Tuesday 4 November 2014

Clovelly (a proper grown up post ...)

"Suddenly a hot gleam of sunlight fell upon the white cottages, with their grey steaming roofs and little scraps of garden courtyard, and lighting up the wings of the gorgeous butterflies which fluttered from the woodland down to the garden."

Is a quote about Clovelly  from the author and social reformer Charles Kingsley who wrote The Water Babies and Westwood Ho from over 150 years ago and since then the village has hardly changed.

In the summer SD and I were at an event which had a charity auction.  One of the lots was for entry to Clovelly village in North Devon.

My first visit to Clovelly was about 4 years ago and I loved it so I persuaded SD to bid for the tickets and on Saturday we headed up the Atlantic Highway from our holiday in Cornwall and spent the day in this beautiful place.

Kingsley came to the village in 1831 at the age of 11 where his father was curate and then rector until 1836.

Clovelly is set deep into the  North Devon hillside with a single cobbled high street  edged with traditional whitewashed cottages festooned with fuchsias and geraniums.

The High Street known as Up-along or Down-along wends its way dropping 122m (400ft) in 0.8km (half a mile) to the impressive 14th century quay and harbour.

Traffic is banned from the high street and visitors park at the top of the hill by the Heritage Centre but there is, for those who find the walk back up too steep, a landrover service to ferry visitors back up via the back road.

Clovelly was once a busy fishing port famed for it's mackerel and herring  and although fishing has declined it's still a part of village life.  In the past this coastline was rife with smuggling and piracy and notorious for shipwrecks and so, since 1870 Clovelly has had it's own lifeboat.

As the high street it too steep for motor vehicles donkeys were used for centuries as the main form of transport to ferry everything by sledge.  The donkeys are no longer used for heavy loads but they are still an integral part of life in Clovelly and children can enjoy rides in the summer.

When you get down to the harbour you can stroll along the pebbly beach past the lifeboat house and along the shore to the waterfall pouring out of the cliff face.

There is a cave behind the waterfall where legend tells that Merlin the Arthurian magician was born but the source of the waterfall is slightly more prosaic.  A stream used by the village for drinking water once flowed down the village street but when mains water was installed the stream was diverted and emerged further down the cliff as the waterfall.

Clovelly has been associated with just 3 families since the middle of the 13th century and prior to that it was owned by the King.

In 1242 it was acquired by the Giffard family who were of Norman origin.  Walter Giffard came to England as one of Duke Williams closest advisers.

In 1370 ownership passed to Sir William Cary through marriage and purchase and Sir William is best know as reputedly being the builder of the original pier or breakwater.  the Carys continued to live in Clovelly for the next 11 generations until their line died out and Clovelly was sold by the widower of Elizabeth Cary in 1738 to Zachary Hamly who's descendants still own the village and much of the surrounding land.

There is so much more history to Clovelly that I haven't included in this post but really, the best way to experience it is to actually visit if you can.

It is a unique and beautiful place.


Emma Kate at Paint and Style said...

So, so beautiful Sarah. You've left me pining for a trip to the seaside. Our seaside towns are the best in the world. xxx

Brighton Pensioner said...

I've not been to Clovelly for many a long year. What a delightful place it was - and obviously still is - although far too crowded in high season.

AGuidingLife said...

Used to go there year after year with my first husband. Never been with the second so it's a good 10 years since I was there. I think picking the time to go is important, it is hard work in the crowds but then what part of Devon or Cornwall isn't! I once sat on that stone beach for hours sifting through the stones looking for nothing in particular. I came away with the perfect dull stone. It has no outstanding features at all, not small or large, not flat or round, no marks, no chinks, no nothing ...the ultimate dull stone...I still have it...I love it like it was one of my own!!! Clovelly....do you know sometimes when they refer to Yorkshire as God's own country, I think they got it wrong...Clovelly covers it and the weather is so much milder LOL Nice post - brought back so many happy memories xxx

Sarah said...

They really are aren't the Emma Kate, we are so lucky xx

I wouldn't go there in the summer BP, far too crowded. I think we picked the perfect day and we really got to appreciate it fully.

We always choose the more remote parts of Cornwall in the summer for that very reason K, you can't escape the crowds completely but you can minimise it.

I've sat on that beach sifting stones too and never found one with any remarkable features other than the fact that they are from this beautiful place.

Glad it brought back happy memories for you xxx

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

Great post - though when I saw the opening lines I thought you'd been on the juice, until I realised they were a quote. Excellent narrative and fabulous pics. Had to look up 'prosaic' - I thought it was a kind of drug.

Holly Hollyson @ Full of Beans and Sausages said...

Beautiful photos - I have never been here, but it looks so typically British (south west anyway) seaside that I want to go! It looks lovely x