Sunday 11 September 2022

Heddon Valley

I now have just SIX more National Trust properties to visit on this 10-year quest to try all the NT scones across the land. I could - and let's face it, I probably will - write a very long post about everything I have learned from this project.

But here's a quick preview of the main thing I have learned so far: if the scone is underwhelming but the property is great, you're fine. If the property is a little underwhelming but the scone is great, you're fine. You only really have a problem if the scone and property are both underwhelming. And do you want to know how many times that has happened in 10 years, readers? None. No times. It has never happened. To paraphrase the great Sandie Shaw, there's always something there to be happy about.

Heddon Valley in Devon is a great example of this. I unexpectedly loved Heddon Valley today. It went straight into my Top 20: a beautiful little spot perfectly set up for walking, with hills and cliffs and beaches all around.

Heddon Valley walk

The history of Heddon Valley is an interesting one. It was bought by the National Trust in 1965, having previously been part of a grand design by a solicitor called Benjamin Lake. He bought it as part of the Martinhoe Manor Estate in 1885 with plans to turn it into a fashionable holiday resort. He poured lots of time and money into it but it all went horribly wrong and he ended up in prison for embezzlement (you can read more about it here).

Hunters Inn, which is still there today, was built by Benjamin. It had originally been a thatched cottage serving ale to locals from the 18th century. Benj had it rebuilt to look like a Swiss chalet, as the terrible picture below tries to show:

Hunters Inn Heddon Valley

There are numerous walks that you can do in the area. The easiest one is a mile-long walk from the NT carpark down to Heddons Mouth, with its little beach. 

Heddons Mouth

Heddons Mouth also gives you the lovely experience of having the sea on one side and green countryside on the other (a bit like Penrose in Cornwall). I even recorded a little video for you! Get me! I'll be on the TikTok next!

But onto the scones. If you are a regular reader, you will know that it's Scone Blog protocol to always have the scone as soon as I arrive at a property, just in case they run out/have a power cut/get hit by bad weather and have to close early (all of which have happened to me). But today I got to Heddon Valley early, so I did the walk first. 

My walk had been so perfect that I didn't even think about scone availability. But as soon as I walked into the visitor centre, I realised the kitchen was a small operation and I might have a problem. (When I asked for tea, the lovely woman had to put the kettle on.) I was right: the only available sustenance was brownies or flapjacks. I don't know what I have against chocolate brownies - somehow they always feel to me like 15 Mars Bars and all their calories squashed together in one stodgy brick - so I went for the flapjack.

Was I sorry not to get a scone at Heddon Valley? Of course, but Heddon had already given me a lot to be happy about, plus I still had plenty of scone potential ahead, with both Lorna Doone Valley and Castle Drogo on my list for the day.

So my recommendation is to visit Heddon Valley if you can - it's a beautiful little place. 

Heddon Valley: 5 out of 5
Scone: 0 out of 5 - there weren't any
Getting to Heddon Valley very early and being the only person on the path: 5 out of 5

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