"Clovelly - Another North Devon Time Warp" Clovelly by johngayton
Clovelly Travel Guide: 49 reviews and 90 photos
Clovelly is a totally unique picturesque little fishing village nestled in its own little cliff-hanging nook on the western curve of Bideford Bay. The village comprises its cobbled High Street with a few similarly cobbled offshoots, all bordered by terraces of whitewashed houses. Whilst many North Devon villages have cobbled streets and whitewashed houses, I've used the term "totally unique" here quite purposefully, as the village has so many individual characteristics which make it one of the most special places here on the North Devon coast.
One of the most significant pieces of this uniqueness is the fact that the whole village (with the possible exception of its tea rooms) is in fact privately owned having been in the same family, the Hamlyns (and their descendants) since 1738. The village is now owned and managed, through a charitable trust, The Clovelly Estate Company, by its "Lord of the Manor", the Hon. John Rous (known locally as JR) who resides at the stately house of Clovelly Court at the top end of the village.
The village was restored in the early 20th century, at the instigation of Mrs Christine Hamlyn, after it had fallen on hard times and whilst many of the new facades are relatively recent the earlier houses behind them date from the 15 and 16th centuries. Being under private ownership has meant that there has been no modern development of the village, no houses sold off as holiday lets or second homes, and that the village is effectively a museum piece. However this is no ordinary "museum-piece and Clovelly has developed its own persona as both a living, working community as well as a major tourist destination.
The narrow cobbled High Street which steps steeply the legnth of the village down to its harboured quay has never seen a motor vehicle and for most of the 20th century all goods, deliveries and removals were effected by donkeys. The village's only piece of modern development is that the donkeys have now been replaced by humans, strapping lads (and lassies) who hand-draw sledges which transport anything which needs to be transported downhill! The donkeys meanwhile have been retired gracefully and now reside in a paddock at the top of the village where they are available for children's rides as well as the couple in the village for photo-ops.
Doing a little research online I came across this wonderful "GENUKI" page on Clovelly - Clovelly History which really is well worth a visit. Here's a quote from the page by Dickens which pretty much describes the modern village despite having been written well over a hundred years ago:
". . . the village was built sheer up the face of a steep and lofty cliff. There was no road in it, there was no wheeled vehicle in it, there was not a level yard in it. From the sea-beach to the cliff-top two irregular rows of white houses, placed opposite to one another, and twisting here and there, and there and here, rose, like the sides of a long succession of stages of crooked ladders, and you climbed up the village or you climbed down the village by the staves between, some six feet wide or so, and made of sharp irregular stones. The old pack-saddle, long ago laid aside in most parts of England, as one of the appendages of its infancy, flourished here intact. Strings of pack-horses and pack-donkeys toiled slowly up the staves of the ladders, bearing fish, and coal, and such other cargo as was unshipping at the pier from the dancing fleet of village boats, and from two or three little coasting traders. As the beasts of burden ascended laden, or descended light, they got so lost at intervals in the floating clouds of village smoke, that they seemed to dive down some of the village chimneys, and come to the surface again far off, high above the others. No two houses in the village were alike, in chimney, size, shape, door, window, gable, roof-tree, anything. The sides of the ladders were musical with water, running clear and bright. The staves were musical with the clattering feet of the pack-horses and pack-donkeys, and the voices of the fishermen urging them up, mingled with the voices of the fishermen's wives and their many children. The pier was musical with the wash of the sea, the creaking of capstans and windlasses, and the airy fluttering of little vanes and sails. The rough, sea-bleached boulders of which the pier was made, and the whiter boulders of the shore, were brown with drying nets. The red-brown cliffs, richly wooded to their extremest verge, had their softened and beautiful forms reflected in the bluest water, under the clear North Devon sky of a November day without a cloud. The village itself was so steeped in autumnal foliage, from the houses lying on the pier to the topmost round of the topmost ladder, that one might have fancied it was out a bird's-nesting, and was (as indeed it was) a wonderful climber."
- Pros:Timelessly Beautiful
- Cons:Too Many Day-trippers
- In a nutshell:Definitely a place to visit "out-of-season"
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