Walk - Steart Farm - Clovelly
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2019. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- Walk down through the campsite to pick up the signed footpath down the steps to the lower terrace of the Middle Burrows camping field. In the woods turn left at the waymarker, bearing right shortly afterwards when another path joins from the left, and follow the waymarked path above the stream, to come out in Bucks Mills Woodland car park.
- Leaving the Woodland car park, turn right on the road and follow it down through Bucks Mills village towards the coast.
- Pick up the South West Coast Path up steps to the left as you approach the beach, climbing steeply uphill into the woods. Ignoring the footpath leading away to the left at the top, follow the markers for the Coast Path through the woodland and out onto open ground, carrying on along the edge of the fields.
In the summer months, rhododendrons among the oak woods provide banks of colour with their lavish blossoms. These exotic shrubs were widely planted by Victorian gardeners, who brought them back from the Mediterranean, but over time they have become a threat to the countryside and steps have to be taken to ensure that they do not eliminate more delicate native species.
The holiday village between the Coast Path and the road is built around the former manor of Walland Cary, first owned by Henry de la Wallen in the late thirteenth century, in the reign of Edward I. Much of Bucks Mills belonged to the manor, and many of its cottages were built in the early nineteenth century to house the estate workers.
When a wide path leads away to the left after the fields, bear right along the Coast Path. Following the signs, travel alongside an avenue of beeches to come out into fields again. From here a stile takes you back into the woods. Cross the stream on the footbridge to come out on Hobby Drive.
- To the left the drive is a private road leading to Hobby Lodge, and there is no public access along it. Turn right instead and follow Hobby Drive through the woods for another two miles.
Hobby Drive was built between 1811 and 1829 by Sir James Hamlyn Williams, providing employment for Clovelly men after the Napoleonic wars. It was part of the Romantic movement, which celebrated the beauty of the natural world in response to the increasing emphasis placed on science and logic following the Industrial Revolution. In 1901 Frederick and Christine Hamlyn extended the drive by a further half a mile, making a three-mile carriage drive with breathtaking vistas high above the Atlantic.
The estate has planted new trees in several areas along the drive as part of its woodland management plan, which aims to replace native deciduous trees as they die off, and in the last ten years, 2500 saplings have been planted each year. In summer pheasant chicks are much in evidence on the lower slopes of the woodland, and pheasant shoots take place between November and January.
- When a path leaves from the left, carry on along Hobby Drive until you come to the path signed to Clovelly village.
- Fork right to visit Clovelly village, or continue ahead to go straight to the visitor centre, where there is a cafe and a souvenir shop. The bus to Barnstaple leaves from outside the visitor centre.
For four hundred years, from the fourteenth century to the eighteenth, the village of Clovelly belonged to the Carey family. In 1738 it was sold to Zachary Hamlyn, whose descendants have managed it ever since. Built into a cleft in a 400-foot cliff, the whitewashed cottages line a cobbled street which plunges straight down the hillside to the ancient working port below. Using traditional materials and craftsmanship, the family keeps the village in the style of the mid-nineteenth century, and donkeys are used to carry goods uphill, while sledges bring things down.
From Elizabethan times Clovelly's main livelihood was from fishing, mostly mackerel and herring, and this provided a prosperous living until the 1840s, when the shoals began to move away. Clovelly herrings were famous throughout the land, and donkeys brought the catch uphill to be taken by train to London and the Home Counties. A good day's catch sometimes amounted to as many as 9,000 herrings, and on one particularly good day 400 donkey-loads were brought in! Even now, fishing is still part of village life, and it is celebrated every autumn in the Herring Festival.
The quay was first built in the thirteenth century and extended in Tudor times, when the great seafarers such as Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Richard Grenville were often in the area. The four cannon barrels in use today as bollards are said to have come from the Spanish Armada. In 1826 the quay was lengthened. Clovelly is the only safe harbour between Appledore and Boscastle, and ships will sometimes wait in Clovelly Roads for storms to pass.
Because of the number of ships that have been wrecked here, this part of the coast is known as the Iron Coast. This is as a result of the westerly winds rolling in over 3,000 miles of Atlantic Ocean, and also the deadly fingers of rock lurking beneath the waves. Clovelly has had its own lifeboat since 1870.
Beyond the lifeboat station is a coastal waterfall, one of several along this coastline. Unable to erode the hard rock over which they pass, the rivers here meet the sea high above the shore in 'hanging valleys', and the water tumbles over the cliffs to the beach below. After heavy rainfall the torrent is quite dramatic. According to legend, the cave behind the waterfall was the birthplace of King Arthur's magician, Merlin.
One of the cottages on the street between 'Upalong' and 'Downalong' belonged to 'Crazy Kate' Lyall, who watched helplessly from her window as her fisherman husband drowned in the bay. Overwhelmed by her grief, one day in 1736 she put on her wedding dress and walked out into the sea to join him in his watery grave.
Nearby is Kingsley Cottage. Writer Charles Kingsley spent much time in Clovelly, his father having been rector here. He wrote his novel 'Westward Ho!' in the village. Clovelly also inspired 'The Water Babies'.
- From the harbour make your way straight up the main cobbled street to the Visitor Centre at the top. It is a steep climb and traffic is banned from the village, but a Land Rover taxi service runs from Easter to October, taking a back route up the hillside from the harbour.