The beginning is the narrowest part, little more than a slit, so
the street has to be one-way. It's called Coombe Street, because
it follows the River Lim's valley.
PICTURE: Coombe beginning]
After its slit-like entrance the street opens a bit behind the first building on the left and bends rightward. This kink takes it near to the river, so that there is a little courtyard beside the Café del Sol where customers can sit at tables and look down at the pigeons congregating on ledges, or look back at the profiles of people walking over the bridge.
PICTURE: from Cafe del Sol terrace]
In the months when Sol has fled south, the Café del Sol does not operate, but the space is not unused: it becomes a showroom for a local dealer in oriental rugs, and its floor is piled with old soft colours from Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.
There are other glimpses down steps to the river. Though its bed lies considerably lower, it has been known to flood the street to a depth of several feetwith, in the past, very insalubrious water.
From just past here, the buildings on the left actually extend across the river. You can detect this because, part way along, there is a rather wide space leading backward, and down in the edge of this is an opening, through which you can hear and see the water rustling underneath. This space leads to the door of a hangar-like interior filled with the hum of huge ovens and the smell of bread: it is the Town Mill Bakery. In it you can fill your own bowl with thick soup and sit down at the long plain tables to eat it with all kinds of bread made from the grain of the mill just upstream.
The next building past this, with barrel roof and huge blue door, is a garage; it belongs to the Bay Hotel on the sea front, which, being inaccessible to traffic, has to tell its guests to park their cars here. In fact this was my introduction to Coombe Street: an obscure alley to which I was sent to stow a rental car.
Amazing then to learn that this alley was formerly the principal street of the town! This was back in an age when the route out of Lyme lay inland up the river valley, and when streets were typically as narrow as this.
During the festivities of Lifeboat Week, the garage is given over to a rock concert, so that the street is filled with a sound several sizes larger than itself.
At the bend ahead, a street joins from the right,
and when you reach the corner and look up it you may well be enchanted
to turn that way. There is also an alley just around the corner
on the left. Or you can keep
on along the second and longer reach of Coombe Street.