Day 14 - Clovelly to Bideford
A day very much in two parts today. We looked at three alternative routes that I’d planned, and decided that as the weather was clear we would do the coastal path for as long as possible, even though it would be longer and with more inclines.
The cobbles and near-precipitous angles of the Clovelly street mean that people transport their shopping by wooden sledge, and it used to be the case that people could be taken down to the harbour by donkeys. Now there’s a Landrover, but the donkeys still live in Clovelly, though they no longer have to heave people up and down the slope. Last year I went to the village with friends, and on observing the sign by the donkeys I noticed that they were called Pat and Brush. I had neglected to observe the critical ‘do not’ at the top of the sign and ‘the donkeys’ at the bottom.
As we got to the top, moving more quickly than yesterday now the cobbles were dry, we met Dave, also known as Barrcroft Weston, pulling a large sledge with a number of parcels. He told us about the technique used to steer it, and then explained that he took over the donkey shop a couple of years ago. He arrived in 2020 with a donkey foal called Pablo and a golden retriever called Alfie, and has worked to develop the area to include more activities for children. He has written a children’s book called ‘the adventures of Pablo the donkey and the missing breakfast’ set in Clovelly. I told him about my misreading last year and he told me he would try to include the characters Pat and Brush in his next book. I couldn’t have been more delighted!
Leaving Clovelly we entered The Hobby Drive. This is a wooded area that extends for a number of miles beyond the village. The path is clear and well maintained, but the trees have been allowed to grow so high that the sea is seen just as the odd tantalising glimpse .
It was odd having the song that I had become so familiar with of skylarks and other ground nesting birds being replaced with wood pigeons and the other natives of a broad leafed wood.
The Hobby drive woods were then followed by Barton Wood, Keivill’s Wood and Buck’s Wood, Worthygate Wood and Sloo Wood. All very similar, with mature trees that felt unmaintained and that obscured the view of the sea. A very different feel to the wild openness of the last couple of weeks.
Great to meet Jared and Nina with their lovely dogs Tara and Goldie. I really miss my dog, and am especially friendly to all that I meet on the path in replacement.
But just as we were thinking the trees would never end, there was the sight of the sea in front of us. Ochre cliffs and grey slate beach, it was calling us over.
Just north of Babbacombe mouth we finally got the chance to sit by the sea. Big cobblestones with driftwood sculptures, it was a great place for lunch, and for Magda to dip her toes in.
The second half of the day had much better views, but was a much tougher walk. Many steep climbs and descents, making our conversation reduce considerably.
Although fortified with excellent Roly’s fudge, it was a relief when the ground evened out and we could see the headland with Westward Ho! (the only place name with an exclamation mark - useful quiz knowledge….) ahead of us. But we were turning East, away from the South West Coast Path. I will meet it again in a few days, when it has morphed into the England coast path.
The last few miles were on maintained footpaths surrounded by wild roses, and then minor roads, leading finally to a footpath that crossed what appeared to be a hobby farm. In a couple of fields we met a very insistently bleating ewe and her confused lamb, a couple of enthusiastic pigs, some lairy young heifers and a group of haughty alpacas. Magda thought their haircuts reminded her of at least one of her children.
And then a headlong run across a busy A road to dodge the traffic, a trudge up an unmarked footpath that this time did lead to somewhere, and we were at my hotel, situated on the edge of Atlantic Village, North Devon’s outlet shopping mall. It couldn’t have felt more of a contrast to the little villages and the dramatic sea views of the last fortnight. Magda still had another walk ahead of her to catch the various buses and trains she needed to get home to London. We bid a hasty farewell, I was sad to see her go. It’s been lovely to share the adventure with her for a couple of days. Even though in marvelling at my stalwart bladder control today she likened me to a lizard….
Distance covered: 12 miles
Total ascent: 2800 feet
Calories burned: don’t know as I’ve still got trouble with my watch, fixing it is admin for the next couple of days
Local tipple: Aldi’s golden ale
Dinner in my room with a selection of salad, falafel, cheese and bread. All eaten with a hotel bedroom teaspoon. I’m a classy girl.
Number of snakes seen today: 1
Well actually it was a slow worm, but a snake is a better story. I did actually see an adder a few days ago which I forgot to report, so that can count here too.
New song of the day
Stephen Fretwell - The Goshawk and the Gull
This is great. What lovely writing, really haunting sound.
Video of the day: https://www.relive.cc/view/vNOPoKYWG2v