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Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Walk 171 Clovelly to Westward Ho! (Devon)

Walk 171 Clovelly to Westward Ho! (Devon)

(Third leg of English coastal walk – Lands End to Bristol)

Map: L/R 190 and L/R 180
Distance: 12 miles or 21km approx.
Difficulty: Demanding for the most part
Terrain: Coastal cliff path and road
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: Both Westward Ho! and Clovelly are accessible from Bideford by bus but here is no direct bus link between the two.

This walk is book ended by two easier sections but don't be fooled, the middle bit is strenuous. In fact, I found a fellow walker fast asleep by a stile after the difficult section! (Yes, he was asleep, I saw him in the pub later).

Follow the coastal path at the top of Clovelly along Hobby Drive. The building of this road provided employment for out of work fishermen and French Prisoners of War. According to a concrete seat at the road side it was completed in 1901.

Further along, the gaps between the trees provide some good views including one of Bucks Mills. The stream that runs through the village powered at least one mill here. Originally, there was a quay for local fishermen. In the 18th and 19th centuries many of the residents were related to the Braund family one of whom, Captain James Braund, became known as King of the Bucks. The original inhabitants of the village gained a reputation for their dark looks and for keeping to themselves. It is thought that they descended from survivors of a Spanish shipwreck in the 15th century. I've just bored my plumber, also called James Braund, with this story.

The path goes along the high, craggy cliffs at Peppercombe. There was supposed to have been an ancient castle here and this is marked on the OS map. Also near to Peppercombe Castle is a place called Giffard's Jump, named after a young man on a picnic party who while sitting fell backwards over the edge, dropped a 130 ft on to the rocks but sustained no injury!

Continue along to Babbacombe Cliff and towards the outskirts of Westward Ho! There is clearly much of geological interest in the cliffs judging by the large amount of students I saw donning yellow hats.

The path come out on to a road into Westward Ho! and a much needed respite from the hills. Nice enough sea front but don't expect anything quaint to match the town's name. Victorian property developers took the name from Charles Kingsley's novel of Elizabethan sailors. The area was a boyhood haunt of the book's hero. However, it is reported that the author was not a supporter of the building project. There was once a 500 ft pier here but with a number of other buildings it was washed away. Westward Ho! has the distinction of being the only town in the UK with an exclamation mark.

Another literary connection is with Rudyard Kipling. Kipling Terrace in the town was formerly the United Services College which the author attended between 1878 and 1882. He based the writing of Stalky and Co on his experiences here.

Photos show: Bucks Mills; Westward Ho! front.

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