Devon Publication Test Stay in Paul Simon's old room at The Fisherman's Cot, a pretty thatched riverside inn in mid-Devon. Where you should you go to stay when you’re weary, feeling small? When tears are in your eyes, is there a place that will dry them all? Is there a place that’s on your side when times get rough… How about a room in a picturesque thatched inn next to a river in a pretty Devon village? It certainly did the job for a folk singer from New York more than 30 years ago. In the mid sixties, in the face of public indifference, Paul Simon had temporarily split up with singer Art Garfunkel. While Art went back to college, Paul came to England in search of inspiration. He stayed in fellow folkie Al Stewart’s house in London and toured small provincial folk clubs. While he was playing in the Exeter area Paul stayed at the Fisherman’s Cot in Bickleigh, a pub about eight miles up the River Exe. The half timbered pub looks the archetypal Devon thatched long house but was in fact only built in 1933 as a private fishing lodge for Bickleigh Castle in the woods behind.
It stands by an old stone bridge which dates back to the sixteenth century. On most days, driving over the bridge, the scene is a corny image that would grace the cover of an American magazine called "Isn't England Cute?"
But when Paul Simon stayed at the Fisherman's Cot the river was in flood. Local memories get a bit fuzzy around the details but some say there had even been a drowning nearby at Thorverton. Whatever, the Exe can turn very nasty at Bickleigh. Only last year a mother and three young children had to be rescued by boat from their flooded riverside home and seven people were evacuated from cottages. The Fisherman’s Cot was itself flooded. Yet it was supposedly while gazing at the turbulent waters under the old stone bridge outside the window of Room Six that Simon found that English inspiration he’d been looking for. And a few years later the world heard the result.
The Fisherman's Cot, on the bank of the River Exe, is where (so it's said) Paul Simon wrote Bridge Over Troubled Water. If this is true, it's easy to see why he was inspired. Beneath the ancient grey stone bridge, the River Exe is flowing so fast that its foamy waves are a mini weir. (Not an ideal place for toddlers perhaps - the large lawns, with seats dotted here and there, are not fenced.) Checking in is a slow process as they're busy, busy. Climbing the stairs to our room at last, we see at once that it has recently had a facelift. The flowery carpet is new, as are the blue and white patterned wallpaper and matching curtains.
By Charlie C