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Join the Crowds in Croyde
Croyde in General
Member Name: Ali72
Croyde in General
Advantages: Old-world charm; the beach; surf; climbing; views
Disadvantages: Very crowded in the summer; expensive food and drink
If you are coming by car, you need to take the A361 off junction 27 of the M5 (about 50 miles). The Barnstaple by pass opened in 2007, easing congestion to make this a much quicker journey than previously – perhaps this will increase Croyde’s popularity, as the last stretch after a long drive used to be a real pain! It is also possible to connect by bus on the hourly service from Barnstaple.
---Who goes there---
Several different types of people visit Croyde, although nearly all of them are drawn by the outdoor activities on offer. I go to climb at nearby Baggy Point, projecting into the sea at the North end of the bay. The stunning scenery along the cliffs draws walkers of all ages and the safe, clean sandy beach attracts families for bucket and spade breaks. It also, increasingly, interests the young surfing crowd.
The village itself is quite attractive, with lots of quaint whitewashed cottages, some with thatched roofs. The oldest properties apparently date back to the fourteenth century. Unsurprisingly, tourism is the main industry in the region (replacing former agriculture) so there is plenty of accommodation on offer to the visitor.
I actually recently considered moving here, having grown up in the South West and wanting to bring my own children up in the region. However, the dependence on tourism means that most employment is highly seasonal; this, coupled with the formerly poor road links to the main employment centres – which are still not brilliant – meant that the prospect of securing a decent job was small. In addition, the area is a hotspot for second homeowners, pushing house prices up to high earning multiples. All of this meant that we decided to settle in South Devon instead, but of course we can now drop by more often.
Each time that I have visited Croyde, I have stayed under canvas. There are several small campsites around the village, as well as a huge caravan and camping park called Ruda Holiday Park. Entering the village from Barnstaple, you will find yourself on Hobb’s Hill, and the village is centred on the junction of this road with St Mary’s Road (to the right) and Jones’s Hill (ahead to the left). A short distance up Jones’s Hill there is a left turn onto Moor Lane; this is the route out to Baggy Point, and where Ruda is situated. I tend to stay on a small site called Myrtle Meadow, which is on the corner of Moor Lane and Jones’s Hill and therefore only two minutes walk to the pubs and shop in the village centre. The site is only open at weekends from May to September, and it’s essential to book, as it’s very popular. As it’s within the residential confines of the village, surrounded by houses, it’s also the site favoured by the older end of the outdoor enthusiast spectrum, as the owners are very strict about noise levels after 11pm. If you want sex, drugs and rock and roll with your camping, I’d suggest trying one of the sites further out. Myrtle’s sister site, Mitchum’s Meadow, is next to the beach, further along Moor Lane past Ruda, and popular with surfers. Ruda itself is aimed at the family market, although it also runs a separate camping section in the sand dunes called, appropriately enough, “Surfer’s Paradise”.
There are also plenty of guesthouses and B&B’s available, although I can’t comment on the quality or prices, as I’ve never used any of them. However, you can find more information on Croyde’s website, http://www.croydedevon.co.uk.
---Eating and drinking---
Within the village there are three pubs, all serving standard pub fare at a reasonable to good standard, although the prices are high and they are always very busy. There’s also a couple of restaurants, plus a bakery and a village shop for supplies.
The beach at Croyde sits in its own glorious, sweeping bay about half a mile wide. It is sandy, with proper dunes, and shallow, sloping very gently into the sea; this makes it relatively safe for children, and is enhanced by the presence of lifeguards on the beach. It’s also very clean and has won the following awards:
GOLD David Bellamy Award
ENCAMS Seaside Award
BLUE FLAG CAMPAIGN Award
All of this makes it an ideal spot for a family holiday. The beach also attracts surfers due to the good surf – once you make it all the long way out into the sea! There is a surf school situated on the beach as well as several wetsuit/board hire shops in Croyde.
If you should get bored of Croyde beach, two other good beaches are also very close: Putsborough Sands to the North, towards Woolacombe, and Saunton Beach to the South. Both are long and sandy, and have dedicated car parks. Unfortunately, the car parks are expensive.
---Climbing and walking---
However, as I mentioned, the main reason that I visit is Baggy Point. This is the headland at the North end of Croyde Bay. The climbing area is about a twenty-minute walk from the National Trust car park at the end of Moor Lane. I’m a member of the National Trust, so parking is free, but if I remember correctly the charge for non-members is about £3. The car park is manned and usually busy so get there early to guarantee a space.
As you walk up to the crag you pass a couple of houses including the well-known and architecturally renowned Baggy House, built in 1994 by Hudson architects. It’s well worth pausing and giving this Modernist place your attention. Full of quirky angles, the living area includes two glass walls that can be sunk into the floor to open the house to the outdoors. As you can probably tell, I covet this house! One day I will make an offer for it.
Baggy has several big slabs jutting out into the sea, with steeper areas of cliff between them. There is some confusion as to the names of the various slabs, as several guidebooks have got it wrong in the past. This is not useful if you get into difficulty and call the slab a different name to the one that the coastguard uses, so for this reason I recommend you check the latest Climbing Club guide, which has the correct names.
The first big slab you reach is called the Promontory, which is also the most popular as the areas further north are subject to peregrine nesting restrictions during the breeding season. You can walk down from the coastal path along the top of this slab relatively easily, although the trails down to some of the others are more treacherous, and given the big drop either side, you may want to consider taking an extra abseil rope with you. The tops are all grassed, loose and slippery. There are stakes immediately below the cliff path to use.
The climbing itself is great. The rock is a mix of hard sandstone (good friction) with layers of shale (loose horrible stuff that only masochists truly love). Remember to place plenty of gear before the rock peters out to loose soil and grass, and wear a helmet!
The Promontory is split in two by a narrow zawn towards the furthest end, and the routes at that end can be accessed at any time. The starts of the routes further in are tidal, and accessible for about two hours either side of high tide by scrambling down the left hand side (looking out to sea). If you are a mid-range climber you will enjoy this slab. I have to recommend “Kinky Boots” (VS 4c) which starts on a ledge next to the zawn and has a unique start: raise your arms and fall forward! You should catch the other side and try to ignore the waves crashing in and out of the inlet below you! Scary stuff, and committing, but great fun. You might want to note, that some guide books continue to mention “in situ” pegs on this route but they are no longer there, so take plenty of small nuts.
For the walkers among you, Baggy Point has various paths with scenic views on both sides and on a clear day you can see across to Wales. The South West coastal path runs round the peninsula and there is an extensive network of paths covering the surrounding area. You can get a local guide from the hut in the NT car park. Birdwatchers should enjoy the peregrine colony too.
One weekend when it was too wet to climb, I discovered that horse riding is available in Croyde, which was very enjoyable. Croyde is also well placed to tour the surrounding area from: pretty Woolacombe, Ilfracombe and Combe Martin are all within easy reach, and the attractions of Exmoor just a little further. From Ilfracombe you can get a boat across to Lundy Island, which lies just offshore and is well worth a visit, especially for climbers (about half an hour crossing).
Overall, I think Croyde has a lot to offer to a diverse range of visitors. Unfortunately, because of this, it does get very crowded. However, the village has managed to resist the tackier side of development (no seaside arcades, for example) and retain its charm. I would recommend you visit to see for yourself.
Summary: Pretty village on the North Devon coast