Friday 20 May 2016
Clovelly to Elmscott
Elmscott Youth Hostel
It rained all night but eased off in the morning. Chris cooked me a really good breakfast and we chatted for a while. I finally left at 10 am, heading into the damp. I hadn’t even made it to the coast when I came across an old lady with dementia walking up the road, cue an about turn and I had to escort her and her dog up the hill to the nearest house. Fortunately they knew her.
At Clovelly Court I was back in the woods again and walking along more cobbled paths courtesy of the Hamlyn family. I passed the Angels’ Wings (built 1826), which I presumed was just a folly, and headed on to the cliff above Mouth Mills. Here there was a beautiful summer house nestled in the trees but overlooking the bay. It was built for Diana Hamlyn in 1820.
This was where I left the Hamlyn influence behind, and also the woods, as I embarked on the last cliff-top stretch to Hartland Point. Despite the low cloud I could still (just about) make out Lundy and also see right across Bideford Bay.
Hartland Point is significant for several reasons:
1. It is the most extreme Northwesterly point in Devon, locally quoted as “furthest from the railways”.
2. It is the Westernmost end of Bideford Bay.
3. It is the Southwest limit of the Bristol Channel (the Northwest limit being St Ann’s Head near Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire).
4. It marks the turning point where the SW Coast Path ceases to head broadly West and instead turns South.
I contemplated all these facts over coffee and a flapjack at the refreshment hut.
It looked like it might rain as I headed South, waving goodbye to the Bristol Channel after 6 weeks alongside it. I was amazed by the sudden change in the landscape; gone were the wooded cliffs, replaced with much sharper, blacker, jagged rocks being pounded by a much rougher-looking sea. It seemed more dramatic.
Suddenly the terrain seemed to get tougher; lots of steep downs (into the valleys with rivers running out to sea) followed by steep ups. I did 5 of these over the next 3 miles; each one seemed to get prettier.
Black Pool House sat alone by the outflow of the Abbey River. It was available for rent and was a location for the 2007 film, Sense and Sensibility.
Hartland Quay consisted of a tiny street perched on the edge of a low cliff. Just as I reached it I saw a peregrine falcon fly into the cliff. I crawled to the edge but couldn’t see it, just a trail of droppings coming from a ledge that I couldn’t quite see so I guessed it had a nest there.
The hotel at Hartland Quay was my only chance for food today so I stopped for an early dinner of pasty and chips washed down with a half pint (I was too early for the proper menu). I sat for over an hour before I decided I had to make a move to try and reach the youth hostel before the predicted rain arrived. I made it with 10 minutes to spare.
It was a lonely evening in the youth hostel. It was a strange place and there was only a German family about. It had a damp, weary smell about it.