Sunday 12 June 2016 – Clovelly, Devon.
Day three of three, almost over already. However, today was what the last two days were building up to. No more tar seal, no more flat wide paths, just up hill, down hill, mud and rock. All accompanied by the sound of the sea. Yes!
I was awake fairly early and out for breakfast at the agreed time of 8:30. It was nice to have breakfast with other people after a couple of days on my own in B and B’s. Jilly the Air B n B hostess had family staying, we had all travelled extensively at different points in our lives so had some common and interesting experiences. It also helped me delay my departure until after the first shower of the day had passed.
I left as soon the rain stopped and got down to the waterfront just as the next shower arrived. Westward Ho! has its own haunted house on the edge of town, I wonder how long it has been for sale? Right next to a massive, and expanding holiday camp; I wouldn’t buy haunted or not, though it is right by the beach. I had to stop to put on my jacket and pack cover. They stayed on for quite a while. My jacket is hopeless, it keeps the rain out well, but it is not designed for warm weather walking. I was wetter inside than out, no breathability at all, I am going to have to invest in a new summer jacket before I start my next stage of walking.
The first kilometre out of Westward Ho! follows a cliff side path that seems to be popular with dog walkers, local runners and all sorts of people, there were even two couples that looked to be doing a long walk as well, carrying heavy packs and walking poles. I was hoping it was not going to be that crowded for the entire day. The view towards Clovelly, my destination at the end of this 17 or so KM walk was rather gloomy. I knew it was out there somewhere.
This was to be the toughest of the three days walking, there is a lot of up and down to complete and with a slippery trail underfoot precautions needed to be taken. I will say that I was glad when I did arrive in Clovelly, my legs were done. It is a stunning section of coast, and though the weather did not come to the party and it was a bit miserable out there, I was relishing being out in the ‘wild’ again. I was mostly on my own, there were a couple walking at a similar pace to me and we chatted on the numerous occasions we passed each other. The view, both in front and behind kept appearing and disappearing, along with rain showers all morning, fortunately the rain was light for most of it and I did not get overly wet, but I did have to stop and I took a lot of photos today. The cliffs, the path, the flowers and the old lime kilns.
Clovelly still refused to make an appearance, though Bucks Mills was a small dot half way along the cliff side..
The path dropped down close to the beach in a couple of places, and in both there have been efforts to corral the vast amount of rubbish washed up each year. At this particular spot someone had made a crude shelter and this great seat out of drift wood and netting, nearby there were piles and piles of washed up plastic junk. Well done to the volunteers who go out to clean our beaches and park lands. It started to rain again just as I was taking the picture so I did not linger, much as I needed the rest.
It was back up hill, yet again.
Peppercombe Beach was my next break stop, the red cliffs here are quite unusual so worth the extra few minutes walk down to the beach, though my legs were cursing a bit as I walked back up again.
There was still no sight of Clovelly in the distance. I had caught glimpses of it earlier in the day so knew it did actually exist.
Naturally there was a climb out.
Bucks Mills was the next stop point, and where I had planned on taking lunch. As I was coming down the wooded hill in to the village I knew I had been here before and exactly where I was going to pop out. This was one of the stop points where we met Malcolm and Tom when they ran the entire 630 Miles of the path back in 2012 and I was support crew. This was also when my obsession with the path started, I blame them.
The preceding two days walking had lulled me into an act of complete stupidity, something I am slightly prone to. I had got used to just walking from town to town, picking up water and snacks as I went. Well there was nowhere to pick up food and water on this entire leg. I had almost no water left in my tiny water bottle, though I did pack energy bars so was not completely bereft of food. As I dropped down into Bucks Mills I was hoping there might be something open. There was something. It was just not open.
At the top of the path down to the beach sits Look out Cottage a tiny studio used by the artists Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards, it was their cabin and studio from the 20s to the 1970s and is now locked up and empty. I am not sure who owns it but I believe it to be left fairly much as it was when it stopped being a studio. I snuck in through the gate and took a photo in the window. It looked so rustic inside, that candle holder just harks back to much simpler times.
