Clovelly to Hartland Quay

Thursday 14th May 2009

11 miles, 10.25 on South West Coast Path

Breakfast at Fuchsia Cottage was served at 8.30am and whilst eating we talked to Tom Curtis about our respective daughters. Then we walked down to the top end of Clovelly and Richard went down to the Post Office to buy provisions for lunch whilst I bought postcard at the (huge) visitor centre at the top of the hill.

The coast path out of Clovelly passes through attractive woodland as you walk down to 'The Cabin' (a shelter), with formal parkland on the landward side, presumably belonging to the owner of Clovelly - we eventually saw the 'stately home' in the distance. We passed through more woodland to another shelter, dated 1826 (but obviously restored much more recently) and complete with carved angel's wings. Beyond this the land was much more open, so presumably the nature conservation scheme at Gallantry Bower, described in the National Trail Guide, has now taken placed. However we passed through more woodland as we descended to Mouthmill Beach. It was a lovely place, with a lime kiln and our first view of Blackchurch Rock, with its two natural arches.

The path took us slightly inland and then climbed steeply, but the guidebook's promised views of Blackchurch Rock didn't come until later - it was too overgrown here. We descended again to a wooded valley and then ascended to Windberry Point. There were excellent views from here, but nowhere to stop for lunch! We walked on, mostly on the edges of fields, past signs to car parks at Brownsham and Exmansworthy. On one occasion we descended a short way into a wooded valley then ascended again; on another occasion the path took us through a bed of nettles. However most of the time it was easy walking and we sat on the grass at the edge of a field for lunch. then we continued to follow the field boundaries. Close to Eldern Point we crossed some terraced fields, with cows that came running towards us; fortunately the field slightly further on that claimed to have a bull in it appeared to be empty.

The weather had been surprisingly good to this point; dry with some sun during the morning, though becoming increasingly misty. However it started to rain as we passed East Titchberry and West Titchberry. We put on cagoules but not overtrousers at this point, but by the time we'd passed the 'mushroom-shaped radar tower' at Hartland Point we were getting quite wet. We stopped in the Hartland Point car park to put on overtrousers; amazingly the tea kiosk in the car park was open so we had a cup of tea/coffee. We could have had the Devon cream tea we'd been promising ourselves too (the kiosk serves an excellent range of food), but we decided it would get distinctly soggy in the rain.

We pushed on, past the entrance to the lighthouse and the distinctive sound from the lighthouse was audible for several miles. The wild landscape to the south gradually came into view, with strata at amazing angles. We followed Upright Cliff then descended to Titchberry Water (within sight of a pretty little waterfall) and up the other side. We then entered a strange little valley called Smoothlands, with a steeply sloping outcrop to the seaward side of us. We climbed again, now with views to Hartland Quay and inland to Stoke Church. Eventually, after another descent then another ascent and descent, we reached the approach to Hatland Quay; we emerged onto the road by Rocket House and followed a track, grassy verge and steps down to the Hartland Quay Hotel. It's a curious place - battered by the elements on the outside and painted a rather institutional green on the inside, but our room (Room 4) was large, comfortable with an ensuite bath and a glorious view of the spectacular coast.

After hanging our wet clothes up to dry and taking advantage of the bath, we went for an explore (taking advantage of a temporary lull in the rain). We walked down to the beach where there was a group of geology students; the geology here is certainly amazing, with strata at extreme angles and much evidence of folding. The whole thing is battered by the sea so you can appreciate why the harbour didn't survive and why there have been so many shipwrecks in the area (there's a Shipwreck Museum at the Hotel, though it closes at 5pm so we didn't get chance to visit it).

At around 6.30pm we went down for a meal in the pleasant 'Wreckers' Retreat' bar, stopping en route to find the telephone numbers of some taxi companies in case I don't make it all the way tomorrow. We ate fishcakes and drank cider, sitting opposite a map showing the location of local shipwrecks. Then we returned to our room to stare at the sea.

Following day