138 Hartland Point to Clovelly

 car park guardian, Hartland Point, Ruth on her coastal walk, North DevonWe arrive at Hartland Point and find the car park open and the kiosk manned. The attendant wants us to pay, but my husband is only dropping me off- and so we park on the road and I lace up my boots, grab my rucksack and prepare for another day of walking.

Several cars swing into the car park while I am doing this. Passengers for the helicopter trip over to Lundy Island. I see one woman with a rucksack and binoculars and, for a moment, I envy her and wish I was going too.

But I have walking to do. I add Lundy Island to my list of places to return to if and when I ever finish this round-the-coast walk.

Picking up the South West Coast Path, I walk along North Cliff and stop, under the tower of the radar station, to take a photo looking back across the boulders of Barley Bay towards Hartland Point. The lighthouse is invisible, on the other side of the Point, but you can see the track that leads to it running downwards and around.

 Hartland Point across Barley Bay, Ruth' coastal walk on the South West Coast Path

I am standing on West Titchberry Cliff (what a wonderful name!) and I look ahead along the shoreline.

 Eldern Point, looking to BlackChurch Roack. Ruth's coast walk

Although the sun shines intermittently, the day is hazy and photography is difficult because I am looking into the morning sun.

The next bay is called Shipload Bay, the headland beyond is Eldern Point  with Long Rock, covered by the high tide, below. Beyond, I am not sure what exactly I am looking at, because my map indicates a 2-3 mile line of straight and somewhat featureless cliffs.

There is a strip of land in the far distance across the sea, too hazy to show up in the photograph. That must be the shore as it swings round beyond Barnstable.

 boring path, East Titchberry, North Devon, Ruth's coast walkingI have just completed a staggeringly beautiful stretch of coast, from Padstow through Port Isaac, Tintagel, Bude, Morwenstow, before finishing up at Hartland Point. Every time I turned a corner, there was some pretty cove  or a stunning rock formation to discover.

It comes as something of a surprise, therefore, to find the next few miles are… well, no other word for it… boring.

The path runs along the side of fields and is hemmed in by hedges. On my left, somewhere, must be the cliffs that fall down to the sea, but I don’t have access to the views because of overgrown gorse and brambles.

It is a relief to come across a piece of woodland.

 a bit of woodland, East Titchberry, Ruth walking the SW Coast Path, Devon05a a bit of woodland, East Titchberry, Ruth walking the SW Coast Path, DevonThe path follows the crest of a narrow ridge, with trees on either side.

I think this is East Titchberry, but there are no woods marked on my map, so I feel a little disoriented.

I must be walking around the edge of Shipload Bay, apparently one of the few sandy beaches in the area, but inaccessible by foot.

Half an hour after I left the heliport car park I hear the noise of a helicopter. I manage to snap this photograph as it rises up from the other side of the radar station and  buzzes off in the direction of Lundy.

 helicopter taking off, Hartland Point, Ruth's coast walking

A few minutes later and I’ve reached the end of Shipload Bay. I ‘m standing at the far end of East Titchberry Cliff, above Eldern Point and Long Rock. There is not much sand on the beach below. Plenty of rocks.

07 Shipload Bay, from East Titchberry Cliff, Ruth walking the SWCP, Devon

The path runs across fields. High hedges again between me and the sea. Boring fields. A few sheep in the distance.

Boring path, Fatacott Cliff, Ruth walking in North Devon

The monotony is broken by an obelisk.

09 trig point, Chapman Rock, North Devon, Ruth LivingstoneThis is only a few feet high and surrounded by fencing, as if it was a precious monument. It even had its own gate! But it turns out to be an ordinary and very un-exciting trig point.

At this point I wonder if I have been spoiled for ever. Cornwall was so extraordinarily beautiful, perhaps every walk from now on with be disappointing.

Oh, well. Onwards.

I am making rapid progress and have reached the end of Fatacott Cliff, according to my map. The path ahead looks uninspiring. But at least it is flat.

