, a paddle in the river, and get a traditional Devon cream tea before heading back to Seaton for an ice cream by the sea. And this is exactly what we did on our day trip. It is honestly the funniest thing to see these little trams dinging their way along hedgerows, waving to fields of grazing cattle. Goodness knows what they think! As you can imagine, Finch thought it was marvelous and had a million questions for the driver. So, if you happen to be down this way, I would recommend an outing on one of Claude’s trams. I would also recommend a trip to the charming specialist children’s bookshop on Fore Street in Seaton where Jenny at Owl and Pyramid is a mine of information about children’s books!