Monthly Archives: November 2017

The Lure of North Devon – 1929


Let the tourist who happens to be a stranger to Devon choose Barnstaple as his stepping-off board. For it is a pleasant town to visit for itself, and in its vicinity are many places good to look upon. There is the breezy road to Instow, through Fremington, by the side of the wide Taw estuary, where we enjoy a peep of Appledore on the opposite shore.  

It brings the traveller into Bideford, picturesquely situated on the River Torridge, and at full tide the Torridge is counted among Devon’s glories. Bideford and its surroundings offer everything to an outdoor enthusiast. The town is well kept; it is clean and sweet, and the shops are of a kind that appeal to the women. It is the gateway to the heart of Devon. And what shall the choice be. A good deal depends of course on individual taste. If I were a man in love with quaint old villages, whose cobbled streets wind up and down and where the atmosphere is full of fishy smells, I would tramp at once to Appledore, a mile or two away, there to enjoy the gorgeous views of both the Torridge and Taw valleys. Had I a cycle I should see that the front wheel turned towards the Torridge valley. I should be pedalling down to Weir Gifford, with its interesting church, and Torrington. Lovely spots for cycling. Had I a car available, the choice would be Clovelly, as I regard the run from Bideford as one of the prettiest in North Devon, through the tiny villages of Ford, Bucks Cross, Fairy Cross, and Clovelly Cross. An hour at Bucks Mills is recommended; it is a perfect gem of a fishing village set amid wooded combe. Surely here is no need to elaborate the beauties of Clovelly. How often have they been portrayed in so many forms of art Not only do the old cottages look sweeter, the creepers more beautiful, and all the colours of hill and wood and sky and sea deepened by the mellowed influences of time, but the air that blows up the  street is as delicious as it was in Ivingsley’s day.

But why dwell on a village so crowded with England charms, rather, than retrace the steps already covered from Bideford, it is a good plan to take the boat to Ilfracombe and sail from Clovelly across Bideford Bay. Ilfracombe never fails to attract; all through the years it has increased its popularity without bordering on the profanum vulgus. Dignity and self-respect blend well in Ilfracombe. The town has many excellent shops, a little theatre, picture houses, a first-class orchestra in the corporation gardens, tennis, cricket, and golf on the fine links above Hele Bay. Ilfracombe is essentially a holiday centre, you pick out your tweed coat and old flannels and spend your days scrounging over the rocks only to return in the evening with a few rips in your trousers. I am very fond of Ilfracombe, the town of quaint, irregular confusion. with its twisting paths and rocks so peculiarly- shaped, its delightful walks and breezy heights. Happy days on the old Lantern Hill, on the Capstone, up on Hillsborough, and way on the Torrs Walks. Oh for a swim in the morning tide and the cool green water in September and early morning and the joy of a tramp out of Ilfracombe, by the Torrs, and across Lee Downs, where the smell of earth and sea is delicious. Bull Point lighthouse can he seen a few miles distant. The views are wonderful and the rocky coast and an incomparable sea, sweet I scented lanes and a valley lit up by the bright lamps of fuchsia. What more could you wish for? And in sleepy Lee are old cottages, old people, old by-ways still unspoiled, and a very old peace which the modern world has not yet felt, understood, or even sought.

Moving along the coast we come to Woolacombe, where the sands are long and golden, and pools of sea water are mirrors of the sky’s perfect blue, where there are miniature ravines and carpets of heather ablaze on the moors, close-clipped grass for the tired limb, fields of ripened corn crowning the summit of the hills, and, at one’s feet, a million dancing, quivering waves. There is no station at Woolacombe, the nearest being Morthoe, about two miles away. If we return to Ilfracombe and proceed to Lynton there is some of the finest coast scenery to be found anywhere in the British Isles. A splendid road service is available during the season. Combe Martin does not attract like Ilfracombe, although I would always suggest a tour round the Watermouth caves and a climb to Hangman Point overlooking Combe Martin Bay. Also Berrynarbor village, a mile inland, is well worth a visit. On Trentishoe Downs blow the fresh winds of Devon, and then we drop into Hunter’s Inn with its indescribable woodland scenery. Now we take the precipitous road from Hunter’s Inn to Heddon Mouth the coast is wild and rocky, magnificent, impressive. Higher and higher one climbs until one looks over the wide and steep hillside and sees the immense foliage in the beautiful Woody Bay. Finally, beyond the Valley of Rocks there is Lyn- mouth, the loveliest of all English villages, which can be approached not only by road from Ilfracombe, some seventeen miles, but also by Great Western coach from Minehead, twenty miles, by way of Porlock, and there is a rail service from South Molton to Lynton. The steamer goes to Swansea, and Lynmouth affords an excellent opportunity of sailing to the Bristol Channel. And so we bid farewell to North Devon, with Lynmouth as our parting friend. Quaint cottages nod in the soft light of day, the rich creepers are quivering in the wind that steals over the old harbour, the trees are dancing in their millions on the wide hillsides, the purple heather lies smouldering on the spacious heights, and the Lyn comes a-prancing like a roaring torrent from the wild wastes of Exmoor.