 Examsworthy Cliff, Ruth on the SWCP, heading for Clovelly

I am just revising my ETA at Clovelly, when the path turns off from the field and heads down through woodland.

Beckland woods, Ruth on the SWCP, north DevonAnother quick map check. No sign of woods on the map. I think I am above Beckland Bay, somewhere on Brownsham cliff.

I am just about to set off downwards, when I see two young women puffing up the path towards me. They are red-haired and pale skinned and speak in Irish accents. They set off from Clovelly and are heading for Hartland Quay.

“What’s the path like ahead?” they ask me.
“A bit boring, really,” I say.
They look relieved and tell me there have been a lot of inclines between here and Clovelly.
“Four big downs and ups.”

The woodland diversion takes me down into a steep valley. I cross the stream at the bottom and climb up the slope on the other side. That is the first down-and-up done, three more to go. Back to plodding across fields. The next waypoint is Windbury Head.

Windbury Head, Ruth walking the SWCP
Windbury Head is the site of yet another ancient Iron Age fort, although there is nothing much left to see today.

13 memorial to bomber crash, Windbury Point, Ruth's coast walkingBut I do find this memorial to a Wellington bomber. It is not only ships that have been wrecked along this coastline.

The path from here onwards becomes much more interesting and challenging. I walk down along the wooded slopes of a valley, thinking I am in Brownsham Wood.

Ahead I can see an unusual rock, triangular and pierced by holes. I check my map again. That must be Blackchurch Rock. So I am convinced this really is Brownsham Wood and I am going down into Mouthmill Beach.

descending into Brownsham woods, Ruth walking the SW coast path, Clovelly

I soon lose sight of the rock and realise the path doesn’t go all the way down to the beach. Instead it takes me up the other side of the valley, a long and steep climb.

When I get to the top, it comes as a bit of shock to realise that the path almost immediately plunges down again, through yet another wooded valley. This is Brownsham and now I am going down into Mouthmill Beach. Ah well, I ‘ve done two out of the four downs-and-ups.

Brownsham Woods, towards Mouthmill Beach, Ruth Livingstone

Blackchurch Rock grows larger. Across the water I can see cliffs in the distance on the other side of Bideford Bay. Tomorrow’s walk.

Blackchurch Rock, Mouthmill Beach, Ruth on her coastal walk

At the bottom of Mouthmill is a stream and some deserted buildings. The beach consists of large boulders and is almost impossible to walk across as the stones are piled in an unstable mess. (I have seen photos showing sand on the beach, but it is either covered in water today, or it has been swept away by the winter storms.)

The stream ends in a pool on the landward side of a ridge of boulders, and appears to drain away underneath the upper beach, appearing on the other side as scattered rivulets among the rocks.

The really interesting thing about the beach is the Blackchurch Rock and its holes, although you get a better view of the rock from the slopes coming down into the valley.

 Mouthmill Beach, Ruth's coastal walk

There is a man-made balcony just above the beach, with a flat area where you could sit and have a picnic if you didn’t want to make your way along the precarious stones.

The South West Coast Path heads along a track through the woods. I am disappointed. I expected to be climbing up a slope. This looks tame.

18 boring track, Mouthmill hill, Ruth near Clovelly, SW Coast Path

But after a short distance the path turns uphill. And what a steep climb it becomes, rapidly rising to around 300 feet above sea level. It is really tough on my calves. Just standing still requires muscular effort. I find a flat spot where I balance between the trees and take a photo back along the shoreline.

 view from above Blackchurch Rock, Ruth walking the coast, North Devon

What a shame about the haze. Lundy Island is invisible.

At the top the ground flattens and opens up, changing from woods to heathland. This is Gallantry Bower and the site of an ancient tumulus. Clovelly is somewhere ahead.

Gallentry Bower, Ruth walking the coast

I wonder when the next, and last, down-and-up will be.

