Kitiara Pascoe – Hanging Out On The Hartland Peninsula

Kitiara Pascoe – Hanging Out On The Hartland Peninsula

It’s amazing how quickly you readjust your perception of distance when you settle somewhere. During the three years I spent travelling, an island several hundred miles away seemed no bother at all. Now just driving for two hours seems like a full-on expedition. Because of this – let’s be blunt here – outright laziness, I haven’t spent much time in North Devon. But it was taken out of my hands when I was compelled to spend a long weekend in Hartland for a family 60th.

We were staying at Berry House, a deceptively vast manor high on a hill overlooking the quaint village of Stoke and run by the Big House Company. With ten bedrooms and a kitchen the size of my flat, I was half expecting to find myself in a Downton Abbey type drama or, failing that, Poldark. Sadly it wasn’t to be.

hartland wheat field church steeple

I woke up at 6 am on the first morning to a silent house. With the tiny nephews in an excitement-induced coma and their parents taking full advantage of a lie-in, I decided to head out for a run.

I took off north along a footpath leading to Hartland Point. I’m not much of a trail runner but the steep descents somewhat aided their opposites. The key is not to stop. There’s nothing quite like Devon’s twisting footpaths. No matter where you are, there’s always a mixture of hedgerows, sheep fields and sudden, glorious views.

When I finally reached Hartland Point, the area’s stunning vistas showed themselves in full wonder. I love the South West Coast Path. I love the concept of it and the variation. But I’m so used to its South Devon meanderings along chalk and clay cliffs that I’d half forgotten North Devon is so utterly jagged.

This coast is rugged and brutal, endlessly folded like fossilised layers of puff pastry. The SW Coast Path can never decide if it’s going up or down and provides genuinely spectacular views with Lundy squatting on the horizon.

Many of the Coast Path sections have sheep roaming them, locked in by the cliff edge. They’d spurned the grass and were instead curled up on the path, eyeing me up as I went around them.

With three kilometres to go, I was running down a steep section alongside a fenced sheep field. I could see a behemoth ball of fluff right by the fence. As I reached it, the poor sheep wasn’t so much by the fence as in it.

Having indulged in the grass-is-always-greener myth, the creature had shifted its body almost entirely over, precariously close to the cliff. Its back legs were caught up in the wire as it bleated mournfully. I didn’t want to free its legs as the relief would surely send it skipping over the cliff. It was too early in the morning for a dead sheep to weigh on my conscience.

I wondered if I could lift it back over but whilst they look like dirty clouds, sheep weigh the same as a SmartCar. Luckily it didn’t take much persuading to recruit my family for an animal rescue mission and five of us returned an hour later. There she was, looking up at us expectantly.

With all hands aboard, we hefted her back over the fence into the field and she shot off with the exuberance of a lamb. This section of the path highlighted everything I miss by living in a city. The harsh, raw nature of the coastline. It reminded me not to get stuck in my corner of Devon. There’s so much here to explore.

All content by Kit Pascoe

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