Sunday, 16 September 2012

Coastwalk , South West Coast Path

Westward Ho! → Clovelly

clovelly.png Distance: 11.6 miles
Ascent: 737 metres
Duration: 4 hours 40 minutes

« Barnstaple | Hartland Quay »

Late start yesterday; early start today. We were determined to walk as far as Clovelly, and still catch the 1523 train home from Barnstaple so throughout the walk the clock was ticking.

The B&B we stayed in was kind enough to oblige us with an early breakfast and we were on the path at eight. Early morning starts are fast becoming a firm favourite; with dew still on the ground, dog walkers and joggers the only others on the path, this is a special time. All the more so when we stumble across the tent of a wild camper who's not yet dared greet the day.

em-abbotsham.pngImmediately south of Westward Ho! the path is glorious. Initially along an old railway line, it soon switches to a wide grassy track rolling over the low cliffs. After four miles its character changes as the height of the cliffs rises, along with the energy required to summit them. During this middle third of the walk our average speed plummeted and we began to wonder whether we'd be in time for our taxi.

The village of Bucks Mills - seven miles into the walk - looked well worth exploring, sharing as it does many of Clovelly's characteristics but without the negative side of being a tourist hot spot. Mindful of time, we didn't linger and headed on for the final push.

This last third turned out to be very easy - once we had regained the height we had suddenly lost by dropping to Bucks Mills. The final two miles were along the Hobby Drive, a carriage ride constructed on instruction of the owner of the Clovelly estate. Our guide book explains that such grand projects were commonplace as a means of providing employment during a time of depression. It's not clear what the equivalent would be today.

phesants.pngMost noticeable along the drive were the pheasants. We're used to seeing one or two on our walks, but here they were in their hundreds, maybe even thousands. At one point we had perhaps forty birds scampering along the drive ahead of us, trying to get out of our way, but failing to recognise that we too might be continuing in the same direction.

Discarded grain sacks and feeders confirmed that this was a rearing operation, presumably so that the birds could be shot for sport later in the year. There may not be labourers extending the Hobby Drive this year, but some things never change - Clovelly is still run by one family.

On that note, we spent a day visiting the village earlier in the year and were sorely disappointed. Clovelly is a beautiful village that seems to have been transformed into a money-making machine. By all means visit it, but be prepared for a lacklustre visitors' centre and shops full of tat. Be prepared also to pay for the privilege, although we'd recommend avoiding the paid-for visitors' centre and walking along the public rights of way into the village for free.

Posted by pab at 15:26 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!