Spotting a break in the weather forecast we dug our walking boots out of a 2 month retirement and got back out on the South West Coastal Path to walk the 4.5mile return trip from Bucks Mills to Clovelly
Bucks Mills is a beautiful isolated hamlet built along a narrow steep sided valley with the obligatory burbling brook tumbling over the cliff to a very good rock pooling beach below. Bucks Mills has one of several disused lime kilns that are dotted along the North Devon coast, built in 1760 to produce lime for improving agricultural land.
However, Bucks Mills is perhaps best known today for The Cabin – a National Trust owned property which can be found beyond the village square half way down the very steep final section of road. This tiny two roomed cabin was owned in the last century by artists Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards (their local landscapes are on display in Bideford’s Burton Art Gallery and left to the National Trust who organise artist residencies each summer. Onto the walk and we discovered that the first half (third if you’re picky!) through Bucks Woods is typical of the North Devon section of the South West Coastal Path undulating through stunning old woodland and open pastures. Plenty of pink grasses and wild flowers including ragged robin and red campion along way and the occasional tantalising glimpse of a turquoise sea.
The second phase of the walk is quite unique following Hobby Drive – a 3 mile long paved drive which was devised by Sir James Hamlyn Williams and his wife and became their all consuming hobby between 1811 and 1829. Although this section has a more gentle gradient and more open views of the sea across Bideford Bay it is tougher on the feet so I arrive at Clovelly village with the start of a stinging blister on my heel! Clovelly is an historic fishing village with cobbled traffic free high street that is build into a cleft in a 400 ft high cliff and drops steeply past white washed cottages ablaze with flowers to a tiny working port. It is famous for its donkeys which used to transport goods up the hill, is the place that inspired Charles Kingsley to write the Water Babies and has links to Turner and the Spanish Armada.
Clovelly is privately owned and has been in the same family since 1738 who aim to keep it in the style of mid C19th which involves traditional craftsmen and materials to maintain the estate. It’s a great local attraction and has a full calendar of events many of which celebrate its maritime heritage (the Lobster and Crab Feast on 4th September is in our diary). After a tasty pub lunch at the New Inn (yes, Clovelly even has 2 pubs and a tea room along with a post office, museum and several craft shops) we set off on our return journey and I came home with a sun burnt face as well as the blister which is a reminder to prepare myself better next time we go out on the trail!