It was off and on pissing rain all night last night, the kind that wakes you up because it blasts down suddenly like someone had taken a power hose to your tent, so neither of us slept really well. The morning was unpredictable too; one side of the sky was that lovely, fluffy broken cloud, the other was grey skies of doom, obviously taking great delight in tipping buckets of water on some poor village over yonder. To wrap ourselves in our respective crisp packets or not? That was pretty much the trend for the day. The heavens opened. Crisp packet on, then.
This first bit though, gloriously flat over miles of farmland, but the nice type without livestock that looks at you like you just walked into their local and asked for directions to the nearest steakhouse. There were a few sheep and a lot of empty fields, and a very cared-for trigpoint that someone had built steps up to. Aw. That takes time, money and effort. Someone loves Stanbury Point trig. My legs just couldn’t get going though, we couldn’t power over this gift of level trail, my entire lower body insisted on a comedy hobble that got you nowhere quickly. Yeah I know, I should stretch properly.
We’d risked stripping off the waterproof jacket after the initial downpour of this morning and kept a suspicious eye on the weather circling us ominously. It was actually quite photogenic, I just didn’t want to risk getting my camera out so had to settle for a few snaps through my phone’s waterproof case. I broke out the RX100 when we rounded a corner and Tarrant started singing the Jurassic Park theme tune at me.
The headland was covered in forest, it looked so lush and green and tropical. I could happily gawp at it all day but that wouldn’t get us any closer to John O Groats. We could also clearly see a trail zig-zagging up a particularly epic incline in the distance so we decided to pointedly ignore that for a bit until we’d painstakingly picked our way down to Mouth Mill Beach.
I see this beach a lot on Instagram, it’s home to Blackchurch Rock, a particularly photogenic rock formation jutting out into the sea. The tide was too far in to get to where I wanted, perhaps there’s another access point on the other side, but the rain started again so we just got going. I love Instagram, just not enough to hobble around a rocky beach in the pissing rain whilst waving various photographic devices at a fucking rock.
Hills were in our immediate future but let’s face it, that’s not much of a shock. We hauled ourselves up and down the valleys and peaks until we got to Clovelly which would involve a steep walk down a cobbled street to enter the village which, obviously, you’d then need to walk back up to get out. Thing is, Clovelly had the only actual toilet on this section and I will do pretty much anything to avoid having to shit in a hole. We could ease the blow by treating ourselves to something with a sugar content.
If you arrive at Clovelly by car you actually have to pay to enter the village but walkers can just stroll in for free so we did. Oh my gosh, this village! I’d heard it was outstandingly pretty but it actually blew me away. The fact it’s covered in bunting for the Platinum Jubilee just adds to the overwhelming Britishness of it. Perhaps it’s because it was midweek, or maybe the entrance fee puts people off, but it wasn’t uncomfortably packed like other harbour villages we’d walked through either, it was really quite pleasant.
We passed The Cottage Tearooms and I do so love a tearoom so that’s where we went. Obviously I had a cream tea, you can’t come somewhere with a street made entirely of cobbles to an establishment that calls itself a tearoom and not have a cream tea. We were back in Devon now too which meant I could put the cream on first and not get beaten up. Tarrant was set to take the dairy hit on a couple of scones with just jam but they actually do vegan cakes too so she was a happy dairy-intolerant lesbian.
Every house here has a sledge. As we were walking down into the village a bloke was dragging a sledge full of old ash up the hill. He only has to do it once a month, bless him, he wasn’t having a good time. He told us all the houses are traditionally heated with coal or wood and the ash had to be dragged out of the village to be disposed of.
The tearoom had a few paragraphs about the village and they said all the groceries were dragged into the village by sledge, all the sledges were homemade, and it was generally accepted that thou shall not nick off with your neighbour’s sledge. Nothing worse than getting back with your shopping and your sledge has gone apparently. There’s vehicle access right at the bottom of the village, and right at the top, but there’s fuck all in between. Sledges only.
We did walk all the way down to the harbour which, as expected, is devastatingly photogenic. We considered taking the Landrover service back to to the top, there’s a road that joins the top and the bottom of the village, but that would have messed up my walk recording so we began the slog back up. Just as we got back to the tearoom the weather started up again but this time there was no question whether to bother with our jackets or not, it was relentless. More tea then? Yeah, more tea. We took refuge inside and applied more socially acceptable drugs to our faceholes and waited out the downpour.
We did eventually tear ourselves away from Clovelly, getting up the high street was emotional. I really wanted to use my poles because, y’know, steep as fuck, but they kept getting caught in the cobbles thus rendering them a bit useless. We had lunch at a bench with a long view of the village. Even all the way from over here it’s gorgeous, it looks like it’s spilling out from a jungle into the sea. It was definitely a very surprising highlight for us both.
The rest of the day was pretty much mostly woodland walking. Hobby Drive out from Clovelly is a wide, flattish plod for what felt like days. You do turn off into more pleasant woodland and obviously more hills occur, but you’re just walking now with no views. It’s not utterly unpleasant, I don’t actually mind a woodland walk, but this one was just a very functional “heading in the vague direction of Minehead” trudge through a lot of mud.
This got emotional, it was so fucking slippy and my shoes don’t have a lot of grip left. They’re due to be replaced in a couple of days. The whole thing took way longer than it should have on account of us having to think about every single footstep and assess the likelihood of the ground disappearing from under us as we flail unceremoniously into a nettle patch.
So we were aiming for Peppercombe and an old coachhouse there owned by the National Trust. I’d read about it in Emma’s blog, she’d spent a night there and quite frankly it sounded like a fucking brilliant idea, especially given the unpredictability of the sky gods. There was no one there when we rocked up so we took the opportunity to pretty much move in for the evening out of the wind, cooked some dinner on the picnic bench inside, basically just enjoyed having a table. It’s the little things.
I don’t think, strictly speaking, it’s a bothy, but a sign at the entrance does invite you to “rest here awhile” so we thought we would, until the morning.
Titchberry, Devon to Peppercombe, Devon, England
Stayed at: Wild camp in Peppercombe Coachhouse
Useful shit to know…
- The only toilets on this stretch are at Clovelly, right at the bottom of the village by the harbour.
- If you arrive by car it costs £8.50 per human to enter Clovelly.
- Clovelly has a couple of pubs and the tearoom, there’s a souvenir/snack shop near the tearoom and an ice cream/pasty shop by the harbour.
- If you don’t want to walk up and down the steep cobbles there’s a Landrover that will take you up and down the road. I’m not sure how much it costs though.
- We got our water filled at the tearoom. Apparently they also have a tap outside but I’m not sure where that is.