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Bude ( ) is a small seaside resort town in North Cornwallmarker, England, at the mouth of the River Neet. Bude is twinned with Ergué-Gabéric in Brittany, France. It is suggested that the modern name is a shortened form of Bude Haven and that this in turn was a corruption of the name Bede Haven meaning "Harbour of the holy men" suggesting Bude might have been a landing place for early Christians.

Its earlier importance was as a harbour, and then a source of sea sand useful for improving the moorland soil. The Victorians favoured it as a watering place, and it was a popular seaside destination in the twentieth century.


Bude and the surrounding area have impressive coastal scenery. Many ships have been wrecked on the jagged reefs which fringe their base. The figure-head of one of these, the "Bencoolen" lost in 1862, is preserved in the churchyard.

The Carboniferous sandstone cliffs that surround Bude (and stretch down as far as Crackington Havenmarker) were formed during the Carboniferous Era, around 300 million years ago. The folded and contorted stratification of shale and sandstone is unique in southern England, although the Gower peninsulamarker and the Vale of Glamorganmarker, across the Bristol Channelmarker in Walesmarker, have a similar stratification. During the Variscan Orogeny, which affected the entire Cornish coast, the cliffs were pushed up from underneath the sea, creating the overlapping strata. As the sands and cliffs around Bude contain calcium carbonate (a natural fertiliser), farmers used to take sand from the beach, for spreading on their fields. The cliffs around Bude are the only ones in Cornwall that are made of carboniferous sandstone, as most of the Cornish coast is geologically formed of Devonian slate, granite and Precambrian metamorphic rocks). The stratified cliffs of Bude give their name to a geological event called the Bude Formation. Many formations can be viewed from the South West Coast Path which passes through the town.


The town

Present-day Bude is a pleasant small town with character. It has two beaches with excellent broad sands close to the town itself, and is a good centre for adjacent beaches. Its sea front faces west and the Atlanticmarker rollers make for good surfing when conditions are right. The main access road in and out of Bude is the Atlantic Highway .

Notable buildings include the Perpendicular parish church (St Olaf's) in the village of Poughillmarker just outside of Bude, the parish church of St Michael and All Angels (built in 1835 and enlarged in 1876; the architect was George Wightwick), Ebbingford Manor, and the town's oldest house, Quay Cottage in the centre of town.

Bude Canalmarker, which once ran to Launcestonmarker, now runs only a few miles inland. In May 2009 a £5 million scheme funded by Objective One, Heritage Lottery Fund and the South West of England Regional Development Agency to restore the historic canal was completed, making the waterway open to boats for several miles inland and also paying for the gentrification of the harbourside area. Until the start of the twentieth century, the neighbouring town of Strattonmarker was dominant, and a local saying is "Stratton was a market town when Bude was just a furzy down", meaning Stratton was long established when Bude was just gorse-covered downland. (A similar saying is current at Saltash about Plymouth.)


The sea lock on Bude Canal
View looking towards the sea "Haven" from the sea lock
There are a number of good beaches in the Bude area, many of which offer good surfing conditions. Bude was the founder club in British Surf Life Saving.
  • Summerleaze and Crooklets beaches are both within the town;
  • Widemouthmarker Bay is a few miles south of the town and offers a long, wide sandy beach;
  • Sandymouth Beachmarker is owned by the National Trust, and has spectacular cliffs and rock formations with shingle below the cliffs and a large expanse of sand at low tide.
  • Northcott Mouth Beach is situated north of Bude

Bude Harbour and Canal

In the eighteenth century there was a small unprotected tidal harbour at Bude, but it was difficult whenever the sea was up. The Bude Canal Company built a canal and improved the harbour. Around twenty small boats use the tidal moorings of the original harbour during the summer months. Most are sport fishermen, but there is also some small-scale, semi-commercial, fishing for crab and lobster.

There is a wharf on the Bude Canalmarker about half a mile from the sea lock that links the canal to the tidal haven. This can be opened only at or near high tide, and then only when sea conditions allow. North Cornwall District Council [39032] administer the canal, harbour and lock gates. These gates were recently renewed, as the originals were damaged in a storm. They are the only manually-operated sea lock gates in England. The pier head by the locks is a Grade II listed structure.

