Sidmouth Folk Week 2009: Car parking, motorhome parking and bicycles

Car parking became a serious issue for the festival in 2009 with the closure of both the rugby and cricket fields early in the week owing to wet weather (and with a forecast of more rain to come). Sidmouth town centre was gridlocked with cars for hours as visitors poured in during the one day of superb weather and with nowhere to park except the distant and precarious Bulverton venue or the large Manor Road car park (which may have filled up?). Loss of the rugby and cricket club parking created logistical problems for many folkies who became tired of carrying wet weather gear and wellingtons around - and having to park well out of town.

A properly run Park and Ride scheme would ease a lot of problems in Sidmouth's peak months and would be particularly valuable in folk week. Unfortunately, one of the possible sites seems now destined for use for yet more housing - which will only exacerbate Sidmouth's already chronic traffic mismanagement. Long term, the Esplanade should be pedestrianised and both local people and visitors should use a Park and Ride facility to enter the town centre - or use a bicycle. The first 100,000 per year of running costs could be met by reducing the expenditure of Sidmouth Town Council by at least 25% and getting rid of a few surplus councillors - but I digress.

Some local people and folkies tried using bicycles during 2009 - and found nowhere to park and secure them. The few purpose made bars and stands in the town centre were always full. Bicycles were seen chained to any convenient lamp post, drainpipe or security fence. On more than one occasion announcements were made asking the owner of a bicycle to move it - but to where? This is a problem that Sidmouth Town Council should have addressed - I recall mentioning it about 8 years ago but nothing has been done. FolkWeek organisers also need to think about providing some temporary places for securing bicycles in the town centre.

There is now a dedicated cycle path all the way to Sidford - which is an easy and safe ride from the town centre and could be the site of an overflow campsite near the river - for bicycle users only! Maybe by next year Devon County Council (DCC) will have corrected the idiotic design of the ramp at the end of the cycle path where it meets the A3052 - I did write a letter to the local newspaper about this but any letters criticising DCC seem never to appear these days so here it is for all SeeRed readers. (do link)

Lack of motorhome and caravan spaces on the official site undoubtedly caused some loss of revenue. On the plus side the campsite is now (2009) better laid out than in previous years with more care being taken not to site caravans on the more steeply sloping areas of the Bulverton fields. This may have followed comments on this website. In 2009, conditions on site started out wet and became largely impassable quite quickly except on the hardcore driveway down the first field. Some cars had to be towed onto site and wheelbarrows were used to transport tents and camping gear with cars being left off site - so the owners could use them again during the festival. This added to pressure on the Bulverton temporary car park which probably should have been closed on safety grounds on some days - and something should at least have been done to fill in the huge ruts in the access road leading to it.

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