A Handbook for Travellers in Devonshire (9th ed.),
London, J. Murray. (1879)
From Bideford to Clovelly is 11m. W. (If the tourist travels by carriage or on horseback, he must procure at the New Inn a key of the drive, at Clovelly, called the Hobby; if on foot, he can step over the gate.)
Proceeding to Clovelly -
4 M. from Bideford. about 1 m. off the road rt., is Alwington Ch., with a fine Perp. tower of unusual character. It diminishes rapidly from the ground, and is very picturesque. Parkham Ch., 1 m. farther W.7 has Norm. font and S. door, and a good Perp. tower.
7 Here, on the rt., one of those wild hollows, so numerous on this coast, descends to Buckish Mill, a fishing village, and a pretty object in the view from Clovelly. From the upper end of the village a path leads eastward through a glen, commanding from one point a little patch of sea, which appears as if it had been caught up and imprisoned by the hills.
1¼ Turn into the Hobby by the gate on the rt. (Persons are stationed at each of the gates leading to the drives and walks to receive the following fees:- a carriage 1s., pedestrians 6d.) The coast from Buckish Mill to a point not far from the promontory of Hartland is covered by a dense mass of foliage sloping to precipitous cliffs. The Hobby, which was a special pet with its projector and proprietor, the late Sir J.H. Williams, is an excellent road passing for 3¼ m. along this magnificent sea-boundary, winding, the whole distance through woods; sweeping inland occasionally to pass shadowy dells, where streams fall to the shore; and commanding at all points extensive views over the Bristol Channel to the Welsh coast. After pursuing it about 2 m. the stranger should look out for Clovelly, which is seen from the Hobby to great advantage.
3¼ Clovelly (Inn: New Inn). (Clovelly may be made a resting-place on the way from Bideford to Bude. The distance hence to Bude is 18 m.) It is difficult to describe this remarkable village (Pop. 759) further than by saying that it is the most romantic in Devonshire, and probably in the kingdom. It, is hung, as it were, in a woody nook, to which a paved path slants in zigzags from the gate of the Hobby. But soon this little road has to break into steps, and in this form it descends through the village to the pier, some 500 ft. below. A brawling stream accompanies the stair-flight, and is crossed at one or two places by foot-bridges. The view is superb - the Welsh coast about Milford Haven; Lundy Island, generally more distinct, but sometimes half-hidden in clouds; and the vast plain of the sea, streaked if it be calm with white watery lanes. Midway in the village is a terrace of about a dozen square yards, commanding the coast E. and W. In the former direction the glen of Buckish Mill forms a pretty break in the range of woods and cliffs, while near at hand a small waterfall (called Freshwater) tumbles to the shore.
Here the traveller should rest a day at the little inn, which will entertain him with great hospitality. * If it happens to be the autumn, he may regale at breakfast upon herrings which have been captured over night; for Clovelly is famed for its fishery, and every evening about sunset the boats may be observed leaving the shore, to drive for herrings or mackerel. The night is selected for this kind of fishing, as success mainly depends upon the shoals coming blindly upon the net, when they get entangled by the gills. Moonlight and a phosphorescent sea are therefore unfavourable. In thick weather a Clovelly boat has captured as many as 9000 herrings at a haul; and they are commonly taken here in such numbers as to be sold by the maise, which consists of 612 fish, and is valued from 18s. to 25s. Clovelly Church has some early portions; and contains a good brass to Robt. Cary, 1540.
Bideford Bay, which is well seen from Clovelly, is included between the points of Morte and Hartland, and may remind the traveller of Torbay. It is gracefully girded by cliffs, and a chosen haunt of fish; but it differs from Torbay in being exposed to westerly winds. Clovelly answers to Brixham as the station of the trawlers, and supplies the markets of Bideford and Barnstaple, and even of Bristol and Wales. Pilchards are occasionally taken by the drift-net, but the shore is too rough for their wholesale capture by the seine. They rarely, however, come in shoals so far up the Channel. In the reign of Queen Anne French privateers made so many prizes on this Part of the coast, that they are said to have called it the Golden Bay.
