Despite it getting dark we found it. The lady was right, it sure was down hill. It was very steep and not a chance in hell to meet even a cyclist, let alone another car. The steep winding road took us down to a large car park close to sea. It was dark, a little misty, very calm and the sea could be smelled just a few yards away. We could see the lights from a little pub that was just next to the pier sheltering the village harbour. Looking up we saw the lights of the village climbing all the way up to the top of the cliff.
We were met by a man who took us up the winding, pedestrian only, Clovelly high street up through the village. It actually goes under one of the buildings and this was the building where we were spending the night. The building went by the name of “Temple Bar”. We settled in to this great place run by a very friendly couple. After being reassured that we would get a full English breakfast in the morning, we spent the evening in the little pub down by the pier. Later that evening out on the pier, we met some, shall we say somewhat intoxicated locals who had been out fishing and showed us there catch. We gave them a hand to safely land themselves and their catch into the pier rather than in the cold water.
The locals told us about the village and about the feudal system still in place today. The whole village, including all buildings and a few thousand acres around it, is owned by the people at the manor house. The present owners are the Hamlyn family who bought the Clovelly estate from the Cary's in 1738. It all sounds a little far fetched and somewhat ancient. It does however fit very well with the tranquillity, the no cars and the hidden location on the coast of north Devon. We told ourselves that we found the golden pot at the end of the rainbow. A very special place that we would try too keep a secret so that we could come back and enjoy this all to our selves. We wowed to keep it that way.
Consequently we were shocked the following morning when we walked out onto the “high street” where a few years’ earlier donkeys were used to carry supplies to and from the buildings. Now, this Sunday morning, there were people everywhere. There were coffee places and little bakeries in every second little pretty house, children with ice cream running around screaming. Stunned we walked on. What had happened to our secret Devon village that we had discovered the night before? How had everyone discovered this gem of a place over night? A place which we thought we were part of a very small group of people that knew about?
We carried on walking up towards the top of the village. We were still meeting hordes of people walking down hill. Where did they all come from? We were about to find out. And it wasn’t pretty. At the top of the village was an entrance complex. A huge brand new building that housed: The box office where you bought your ticket into the village, a cinema that continuously showed a film about Clovelly in the old days, a shop that sold all the stuff typical to a shop in a tourist trap (t-shirts, old style candy, funny hats, postcards, posters, etc). The complex was located between a vast visitor car park and the village itself, like a large big gate.
In a way of preserving the village and make some money the owners had turned our hidden treasure into a well known Devon tourist attraction. What had up until the morning, been an enchanting almost magical place in the dark and mist, with the lights and the little pub down by the pier, had in some way been, if not destroyed so at least a little dented.
Don’t get me wrong. We all liked the village and it is indeed very pretty. It was maybe a little naïve to think that we were the only ones who had discovered it, clinging onto the cliffs next to the waterfront, only a few hours from South East England. We were still left with a feeling that, in Clovelly they had taken things a little too far.