Friday, 28 April 2017



Clovelly is an interesting place. Pevsner calls it "one of the show villages of England". It dates back to the building of its pier in 1593 by then then lord of the manor, George Cary. At some point the Hamlyn family took over from the Carys as lords, although they don't seem to have had much luck with their manor house, Clovelly Court. It was built by the Cary family in 1681 and partly destroyed by fire in 1789 and again in 1944. You can visit the gardens.

The village remains privately owned by the Clovelly court estate and has been consciously preserved in its picturesque and traditional estate. No cars are allowed and visitors arriving by car park in large car park above the village and enter it through a welcome centre where they pay a charge for entry rather than for parking. Polperro is the only comparable example I can think of.

The village consists of one main street which descends steeply to the harbour and this post essentially describes the walk down from the vistor centre. The first thing you see, off to the left, is Mount Pleasant. The cross is a memorial to Clovelly residents who died in the First World War. Mount Pleasant was donated to the National Trust in 1921 by Christine Hamlyn, for the use of the village in perpetuity. There is a great view across Bideford Bay.

This is the path down to the village. It is very steep, made of cobbles laid horizontally on their sides and very slippery when wet.

At the bottom it turns sharp left to become the main street. On the right at this point is the Queen Victoria memorial fountain of 1901. It was designed by Lady Feodora Gleichen, a cousin of Queen Victoria and the first female member of the Royal Academy.

A consequence of the absence of cars and the steepness of the street is that is difficult to get supplies and goods down to the village. The partial solution is the use of wooden sledges - boxes on wooden runners. There is also a road which runs around the outside of the village to a car park behind the Red Lion pub by the harbour.

The picture at the head of this post shows the view down past the other pub, the New Inn. And this is the next section. Some houses are Georgian, but many were built or rebuilt around 1900. The majority are whitewashed, which contributes strongly to the uniform character.

They are however placed in a higgledy piggledy fashion and many have a strip of earth in front which is used for flowers. The overall effect is extremely picturesque. There are surprisingly few shops.

Finally, you come to the small harbour and the Red Lion, seen here from above, with the path heading downwards.

To complete the picture, here are two photos looking uphill.

Conditions: cloudy, but bright. (The Mount Pleasant picture was taken on a different day of course).

Distance: It's probably only a mile there and back, but the cobbles and steepness make it one of the most challenging miles of urban walking.

Map: Explorer 126 (Clovelly & Hartland).

Rating: four stars.

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