To Baggy Point
We’re in the West Country, where a day of seething rain was followed by a morning of mist and an afternoon of glory. After lunching on squab pie, thanks to Roger, we slipped down his garden path with Lucy – you can see her as a pup in the photo of David to the right – and headed off on a bracken-lined path along the dunes.
Lucy was soon leading the way, lured by the faint scent of rabbits. There are fewer of them than there were, due to myxomatosis and the ascendancy of foxes, and with the decline of the rabbits the dunes that sweep in great folds to the Atlantic are greening over with scrub and trees. Still, though the landscape where David played as a boy has changed, it has not changed that much.
Lucy led us out of the dunes, and Saunton Beach opened up before us, with surfers in the waves. Beyond, visible to the south, lay Appledore, where Drake’s Golden Hind was built. To the north lies Baggy Point.
We take the path north, climbing past the white hotel, and walking between banks of daisies and buttercups and the deep blue purples of viper’s bugloss. We are on the Southwest Coast Path with the plains of the silver-blue Atlantic spread before us. The path takes us briefly across the two-lane coast road and steps lead us down to Down End. Here stone meets the sea and the sea has not been able to vanquish it.
The stone is dark and grooved, the compressed sediments of ancient seas now diamond hard. Where the sea has made an inroad, succulents with brilliant red flowers cascade down a bank. We turn north, making our way through kissing gates toward Baggy Point.
The sea air was tender, soft and fresh and warm. We reached Croyde Bay, and navigated the sands with the exuberant Lucy. Finally we begin to climb the path that leads to the great headland called Baggy Point.
Cat and Lucy on the path to Baggy Point. Lucy's predilection for chasing sheep means she had to walk with a lead.
Baggy Point has been here for a million years, but that it is still here in largely its natural state is due to Florence and Constance Hyde. Keen protectors of Baggy Point, they donated it to the nation in 1939. American forces used it to train for D-Day during the Second World War. It is an unbelievably stunning place, with vistas at every turn.
Established by the Hydes, the pond was teeming with tadpoles. Henry Williamson was drawn here from London and later became the author of Taka the Otter and, one of David’s favourites, Salar the Salmon.
Today young men and women were roped above the foaming sea and climbing a great wall of riven rock. High above, a peregrine falcon hovered, shifting slightly when attacked by hostile gulls. Unfortunately the iphone camera has its limits.
A view from Baggy Point. The promontory of Mortehoe and the village of Woolacombe lie in the distance.
Like the prow of a ship, Baggy Point thrusts west into the Atlantic, white foam streaming on either side. Having brought us this far, it opened a new vista to us – the high headlands to the north, grazed by sheep, and the three-mile-long, satin-smooth beach and silver-streaming sea that lie below Woolacombe.
The public footpath winds along the headlands. The wonderful thing is that we could walk for miles because men and women had used common law to preserve a public way along private lands - and some of them had built benches to enjoy the views.
It was a hike, with Lucy straining after the sheep on her short lead, and barn swallows curving in the air above us. As evening approached we crossed the sands below Woolacombe and quenched our thirst with hard cider at the Red Barn Bar. Three young suited and barefoot surfers trotted toward the setting sun, and Roger, contacted by phone, swept up to drive us to the Chichester Arms for a late supper.
Note: For those bemused by 'squad' pie, it's a typo, now corrected to read squab pie. In Devon, squab usually refers to a young pigeon, but it can also mean lamb or mutton, cooked in a pastry, sometimes with apple.