Angel's Wings, Clovelly, Ruth's coast walking, Devon

The next section of walk is through lovely woodland. I am walking above a steep slope, the sea visible below between the trees.

At one point I come across this lovely shelter. Later I learn this is called “Angel Wings” and was built by the owner of Clovelly Estate, Sir James Hamlyn Williams. He would sit here and look across the bay to where his daughter lived on the far side. Ah.

It is 2:15pm. I am making good progress but  I’m not sure how much further I have to go. The pub in Clovelly stops serving lunch at 3:30. I  hurry onwards. The path is flat and gives easy walking through the woods.

Woodland, Clovelly Court, Ruth's coastal walk

I pass the large estate house, Clovelly Court, and come to a road where a few cars are parked. A road? Where am I?

Because Clovelly is built on a steep hill, my map is scored across with contour lines and is difficult to read. I am tempted to head down the road but I am put off by signs warning cars not to enter, there is no turning, access only. Perhaps the road only leads to a private estate? (Later I discover that, although tourists are discouraged from driving down this way, this road would have taken me into Clovelly.)

Down to Clovelly, Ruth walking the SWCP

It is nearly 3:00pm. I am in danger of missing lunch.

I follow the road along the top for a short distance, unsure of where I am or where Clovelly is. A path strikes off down the slope, through the trees, and I decide to follow it.

The path grows steeper and becomes a series of cobbled steps. I am relieved to see buildings ahead. Ah. This must be Clovelly.

This is a difficult descent. The cobbles are slippery, the path slopes between the steps. I’m unsure how far down I need to go or where I will end up. But lunch is calling. I keep going.

I come out onto a wider path and look down at Clovelly’s little harbour. And, what a relief, there is the pub.

 Red Lion, Clovelly, Ruth on her coastal walk

I arrive just in time to order lunch. Fish and chips, what else could I have?

The walk back up through Clovelly is tiring but very enjoyable. At the top, I find a secret, sunken path that takes me up to Wrinkleberry and my B&B in Higher Clovelly. But I will post the photos of this final section on another page.

Miles walked today = 9 miles
Miles in total = 1,348


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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12 Responses to 138 Hartland Point to Clovelly

  1. Papa Ferret says:

    Hey Ruth, don’t despair! Right enough that section of the coastal path is not my favourite but when you get over our side of the estuaries you have some great treasures awaiting. Baggy Point, Morte Point, Lee Bay (take your swimmies), Ilfracombe, Valley of the Rocks, Headon’s Mouth, Watersmeet – to name but a few…..

    • Looking forward to it already! (To be fair, only the first few miles of this walk were boring. Once the path started dipping down into wooded valleys, it became exciting and challenging.)

  2. Sandie says:

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog as you’ve walked around Cornwall – my second home – & am looking forward to seeing how things go in Devon – especially when you get towards Exmoor, where I spend most of the year. You’ll find some stunning coastal views around here – enjoy!

  3. jcombe says:

    The coast path is certainly the best way to approach Clovelly. It is very touristy from the car park (and they try to charge an admission fee if you enter from there). A lovely place though.

  4. mariekeates says:

    Years ago I walked with my husband and boys down that path and into Clovelly. It hasn’t changed a bit 🙂

  5. Karen White says:

    I’ve just seen Clovelly on the ‘Britain in Bloom’ programme. It’s a pretty village but I wouldn’t want to live on that hill.

  6. Siobhan says:

    The Hut you mentioned and photographed at Hartland Point belongs to my Godmother and my Uncle on their farmland, the fees pay for the upkeep of the land and the small cafe they have and the helipad there. I consider it incredibly reasonable, but I am biased in my opinion. They don NOT charge for profit, it is purely for the running and upkeep of such a beautiful place. I spent many holidays around that beautiful countryside, it is like a second home to me and I consider it a beautiful place to be. I live in Norfolk so a place like that is a godsend

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