Travellers who like to build castles by moonlight may frame the most beautiful and airy erections at Clovelly. For this purpose they should seat themselves on the little terrace of the inn, when the village is hushed in repose, the owl hooting in the wood, "the single broad path of glory" on the sea, and the restless tide just heard among the rocks.
The pier should be visited by daylight, as it commands a fine view of the coast. It was erected by George Cary, Esq., whose family had possession of the manor as early as the reign of Richard II. The traveller, having gleaned a treasury of recollections at the village, should next proceed to
Clovelly Court (N.H.B. Fane, Esq.) - each visitor is charged 6d. for admission to the park and grounds), of which an entrance called the Yellaries Gate is at the top of the hill. If unequal to a walk, he will be allowed, under the escort of a guide, to drive round the park; but it is, perhaps, needless to admonish him that by such a lazy course half its beauties will escape him. The richest scenery of this enviable retreat is to be found on the coast, which may be easily explored by excellent paths of gravel and turf. In every part it presents a wilderness of grotesque old oaks and cliffs, and seats are placed in rare nooks and seclusions, where the weather-worn rocks protrude themselves for admiration. All the beauties of this rugged woodland are summed up in the Deer Park; and there the mural precipice, known as Gallantry Bower, falls from a height of 387 ft. to the sea. The finest view in the neighbourhood is commanded by the summit. The hills immediately W. are so beautifully grouped that one might suspect Nature had been studying the picturesque when she arranged them. Rooted together in the valleys, but rising at various distances in ridges and knolls, they seem to mock the ocean with their waves of foliage. From this, the highest point of the park, the visitor should descend to Mill Mouth and the beach, where, at the base of Gallantry Bower, are some fragments of the cliff most curiously curved, the bands of slate resembling the ribs of a ship. They are dark in colour, and one is called the Black Church Rock. The coast, from the mouth of the Taw and Torridge to Boscastle, in Cornwall, belongs to the carboniferous formation, which is everywhere remarkable for the contortion of the strata. The view W. from these ruinous old crags shows the sea-front of those hills which appear so charming from the high ground, and you may search far to find cliffs with a more varied outline. At one spot a cascade of some pretension tumbles to the shore, and is no mean addition to the scene.
The mansion of Clovelly Court is a handsome structure erected in 1780: the old house and its gallery of pictures were destroyed by fire.
. . .
Proceeding on our route from Clovelly -
At Clovelly Cross, where we rejoin the high road, are the remains of an ancient camp, now known as Clovelly Dikes, or Ditchen Hills. This is a very large earthwork, consisting of 3 embankments, varying from 15 ft. to 25 ft. in height - the intervening ditches being about 30 paces wide. The innermost embankment forms an irregular oblong, 130 paces long, by 100 at the widest end. The other embankments are irregularly formed, but approach to a square with rounded angles. The outermost encloses about 30 acres. On the E. side is an extensive outwork of a crescent shape, with an embankment and double ditch. The Clovelly Road divides this from the main camp. On the W. side are 2 vast entrenchments of similar character. This camp deserves special notice, and must have been the strongest place of defence in this part of Damnonia. It is possibly British, but bears marks of either Roman adaptation or of strategical teaching derived from Rome. The town of Artavia has been placed here by some (and by some at Hartland or Barnstaple). But no Roman remains have been found; and for Artavia, it is sufficient to say that it is only mentioned by Richard of Cirencester, whose work scholars are agreed in regarding as an ingenious forgery. With this exception, the road to Hartland has little interest. The pedestrian can pursue a more agreeable but longer route through the park of Clovelly Court, and by the coast and Hartland Point to the mouth of Hartland valley, whence he can walk inland to the town of that name. (At Windbury Head, 1 ½ m. N.W. from Clovelly, he will pass half of a nearly circular earthwork, the rest of which has fallen into the sea.)
* Inquiry as to rooms may be made by telegraph from Bideford.
Transcribed - Brian Randell, 18 Jul 1999