Braund's Rough Guide to Visiting Braund Country
This guide was written because we thought that first time visitors to the UK, or those who were thinking about attending Braund reunions in Devon, might like to know what to expect of England in general and a Braund reunion in particular.
Braund reunions, wherever in the world they are held, are fun and friendly. Within minutes you will feel as if you have known everyone for years. First time attendees are quickly indistinguishable from regular attendees. We tend to eat a lot, talk a lot and visit places of Braund and other historical interest. Some of the trips require a reasonable degree of mobility to participate fully but we will make this clear in advance. There are usually some talks on offer and a display of Braund memorabilia, photographs and family trees. Our activities are family friendly and we welcome attendees of all ages. We try to keep prices as low as possible, as we are aware that cost can be prohibitive, especially if you are attending as a family. We try to eat together at least once a day. Part attendance will be possible if for any reason you are unable to come to all the activities.
Look at these pages for information about visiting particular areas associated with Braund heritage.
If you are flying in, consider arriving at Birmingham or Manchester instead of London Heathrow, as this may be more convenient and/or cheaper. All these airports run ongoing flights to Exeter, our nearest airport (about 50 miles from the centre of the reunions), be aware though that flights to Exeter may only be on certain days of the week. Alternatively, you may decide to hire a car from a regional airport. If cost is a consideration, look at the possibility of coming in via a European stopover as this can be cheaper. There are trains and coaches (e.g. National Express) from Heathrow, Manchester and Birmingham to North Devon but do not expect this to be a quick journey and you will need to change trains. Coaches are less expensive than trains and both are cheaper if you book well in advance but you may be committed to travel at a particular time, which can cause problems if there are delays. Flexible tickets are available but will cost more. You are advised to book in advance otherwise coaches may be full and you may have to stand on the train.
England might look small on the map but journeys may well take longer than you think. Public transport is very expensive and rare to non-existent in rural areas.
We drive on the left, which is of course the correct side! Roads in cities, near airports and in the sorts of places where you might pick up a hire car are likely to be very busy. Main roads can be very congested, expect to come to a standstill on occasions, especially in rush hours (7.30-9.30am and 4.00-6.00pm). We have roundabouts, lots of them. Our red traffic lights really do mean stop, in all situations. Our fuel (called petrol or diesel, not gas) is very expensive. The price you see is per litre not per gallon. So expect your fuel to cost roughly three times what it would in the US and twice what you would pay in Australia. The only consolation is that most of our hire cars will be smaller and achieve more miles per gallon than those you may be used to. Be aware that some petrol pumps will only accept card payments, not cash and these need to be pin-number cards, not those where you need to sign.
If you want an automatic (i.e. not a stick-shift) hire car make sure you specify when booking the car. Most car hire firms have an upper age limit for drivers. In general, our cars are quite small. This may be a good thing given the size of our roads. In rural north Devon expect roads to be narrow, that’s very narrow, one car width wide (that’s for both directions). Passing places do what the name suggests but be prepared to reverse several hundred yards up narrow winding roads on a not infrequent basis. Oh, and we also have lot of hills. We do not recommend nervous or inexperienced drivers hiring a car in England, especially if you are used to driving on the right.
Parking in towns will normally cost about £2 an hour or more. In cities it could be considerably more—£25-£30 a day. If you park in a car park be sure you pay and display your ticket and park within the lines of the bay, or you may be deemed to be in two spaces. Double yellow lines by the kerb mean no parking at any time. Single yellow lines mean that there are restrictions. Look for nearby signs to see when parking is allowed. Some areas only allow residents/permit holders to park; look out for these.
We have fixed and mobile speed cameras. Remember our speed limits are in miles per hour not kilometres but so should the speedometer in your car be.
We sometimes car share when on Braund outings. If you are given a lift as one of a car of four people, it would be reasonable to offer a donation towards petrol of roughly £10 per person for a 100 mile round trip.
North Devon is a tourist area so has accommodation to suit a range of requirements and budgets. If you are staying elsewhere in England before or after the reunion, there are a number of reasonably priced hotel chains that will suit most people, e.g. Premier Inn, Holiday Inn or Travel Lodge, all of which can be found all over the country. Their locations are often more suitable for those travelling with a car although there are some in city centres too. Prices are often cheaper if you either book early or at the very last minute but then you run the risk of their being full. We can provide a list of possible accommodation if you contact us.
Some hotels hire on a room only basis and you pay the same for the room regardless of whether there are one or two of you. Other venues, particularly smaller bed & breakfast establishments, will charge per person. If you are paying for breakfast somewhere like Premier Inn, the full breakfast provides plenty of choice and portions to suit Braund appetites. Free wifi, or indeed any sort of wifi, is not universal, so if you cannot live without technology, make sure you are aware of availability and any charges before you book. If you are fussy about bath over shower or vice versa, double check what is provided. Smaller B & Bs are not necessarily en-suite. Expect to be provided with towels but flannels are not normally available. Some hotels provide, shower gel, shampoo etc.. What is available in your room varies, so check if there are ‘must haves’, such as hair dryers, fridges or minibars. Don’t expect guest laundries or ice machines but there will normally be kettles with tea/coffee and televisions. Our hotel rooms are often less well equipped with electric sockets than some overseas and remember that we have UK three-pin sockets, so you will need an adaptor. Hotel and Guest House accommodation is non-smoking although there may be an outside smoking area.
This is England, what do you expect? In May, when our reunions are usually held, our weather is particularly variable, the temperature can be anything from 15—23 degrees C (60-75 degrees F); plenty of layers are recommended. Unless you are only staying for about five minutes it will rain, probably a lot.
What you see on the price ticket should be what you pay, as prices will include tax. Tips are expected in certain situations but amounts are entirely at your discretion. Taxi drivers will expect to be tipped, perhaps about 10% of the fare. As a rough guide, for the restaurants we are likely to use you might leave no more than £5 per couple and £2 per person and not be out of place. In cafés, tips are welcomed but generally not the norm. We sometimes incorporate a tip into what we charge for a Braund-organised meal; we will make this clear and give guidance.
When visiting churches, many have collection boxes where donations can be made towards the upkeep of the church, again £3 or so per person would be sufficient although more would be welcomed.
Extending your Stay
If you plan to visit other parts of England before or after visiting Braund Country, we are happy to give advice about interesting places to go and help members make their itinerary realistic and enjoyable. Any questions just ask—and do come, you won’t regret it.