South West England – Divine Devon
September 2013. This is a long weekend in Devon at a 5 Star hotel (Wildercombe House) just on the edges of Ilfracombe. I spend the morning writing – working on a new novel, Oakfield before abruptly I’m throwing some things into a bag and jumping into Sarah G’s car with her twin sister Oj, driving south and west. Daft Punk Random Access Memories is the soundtrack to the trip and it becomes epic. 3 hours later we’re parking up at this incredible beach. Woolacombe. I leave the girls and surge ahead to walk along the water’s edge – and then take off my boots, roll up my trousers – and I am wading along through the shallow waves. Utterly loved it.
It’s been well over a year since I was last in Hayling Island – the place where I usually get a “fix” of the sea. So I really enjoyed being able to commune with the ocean. Alone. Walking along with my headphones on. Warm breeze on my skin. Wonderful.
I walked away from the edge of the sea and plonked myself down on the warmer, drier sand above the tide line. Sat there for ages gazing at the few people who wandered by. Just sooooo nice. A real memory.
We spent a good couple of hours at the beach. Then we drove to Ilfracombe. Checked into the hotel – which is spacious and family run, reminding me greatly of Tredethy House. Then we headed down into the town – and – got – a – very – strange – vibe. It’s an odd place.
Church of the Starry Wisdom Cult? The town holds onto this rough, almost downtrodden edge where tourists wander around unaware of the undercurrents of dark designs that go on. It wasn’t unpleasant. Just… odd. Ilfracombe could certainly be a location used in a Lovecraftian tale; from Innsmouth to Kingsport. There is something about it. I like the place.
We pressed on towards the marina and found a whole section of lovely places. And this incredible 20 metre high statue of a pregnant woman holding a sword aloft. Except, there’s something a little strange about this sculpture… on one side.
The whole Mythos vibe only grew when I discovered a bloated full moon hanging over the nearby hills, catching the edges of the clouds in this dramatic fashion.
It’s like a scene from DUNE, when the Mentat arrives on the planet Harkonnen and bronze statues gleam wetly in the harsh glare of an alien star – voracious shadows everywhere.
The next morning was a dream. Up earlish in the solid comfort of the hotel suite. Downstairs for an epic Full English breakfast. Then off – driving through beautiful devon roads. We stopped in Croyde – where I had the best cup of coffee in my life.
We went to Clovelly, which is a historic fishing village that tumbles down steep cobbled streets to a harbour – way way way down below. You have to pay to enter the village and you have to leave your vehicles at the top of the cliffs (there is a free car park). Don’t be put off by the entrance fee. Clovelly is a must-see (sea) part of Devon. It is one heck of a walk down and even bigger heck of a walk coming back up – make sure you grab a pint or two at the rough edged hotel bar at the bottom.
The tea towel says it all.
Near the end of the road. You can get a sense of the height of the switchback, as the cobbled path zig-zags down from high above to this harbour area. The Red Lion Hotel Bar. OK for a drink but I’d be wary of ordering food from here. A little further up the path is a guy selling FRESH caught seafood in baguettes. Yum!
We grabbed seats outside the Red Lion just as the sun began to shine. Bliss.
Some more driving around delightful Devon roads. We stopped off at Westward Ho! where I had some of the best battered fish. Delicious. A bit of a walk and wander. We passed this fantastic crumbling house perched on the edge of cliff. An elderly local came past and asked what was our interest: we thought it was vacant. She told us that a woman who was in her 80s still lives in the place – has done all her life. Too old and too frail and with no family to help, the place is slowly decaying away.
Back to our hotel – Wildercombe House – after another night down by the harbour. Returning under the glare of a full moon, our hotel jutted up from the high rocks like a manor house from a horror film. Fantastic.
After checking out of the hotel we went back down into the town for a lazy morning. I left Oj and Sarah G to their shopping and went clambering all over the place.
Wonderful figure of an elemental welcoming the wind that howls in off the sea before rushing over the hills.
The enormous 20 metre statue by daylight and from the more macabre side. Such a bizarre thing to greet returning fisherman and visitors who arrive by sea, don’t you think? Not a criticism. Just a potent image to see straddling the harbour area.
Credit: all photos are copyright David J Rodger, with exception for hero feature image which is Combe House – external view – source unknown (please advise and I will credit).
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