Hartland Quay

A baking hot summer’s day was perfect for spending time on the beach, dabbling in rock pools and enjoying the sea breeze.

The Hartland peninsula on the north coast of Devon has a rocky foreshore with strongly folded strata of Carboniferous sandstone and shale, which run out to sea in serried rows separated by rockpools, each a miniature underwater garden full of life. I spent several happy hours at Hartland Quay (which no longer has a quay, sadly, having lost it to the sea in Victorian times), slipping about on the rocks and watching gastropods, sea anemones and shrimps going about their business, in turn watched closely by a solitary common gull, perhaps the mate of the one nesting high on the cliffs behind.

We spent a while watching a pair of raptors wheeling and diving near the cliffs, and visiting their nest of excitable chittering chicks high on a crag. I wasn’t able to identify them – a bit smaller and more acrobatic than a buzzard, mostly brown in colour with a short fan shaped tail. There was also a huge bird at the very top of the cliff on a guano-streaked rock, but even with binoculars, I couldn’t see what it was. Grey backed, a white front and standing quite upright. Fortunately I am not a twitcher so I don’t need to stay up at night wondering what I missed.

Oh, and two people were taking their tortoise for a stroll on the slipway!

Lunch at the pub (which took a while to explain to the barmaid how to make 2 pints of ginger beer shandy), then we wended our way along very narrow lanes to Hartland Point to see (just) the sadly inaccessible lighthouse, which has for some bizarre reason been done up like Pierrot, and would make a wonderful place to stay. We made the most of the £2 toll by stopping for a lovely blackcurrant farmhouse icecream at the little café there.

Hartland, Bideford EX39 6AX, UK

Bideford EX39 6DB, UK