Tuesday, April 20, 2010
West Down is a pleasant village, set about four miles inland from the North Devon coast. The busy market town of Barnstaple is just nine miles away.
450 feet above sea level, the village sits in a bowl in the hills on the edge of one of the steep wooded valleys which slice through the hills of this part of North Devon.
It is the largest of the inland villages that support the scattered farms that have moulded the landscape.
Substantial farmhouses and smaller cottages are packed tightly around the 14th century Church. Many of the older buildings are of cob with slate roofs, and date back to the 17th century.
The farmhouses are now mostly private houses and their land has been sold off the land now farmed from farms on the periphery of the village. At the west end of the village is the village square.
The village has a shop and post office and village pub called The Crown, just off the village square.
West Down has had its own village school which has been on the present site since 1842. It was built at a cost of 139 and was known as the parochial school. Infants were charged one penny (old) per week and older children tuppence. In 1890 there were 175 pupils with 40 infants in a separate room.
The village is noted for its footpaths, all well maintained and clearly marked. There are many fine walks to and from the village and some circular ones.
The Crown Inn is 17th Century village pub where you can relax and enjoy a pint or meal in the friendly atmosphere. CAMRA recommended Sunday roasts (booking advised) shouldnt be missed and you can sample local real ales and fine wines. There are home-made specials on the menu every day and dinner party and buffets can be catered for. Theres a fantastic garden to enjoy on those long summer days and you can also sample the hospitality at their B&B.
If you would like to go back to the days when you could walk to the farm up the road and collect fresh milk and cream while saying hello to the cows and calves, then head for West Hill Farm.
Chris and Susi Batstone have managed their dairy herd and pastures organically for five years, and two years ago they set up a processing dairy. The farm now employs six staff who run the dairy and deliver the fresh milk and cream.
The dairy team are very proud of their crusty cream, which is mentioned by Rick Stein in his latest Guide to food heroes. It is unique to West Hill Farm, and is a set fresh cream which can be used in the same way as clotted.
You should also visit the Long House Tea Room a picturesque 18th century tea-room in West Down. Try their delicious light lunches and snacks, including traditional Devon cream teas with home-made scones along with their range of home-made cakes, with either tea, freshly-brewed coffee or a soft drink. All served with a very warm welcome!
Once a year the village of West Down is the venue for what is becoming a major fixture in the running calendar. Individuals, clubs, families and folk on holiday take part in a beautiful 10k scenic run. The course has been designed to test the more serious runners, whilst retaining the fun element of a casual run through the beautiful North Devon countryside.