18. South West Coast Path (North Devon)

184. Clovelly to Horn’s Cross

Wednesday 30th October 2019

Left Hartland Quay Hotel and drove (through the flood at Stoke again) to Clovelly, parking in the visitor centre car park (GR315249). I was told I could use a small gate to the right hand side of the centre to reach the coast path but this was locked. The visitor centre was also closed and this is the normal (but paying) way into the village. Went back down the road and turned right on the ‘non-traffic’ road to Clovelly. I believe this is a public road but strong signage leads everyone to the visitor centre car park.

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Entrance to Clovelly (GR316249)

Cloudy and a bit damp this morning but at the moment no wind.

At the bottom of the hill, at a small car park, the coast path signpost appeared (GR316250). Followed the road round the corner and immediately after the cobbled road leading down to the village turned left on the Hobby Drive (GR317249).

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Less than 100 miles to go (GR316249)

Hobby Drive is wide track which, at least initially, is largely flat possibly rising a little as it contours over 300 feet above Clovelly harbour.

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The Hobby Drive (GR318247)

The Hobby Drive meanders through woodland and even in the beginning where it is close to the sea not a lot could be seen because of the trees even though it is autumn and the trees are only partially in leaf.  At places the path also moves inland following the contours around the steep valleys formed by small streams.

After a stone bridge (GR316246) over a small stream the track begins to rise, and it must have been quite difficult for the horses dragging the carriages up here. Continued a gentle climb beyond a second stone bridge over a stream (GR317240).

Walkers always have to complain about something and to be honest this was the easiest bit of walking for days but it was on a kind of crudely cobbled surface that eventually started to get at the feet and ankles. Also, although the woodland was pleasant there were no sea views until a little further along a number of benches appeared and these had views over Clovelly harbour.

 

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Clovelly harbour and Red Lion from Hobby Drive (GR322243)

This was a high viewpoint and seemed to be the summit of the path at about 500 feet. However the summit was a little further along at 625 feet where there was a stone bench. The inscription on the bench reads, The new portion of road measuring 833 yards was added to the Hobby Drive by Frederick and Christine Hamlyn in the year of our Lord God 1901. It is difficult to imagine Frederick and Christine out with their picks and shovels, particularly after seeing her rather large and foreboding portrait in the restaurant of the New Inn where I stayed that night. However, these projects were often the result of philanthropy on the part of the rich landowners in times of agricultural depression (The Great Agricultural Depression is reckoned to have ended only 5 years earlier). A form of social security rather than exploitation. I prefer to take this more positive view and anyway it eventually resulted in a path for me to walk on.

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Commemorative stone bench on Hobby Drive (GR326240)

The Hobby Drive now started its descent. It was eerily quiet in here with just the occasional squawk of a pheasant. Dropped down to another stone bridge (GR330235) and then started the climb up again. It has to be said the Hobby Drive was becoming rather monotonous after two and a half miles in the trees.

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Leaving Hobby Drive (GR336235)

Just as the noise from the main road became audible there was a signpost off to the left for the South West Coast Path. This went down some wooden steps through a narrow wooded valley and up the other side to a gate (GR336235).

The path followed the edge of a field to reach the clifftop. It was good be back close to the sea but although the path followed the high clifftop nothing much could be seen because of bushes and trees on the seaward side.

The path entered Barton Wood and went up and down through the wood to eventually come out onto the edge of an open field. It was getting windier now but the path soon went back into the protection of the woods. The trees along here all the way from Colvelly seem to be beech trees with some sweet chestnut and are still in quite a bit of leaf perhaps because they are in quite sheltered positions in the valleys.

At the sewage works (GR349236) headed up left to find a path through the woods which was nicely covered in chipped bark and soft to walk on. This path dropped down to reach the proper coast path which I must have missed somewhere near the sewage works.

The path dropped gently down through Buck’s and Keivell’s Woods with the final descent into Buck’s Mill a lot steeper including over 100 steps. Buck’s Mill (GR355236) is little more than a collection of half a dozen houses quite high above the beach.

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Buck’s Mill (GR355236)

Sat down and took a break for some lunch while looking at Hartland Point through the murk.

The morning had largely been a woodland walk which was no bad thing in a way as it made a change but it was certainly not coastal walking. The weather started to change and it started raining and getting unpleasantly cold.

Left Buck’s Mill by turning left on a footpath by the telephone box signposted Peppercombe 21/8 miles, once again into woodland – this time National Trust Worthygate Woods. Is this the last big climb of the trip ? Hope so but doubt it somehow.

A steep climb up through the woods on steps and rocks and 300 feet up at the top there is a signpost Peppercombe 2 miles so that 1/8 mile had taken a while.

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Buck’s Mill and hartland Point (GR355236)

Began descending down a series of flights of steps towards Peppercombe. At one point the trees opened out for once and got a view of the coast all the way up to Babbacombe Cliff (GR380241).

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Babbacombe Cliff (GR380241)

A final flight of steps led down to a stone bridge at Peppercombe (GR382241). Nothing much here, just one or two buildings but it represented the end of the day’s walking and the four-day trip.

But it wasn’t the end as I had to get a taxi back to Clovelly so turned right away from the coast path and headed up the combe towards Horn’s Cross and hopefully the Coach and Horses.

This was a quite steep climb of 300 feet over ¾ mile after today’s walk and the previous three days but despite the psychological difficulty of having really finished down at Peppercombe Castle I maintained my focus on the pleasures awaiting at the pub.

Thankfully the Coach and Horses was open and as I was the only customer I had an interesting conversation with the landlady until my taxi arrived. The driver was the same as yesterday and he continued his explanation of the lives of various people en route including the landlady of the Coach and Horses.

Clovelly

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Clovelly

Up until this time my only experience of Clovelly was the visitor centre and a view of the harbour from Hobby Drive. The only official way in to Clovelly is through the visitor centre for a charge of £7.75. There are some backdoor routes such as the coast path itself but signs warn of spot checks of tickets whilst in the village. All this annoyed me a little so, having collected my bag from the car and changed out of my boots, I approached the visitor centre ready for a ‘discussion’ about the entrance fee but once I said I was staying at the New Inn I was waved through.

It was a tough walk down into the village on wet and slippery cobbles and even harder the next morning on leaving. The New Inn was OK without being exciting and I was one of only 7 people staying. In the evening I walked down to the Red Lion at the harbour – a dodgy walk down wet cobbles in the dark and rain – and there were another half dozen people there. That was probably the total number of visitors staying overnight in the village.

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Cobbled climb in Clovelly (and sledge transport)

Next day drove home and after about two hours of fast driving saw that sign again at the M5/M4 junction Chepstow 13. Nevertheless, I feel that Chepstow as the end of my walk around England is now getting very close.

Days from Chepstow   184

Miles today   18.4

Miles from Chepstow   2210.0

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