The Hartland area – location for the filming of Sense and Sensibility’
The Hartland area of North Devon, recently on our screens through the BBC's January production of 'Sense and Sensibility', is just far enough behind the times for visitors to feel that the 21st century has suddenly slipped away. It's as rural as y...
Hartland Point and Lighthouse
This remote stretch is perhaps the first port of call. It's the wildest clifftop heathland in the whole of Devon, and the wreck of the Johanna on the beach below bears mute testimony to the wildness of the sea. Even the presence of nearby Hartland Point Lighthouse was unable to prevent the Johanna going aground in 1984. The wreck drew an army of impromptu 'salvagers', foreshadowing events of a similar nature that have just taken place in the south of the county at Branscombe.
A long and straggling village of cottages and cottage industries, this is the largest community on the peninsula. Centred here is the Hartland Artists and Makers, a group of small operations that produce quality work of distinction in keeping with the North Devon arts and crafts movement. Their studios and workshops are dotted around the village. Here you can find Springfield Pottery, run by Frannie and Philip Leach, of the Leach dynasty of potters; Merlyn Chesterman who runs printmaking courses; furniture makers Bob Seymour, David Charlesworth and James Morley, and antiques restorer George Morgan. If you're looking for fine quality artwork or bespoke pieces for your home, this is the place to start.
Hartland's glorious abbey
The estate lands of Hartland Abbey (01237 441264), the home of Sir Hugh and Lady Angela Stucley, has recently been in the living rooms of millions due to the recent BBC production of 'Sense and Sensibility'. This lovely place, normally only open during the summer months, is opening for two 'Snowdrop Sundays' on 10 and 17 February. The walk to the beach, where recently the Dashwoods strolled, is carpeted with snowdrops, as are many of the areas not normally open to the public and where there are superb walks. Unlike most stately homes, Hartland Abbey is still lived in as a home. When the public is in, the family tuck themselves away in rear quarters but are just as likely to be seen mixing with the crowds. A fabulous walled garden is set at some distance from the abbey, opposite the vehicle entrance.
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Tall towers and holy wells
Just visible from the abbey is St Nectan's Church. Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia used to worship here when he stayed with the Stucleys after he had been deposed. The tower is the second highest in the county and the church is known as the 'Cathedral' of North Devon. A hundred yards east down an overgrown lane is St Nectan's Well where, it is said, a beheaded St Nectan literally laid down his head after being set upon by robbers and thus gave his name to the area. There are other holy wells in the area - St Cleer's Well in the hamlet of Philham, just south of Hartland, and one close to the church at Welcombe.
Gardens of earthly delights
Docton Mill Gardens (01237 441369) is a delightful spot, with the whole panoply of gardening on show in a very compact site, with excellent tea rooms, ponds and a working mill wheel. It dates back to Saxon times and is truly one of Devon's hidden glories. Just on the approach to Clovelly lies the Victorian Clovelly Court Gardens, (01237 431781), small but beautifully formed, and well worth a visit.
Not long ago Hartland Quay was a thriving fishing community. The village street now forms part of the curtilage of Hartland Quay Hotel and the Wrecker's Bar (01237 441218/441371), a popular watering hole. There is a small and homely Shipwreck Museum above a souvenir shop run by the hotel (which is open from Easter till September) and a wild and sandy rock-strewn beach. The road down to the hotel is precipitous and you feel at some points as though you are about to drive off the cliff into the sea.
Wild beaches and waterfalls
By any stretch of the imagination, the beaches on the peninsula are remote, some requiring a fair hike to reach them down unmade tracks, but well worth the effort for the spectacular coastal scenery and the sense of isolation. Sandymouth is the largest and most family-friendly, and the names of the beaches (Buck's Mill, Duckpool, Mouth Mill Cove, Peppercombe, Speke's Mill Mouth, Welcombe Mouth - and, of course, Hartland Quay itself) all sound inviting. The peninsula is blessed with more waterfalls per mile of coast than anywhere else in Devon, the most spectacular of which is at Speke's Mill Mouth, reached from Docton Mill Gardens or along the coast path (good for fishing and dolphin watching here, too).
Morwenstow's eccentric vicar
Quite apart from the eating establishments, Morwenstow rewards a visit for its associations with the eccentric clergyman, the Revd Stephen Hawker, who eschewed traditional clergyman's dress and garbed himself in bright colours, was frequently seen walking the lanes with his pet pig, and once excommunicated his cat for mousing on a Sunday. His hut on the cliffside, where he wrote his poetry, is now in the care of the National Trust.
Welcombe is well known for the Yarner Trust (01288 331692), an educational charity dedicated to promoting sustainable living. It offers creative courses and art events and provides volunteering opportunities. Its base, Welcombe Barton, was regional runner-up in the 2006 BBC Restoration programme.