When you set foot upon the cobble stone pathways and byways of Clovelly’s quaint and ancient honeysuckled trails you have begun a journey that meanders through the lives and centuries of one of Devon’s finest maids.
But in order to admire such beauty sometimes it is better to stand back and gaze afresh at the startling white cottages with their windows on the sea trickling randomly down the vibrantly wooded cliff to the soft caressing of the rolling ocean, tipping its white capped horses on to the shore.
There can be only one way to appreciate fully this home of old salts and sailor tars and that is in emulation of their sea bound steps and take a ride upon the most perfect of pleasure trips.
From the paddle gushing steamer days when fishermen would provide a helping hand to fine Victorian gents and ladies as they took in the views with a turn ashore; to the pebble beach days full of beautiful clinker built rowing boats let out for hire, where the cry was often heard, “only a shilling or two for an hour.” And “mind you keep off the rocks!”
To the earliest days of the motored boats with buzzing engines echoing up through the expectant valley, with boatmen offering spectacular views of the neighbourhood, until to today with those views unchanged and a boat that has for forty years indulged the pleasure and stimulated the imagination of thousands of tourists.
The only way to see the village is from the sea and feel the wealth of emotion that storm weary sailors and fishermen felt when returning to a home that was to them a beloved place full of warmth and family.
Today remains ‘Neptune’, the last grand lady of the harbour who has taken great delight in giving pleasure, in circling out into the bay, to see the folding, nesting cliffs and seabird rocks, the gallant heights of Gallantry Bower with the window rock of Black Church emerging from behind; this noble Devon coast that heads towards the Hartland Race and the deeper Atlantic beyond where Lundy Island sits a sentinel, a guardian, a granite outcrop. Across the wide undulating bay the Bristol Channel flows and Wales waits beneath the shrouds of Channel mists. We see Morte and Baggy Points, the bays of Woolacombe and Croyde, Saunton’s golden sands and the Fairway buoyed entrance to the intrepid Bideford Bar. Westward Ho! and the headland of Rocks Nose leading our view back around the bay to the red Devonian cliffs of Portledge, the hidden cottages of little Bucks Mills and here we may stop and pause just a second to look back at the best views of the village of Clovelly as she nestles comfortably in her valley, before we once more come closer in towards the shore to see the fresh falling waterfall cascading to the dappled beach and disappearing into the sea.
All too soon we’re home again and rounding the great bouldered Quay, steady as she goes, make her fast alongside the crooked steps, a hand ashore and memories made that will only ever bring a smile when you recall those views of the neighbourhood and your motor boat trip from Clovelly.