Walk - Dyer's Lookout from Hartland Quay Hotel
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2021. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
1. WALKERS FROM HARTLAND ABBEY START HERE
- Using the main gate to enter the churchyard at St Nectan's Church in Stoke, turn left and follow the footpath out of the churchyard, walking parallel to the road.
St Nectan was one of many Celtic saints setting up hermitages around the coastline during the fifth and sixth centuries, when Christianity was under threat from waves of pagan Anglo-Saxon invaders. One of the 24 missionary offspring of King Brychan of Brycheiniog, St Nectan established his hermitage in what was then a remote and densely wooded valley, and his well can be seen at the end of the walk. Built in the fourteenth century, the current church replaced a collegiate church founded in 1050 by Gytha, mother of King Harold, which was itself built on the site of St Nectan's original hermitage.
According to tradition, St Nectan was given two cows in return for helping a swineherd recover his lost pigs, but the cows were stolen. St Nectan tried to convert the thieves to Christianity, but they were having none of it and beheaded him. Picking up his head, he carried it back to his well before he collapsed and died, and foxgloves grew wherever his blood fell.
Turn into the field on your right just beyond the last bungalow and carry on alongside the hedge to Rocket House. From here follow the footpath downhill beside the car park, forking left onto the track to descend to Hartland Quay.
Once a bustling port and the hub of communications for a remote district not easily reached overland, the major work continually needed to repair quays damaged by Atlantic storms was finally abandoned when the railway reached Bideford at the end of the nineteenth century. The old customs houses and warehouses were converted to an hotel in 1886, and the old stables are today The Wreckers Retreat Bar, their hay and corn lofts now en-suite bedrooms. They also house a fascinating museum telling of traders and smugglers, as well as shipwrecks and lifesavers.
A romantic outpost in a spectacular setting, Hartland Quay has been the location for many films, including "Treasure Island" and "Solomon Kane".
The Hartland coastline is renowned worldwide for the dramatic folds and faults in its cliffs and rocks, the result of huge forces at work beneath the Earth's surface about 300 million years ago, during a period of mountain-building known as the Variscan Orogeny. Fossils in the face of the towering cliffs tell the story of the life forms which lived in the sand and mud at the bottom of a brackish sea, and ribs of sandstone running out from the shoreline are the visible peaks of the deadly ridges beneath the sea which have been responsible for many a shipwreck.
2. WALKERS FROM HARTLAND QUAY HOTEL START HERE
- Walking a short distance up the road from Hartland Quay, pick up the footpath on your left, turning left just before Rocket House to follow the South West Coast Path along The Warren, passing the ruin on your right with Dyer's Lookout to your left, before dropping steeply downhill into the valley.
Rocket House was built after the SS Uppingham in 1890 became the latest of many ships wrecked on the lethal fingers of rock stretching out into the sea off the coast at Hartland. Originally called Rocket Apparatus House, it housed the rocket waggon and equipment of the Hartland Life Saving Apparatus Company.
Designed by Cornishman Henry Trengrouse, who was appalled at the tragic loss of life he witnessed when HMS Anson was wrecked off Loe Bar in 1807, the Rocket Apparatus used a musket or a small cannon to fire a double line and pulley to a ship in trouble. The sailors tied their end to the mast, while onshore the rescuers attached the other to a frame anchored in the ground. A breeches buoy – a harness designed to carry a person – was sent to the ship so that one by one the men could be hauled to shore.
The ruin on the Warren is a folly known as The Pleasure House, thought to have been built in the sixteenth century, possibly as a warrener's house. It was remodelled in the eighteenth century and probably used for picnics, and the high arches may have been designed to permit carriages inside its walls.
Descending towards Blackpool Mill, stay with the path as it bears right before dropping to the river.
The cottage at Blackpool Mill was used in the film of Rosamunde Pilcher's "The Shell Seekers", starring Vanessa Redgrave.
- When the Coast Path crosses the river to carry on along the coast, leave it to take the path heading inland along the Abbey River.
- Ignoring the path heading uphill through the field continue on the riverside path through the trees, emerging on the road below St Nectan's Church.
- Turn left on the road, crossing the river, and walk steeply uphill until you come to the footpath on your right.
- Turn right on the path and walk along the the left-hand hedge of the fields, dropping a little way downhill in the last to go through the gate and come out on the road.
- Turn right on the road and walk past the gates to Hartland Abbey to the track on your left immediately beyond.
Hartland Abbey was built in the twelfth century and remained as an Augustinian monastery for 400 years. Originally it was larger than today, with a chapel and a great hall, both of which were demolished in the eighteenth century when the Abbey was remodelled. At the same time, woodland gardens were created around the Abbey, with paths leading through them to the walled gardens, enclosed to shelter them from the worst of the Atlantic gales. Nineteenth century garden guru Gertrude Jekyll was a frequent visitor who lent her own inspiration to that of Marion, Lady Stucley, to create the magnificent formal gardens which still delight visitors to the Abbey today.
Hartland Abbey was the location for the BBC production of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility” in 2007.
- Turn right on the road and walk to the T-junction. 8. Turn left and walk a short distance to pick up the footpath past the houses on your left, forking right in the woods and walking to where the path forks.
- Take the right fork and cross the river, climbing gently uphill through the trees and carrying on around the observatory and up the road to West Street.
The Hartland Magnetic Observatory is operated by the British Geological Survey and is used for continuous geophysical monitoring. Built in 1956, its first equipment was designed to simulate the earth's magnetism in order to calibrate magnetometers. In 1983 its role was expanded and it became part of the Active Magnetospheric Particle Tracer Explorer programme on board the UK Satellite. Its coils are also used to calibrate compasses and magnetometers for the oil and avionics industries.
There has been a settlement at Hartland since Saxon times, and by the twelfth century it was a borough town known as Harton. A prominent Norman family, the Dinhams, acquired Lordship status here and established all the trappings of a fine estate: deer parks, markets, hunting grounds, and of course Hartland Abbey. Visit the Hartland Peninsula website for details of a heritage walk around the village.
- On West Street turn left and walk to Springfield Pottery, turning right beside it to go down Spring Field.
- Go through the kissing gate on your right and follow the footpath downhill through the trees to cross the stream at the bottom.
- Ignoring the footpath uphill to Elmscott, turn right on the track through The Vale and follow it to the bridge, taking the path to the right just before it to come out on the road.
- On the road turn left and walk back to St Nectan's Church.
Shortly after coming into Stoke, as you are approaching the church, St Nectan's Well is signposted off the road to the right.
WALKERS FROM HARTLAND QUAY FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS AT 1 TO RETURN TO THE QUAY FROM THE CHURCH.
Hartland Quay, Hartland village, Hartland Abbey (on house open days)