The canal is one of the few of note in south-west England. Its original purpose was to take small tub boats of mineral-rich sand from the beaches at Bude and carry them inland for agricultural use on fields. A series of inclined plane carried the boats over 400 vertical feet to Red Post, where the canal branched south along the upper Tamar Valley towards Launceston, east to Holsworthy and north to the Tamar Lakes, that fed the canal. The enterprise was always in financial difficulty, but it carried considerable volumes of sand and also coal from south Wales. The arrival at Holsworthy of the railway, and the production of cheap manufactured fertiliser undermined the canal's commercial purpose, and it was closed down and sold to the district municipal water company. However the wharf area and harbour enjoyed a longer success, and coastal sailing ships carried grain across to Wales and coal back to Cornwall.

In 2005 a major project to re-develop the canal was approved. Work included improving the banks and opening-up a long-closed section of canal.

Victorian resort

The Haven, the Atlantic Ocean and the beach at Bude
In the latter part of Queen Victoria's reign, the middle classes were discovering the attractions of sea bathing, and the romantic movement encouraged an appreciation of wild scenery and the Arthurian Legend. To serve this desire, a railway line was extended to Bude in 1898. This encouraged the holiday trade, but Bude never rivalled Newquay or the resorts in south Cornwall and Devon.


From 1879 Bude's nearest railway station was at Holsworthymarker, ten miles away. The railway came to Bude itself in 1898. The line was built by the London and South Western Railway, but was incorporated into the Southern Railway in 1923 and British Railways in 1948.

Bude railway stationmarker was served by the Atlantic Coast Express, providing a direct service to/from London marker; the "ACE" was discontinued in 1964. Bude station and the entire Bude branch line closed on 1 October 1966 as part of the Beeching Axe.

Bude now finds itself rather distant from the rail network. Barnstaple (35 miles north east) and Bodmin Parkway (32 miles south) are the nearest National Rail stations. There is also a "rail link" coach service that runs from Exeter St Davids railway stationmarker to Bude Strand via Okehamptonmarker and Holsworthy.

Temple of the Winds

At the northern most point of Efford Down Farm, over looking Summerleaze Beach and the breakwater, a former coastguard lookout stands. Known as Compass Point and built by the Acland family in 1840 of local sandstone, it is based on the Temple of Winds in Athensmarker. It was moved to its current position in 1880. It is so called as it has points of the compass carved in each of its octagonal sides.


Tourism is the main industry in the Bude area whilst some fishing is carried on. In the past, the staple trade was the export of sand, which, being highly charged with carbonate of lime, was much used for manure. There are also golf links in the town. There is some local debate as to the origins of the golf course. It has been suggested the land the course occupies was given to the town for leisure use and that a few wealthy individuals took it to create a golf course excluding most of the townspeople from full enjoyment of the land.

Bude has an industrial estate which houses Bott Ltd, who manufacture racking and tool holding accessories and storage systems for vans and workshops. It was thehome of Tripos Receptor Research, which produced prototypes of drugs for the pharmaceutical industry. However, the company ceased trading in 2008 as a result of the global economic downturn and the purpose-built building it once occupied is now empty.

Local government

Bude is in the North Cornwall parliamentary constituencymarker. It developed from the much older market town of Strattonmarker, 1 1/8 miles inland to the east. Since Cornwallmarker became a unitary authority in 2009 there has been a two-tier structure of local government: Cornwall Council (administers, for example, schools and highways, housing, social services, canal and harbour, refuse and recycling collection, street cleanliness); and Bude-Stratton Town Council (local children's playground, Bude "castle"). There was some local argument when the town council adopted the name Bude-Stratton, as it was previously Stratton-Bude. Bude's population in 1901 was 2308; by 2001 it had risen to 4674 [39033].

The Bude "Boom"

On 26 October 2006 at approximately 11:50 am, Bude was the apparent centre of a loud and unexplained noise which rapidly became known as "The Bude Boom". The local media reported some damage to properties around the Bude area and local authorities received many calls about a suspected explosion, although no evidence was found to support this. Experts have ruled out the possibility of an earth tremor and have suggested that it may have been caused either by a military aircraft breaking the sound barrier or a meteor exploding in the atmosphere.


  1. Pevsner, N. (1970) Cornwall; 2nd ed. Penguin; pp. 47 (in the main the house is mid 18th century though there was a manor house here in the 14th century)
  2. Wroe, D. J. (1988), The Bude Branch. Southampton: Kingfish Railway Productions, ISBN 0 946184 43 7
  3. Efford Down Stables, Camping, and Business Park , Bude, Cornwall, UK
  4., "Mystery 'explosion' damages homes", BBC,](accessed 2006-10-29)
  5., "'Meteor' caused mystery explosion", BBC, (accessed 2006-10-29)

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