I carried on down to the sea front, even if I couldn’t drink I could at least take a break, east a snack, have a sit down and enjoy the sea for a few minutes. I was so glad I did as there was an old boat shed at the end of the jetty and low and behold there was a tap. Wonderful. I drank two bottles of water while I munched on bars, and then filled up once more before I headed off again. Thanks Bucks Mills!
There was a festival (and a party) going on in Clovelly today, I could hear loud music as I walked for most of the morning, I must say it did not inspire me to set a cracking pace, I dragged my feet a bit with the hope of arriving after it had all quietened down. The seaweed festival wasn’t really my thing. The walk from Bucks Mills was lovely, mostly through gorgeous wood lands, with rare and ancient cliff oaks and bizarrely gigantic rhododendron bushes on the way. None of my tree photos were particularly good, so here are some shrubs.
Finally after about five hours of walking I was on Hobby Drive, the roadway into Clovelly. I sort of thought this was going to be a short road way in, but it took almost an hour to walk it. It was not a short walk in.
As I approached the cliff top above Clovelly I caught my first glimpse of it through the trees. There were a few walkers up here from their day out in the village and I saw a few more puffing their way up the hill. You can see some of the gazebos from the fair on the wharf, luckily things were quietening down for the day.
I have been looking forward to visiting Clovelly, I did not go down to the village in 2012, but have heard a lot about it. I am booked into an inn for the night, it was expensive as you would expect in such a small place. There is no way to get back to London late on a Sunday, so this was the price I paid – a lot, to do my walk. Clovelly is basically one narrow cobbled street down to the sea, it is part of a private estate and there are no cars. It sounds idyllic and I imagine it can be, though I really surprised myself by not liking it much. Maybe it was the price of everything – justified as things have to ported by hand, maybe it was the aftermath of the festival and there had also been a Queens birthday party so there were a few folk around that were a bit worse for wear. Maybe it was me being tired after walking, I don’t know. I was just disappointed.
After checking in, I grabbed a pint from the bar, went to my room, divested myself of wet clothes and shoes, made a coffee and then plopped myself on the bed with beer, coffee and free biscuits. I didn’t move for a while. It rained. Heavily. This is the second time it absolutely poured down minutes after I had arrived somewhere. I was so lucky while I walked, while I got damp a few times I was never utterly soaked, though I had prepared for that with my packing.
After a shower I discovered the towel rail was on, and very hot. Perfect. Towels off – shoes on. Dry shoes for tomorrow, an unexpected bonus, especially as my flip flops fell apart when I went for my walk.
I wanted food but was too late for lunch and too early for dinner, so I went for a walk down to the waterfront to look around the village and hopefully find some food. There was no food, but I did take some photos.
Clovelly is mostly a traditional white and grey Devon fishing village, but there is always one that has to stand out.
I took a photo back to where I started this morning, hidden in the low cloud.
Back in the Inn I had another pint before heading down to the bar the minute it opened for food. I had dinner with two other guys solo walking the path. Both of a similar age to me. It must be a thing, I guess if you cannot afford a Ferrari and hate golf then walking long distances has to be up there in the list of mid-life crisis things to do. It was an enjoyable, though early evening as we were all knackered.
I met the same guys over breakfast, where we all seemed a little more chipper. I was feeling OK Monday morning, the legs were tired but the walk up the cliff and out of Clovelly was not too bad and I knew I could have carried on if I had the time.
I caught two busses from Clovelly back to Barnstable Station, maybe the last time I will be catching a train back to London from here. Hopefully my next walks will get me further down the coast where another station will be closer.
The walk took me 6 hours, quite a lot more than guide book suggested. It was harder than I expected, though I knew it was going to be tough, a lot harder than the preceding days that is for sure. The next two legs are supposed to be the toughest on the entire path, so I plan to be ready for those when I come back. Sooner rather than later.
I loved my time on the path, three days was long enough, but not long enough too.