A boy flies a kite on Instow beach. In the 1970s, when James Ravilious took this photograph kite flying was popular, an activity that all the family could enjoy. In fact it had always been popular, on beaches and hillsides, somewhere with plenty of room and enough constant wind to keep the kites in the air.
“We’d fly kites on the beach and also up in the field behind the village, where you’d look over at Appledore and across the estuary,” says Anthony Johns whose family have owned a delicatessen in Instow for 90 years.
“It goes back generations with my dad and granddad all playing on the beach.”
The teenager in this photo may be local; he may have bought this kite from a shop along the seafront. Kites were simple to fly and cheap to buy, but any child of the 1970s would also know that this was a time when ‘stunt kites’ were appearing, a double, parallel string meaning you could have much more control of the kite making it turn and swoop and constantly change direction. The kite in this photo appears to be a single string, so not one of these trendy new kites. There is something about the simplicity of this kite, that’s mirrored in the image. A single string, a single kite, one boy on his own with the wide expanse of beach before him.
People still fly kites today, but what sort of kite would a teenager today choose? Kites have got ever more powerful, complicated and expensive.
The photo was taken in April, which may explain why there are not many people visible on the beach. The fact the boy has taken his top off says nothing about the weather conditions, it says he’s a typical teenager, apparently unaware of the cold.
This is an unmistakable part of Instow beach, where the dunes meet the beach says Dave Edgecombe project officer for the North Devon AONB team.
He also notes, “In the background, the distant hills, you can see the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It shows that the designation has worked, there is no difference to the land which is one smooth uninterrupted line.”
We take it for granted that this stretch of coastline above Saunton is unchanged, but it could be a very different view if the land was not protected and development had been allowed.