CYHA News February 2023

Posted on Wed 01 February 2023 in News

Coasting into the New Year

How did you spend your New Year? Wearily propping your eyes open longing for the chime of midnight so you can at last go to bed? Or grooving on the dance floor with the sparkly ladies at the Blue Ball Inn? If you are in any doubt, we were doing the latter.

New Year’s Eve came at the end of a rather wet few days on the north Devon coast. But then it seemed to be wet almost everywhere. A bit of drizzle is so much easier to bear when you have quaint harbours and towering cliffs to look at. The National Trust bunkhouse at Countisbury came with a £20 gift card (thank you NT!) to spend in the tearoom, which we did on our first walk down to Watersmeet. Here we were introduced to parsnip and ginger cake – a revelation, but perhaps too much of a temptation on top of all that Christmas food.

Thursday had a bit of a grim forecast, so we decided to take a trip on the local steam railway from Woody Bay to Killington Lane, from where we took a short stroll down to Heddon’s Mouth for a delicious gingerbread latte (other drinks were available). Heddon’s Mouth is a dramatic steep-sided gorge. On the way back we climbed out of the gorge and across the hills back to the railway. The views were gorgeous as the weather finally cleared for a pink-sky over a late lunch at the North Pole Halt on the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway.

Day three and it was time to tick off some coast path. We drove back out to Heddon’s Mouth so we could walk back to the bunkhouse. The walk was lovely, with high cliffs and sheltered bays and a gorgeous (if a bit damp) lunch break at Lee Abbey. From here it was a spectacular walk through the towering pinnacles of the Valley of the Rocks for a tea break at Lynmouth before the final haul up the hill to Countisbury. Friday, New Year’s Eve, was probably our wettest day, so we decided to keep our walk a bit lower. Driving to Combe Martin we caught the bus to Ilfracombe to spend the day walking back along the coast. This was the perfect walk for a slightly misty day, the only slight downer was the lack of refreshments. Out of season and all the cafes were closed. Still, a bonus for the waistline!

New Year’s Day and we decided on a short circular walk from Heddon’s Mouth out to Trentishoe. This is only quite a short bit of coast, but had the advantage of another visit to that lovely tearoom at Heddon’s Mouth at the end of the day. After dinner we headed to the pub for a few drinks before midnight. There was a DJ and several guests had clearly enjoyed a good dinner before we arrived, including the sparkly ladies – one of whom mistook George for Father Christmas. I think she might have been drinking. It was a bit loud for a conversation, but great for strutting your stuff to Dancing Queen. And so we welcomed in 2023.

Bank holiday Monday was easily the best weather of the trip. Clear skies, sunshine, and just that niggly bit of coastline between Coombe Martin and Trentishoe to tick off. Despite the long drive home we couldn’t resist, so Dave, Fergus and I set off to fill in that missing piece. It was gorgeous. Little Hangman then Great Hangman Hill, long shadows in golden evening sunshine as we finished the first day of the New Year. Ali

First and Last

With people coming and going, New Year trips are prime territory for lost property. Doug gets a special mention for the last thing lost in 2022 (his phone on the bar in the Blue Ball) and the first thing lost in 2023 (his glasses in the bar in the Blue Ball) But he was not alone! Nathan’s shoes and Ian’s gaiters were left in the drying room. A trip home via Hemel got the shoes returned with the benefit of Sarah’s cooking – well above the standard of motorway services.

George’s Corner

OK, so that winding narrow lane into Heddon Valley was a bit tricky, especially in the dark. Having heroically returned drivers to their cars on Friday, George mis-judged a bend and his front wheels went off the road. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but there was a sharp drop beyond the tarmac and he needed a tow to get back on to terra firma. That corner is now forever “George’s Corner”, just like the Grand Hotel Hairpin in Monaco or the Senna S at Interlago.