Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The private village of Clovelly

We've joked for a while that Marple is cut off from the world due to a curfew at night caused by the one main route being closed from 7pm.

Heading back from a day out today we saw signs for the village of Clovelly. Optimistically, we thought we might round the day off with a meander around a lovely coastal village just as the rain had receded. We may even have bought a few things for tea later. We didn't, as it would have cost us £23.40 just to enter the village and it was 4.30 in the afternoon. I'm sorry but this is just appalling.

The owners justify this by saying the following:

"It has cobbled streets" - so does Nelson.

"It is famous for its donkeys" - so is Blackpool.

"It is privately owned" - is it? The houses might be, the nasty looking visitor centre may be too, the car park may be as well. But the roads down to it aren't.

A quick search into the background to this found a fairly strident view that this amounts to a rip-off. Like this from Devon Link.

Then there's this from Wikipedia:

Visitors are told that revenues raised from the entrance fee are used to fund the constant maintenance of the village's cottages and cobbled street. However, there are discrepancies to these claims, and indeed to the justification of charging a fee to walk down the village street. The street is owned and maintained by Torridge District Council, therefore the claim that funds from the village are used to maintain the street are questionable. Additionally, critics of the post-1988 management claim that the Clovelly Estate Company has no legal basis in imposing a charge for visitors simply wishing to walk down the street (and not to visit or make use of other facilities such as the museum or film show), because it is a public street owned by the council. Likewise, visitors are stopped from walking down the road to the harbour in order to avoid using the visitor centre and paying for admission. This practice is legally unenforceable as it is a public road and any person may therefore use it free of charge.

So the owners want people to enjoy the village but pay for its upkeep, but they haven't had it protected through the National Trust, which we're members of. Maybe we'll go back for a guerrilla raid tomorrow.


Big John said...

Michael, I was in Devon with my family last week staying in Ilfracombe. I did consider visting Clovelly as I picked up a flyer in the hotel, but when I realised they wanted paying for the visit thought better of it. Having read your blog I'm glad i did now as it seems highly unorthodox.

Michael Taylor said...

You should have gone. park up at the top car park. Walk out, back down the lane towards the "no entry" signs and into the village. Keep on walking until you find something you like. If anyone stops you, tell them to stick their entrance fee up their arse and remind them that the council pay for the roads.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting, thanks for putting this out into the public domain. I am a local B&B owner and I always tell people to visit Clovelly, as it is absolutly gorgous, but to use the public side road that links to the public cobbled street. Perfectly legal, and no trespassing or fare-evading.

The money made by the admissions desk is massive - on a good summer's day they can take £30-£50,000. This in one of the poorest rural areas of the UK.

You are completely correct, the village is all privately owned by the Rous family, but the main street going down through it is a public street like any other in the land. It is very dodgy and I believe if anyone ever challenged it legally, the company would be forced to back down. But Mr Rous is worth over £100 million so he is seemingly above the law.

Us locals consider Clovelly beautiful yet at the same time a stain to North Devon, one of the most picturesque areas in the world.

The more people who know about the alternative - and LEGAL - way of accessing the village for free, the better.

Steve M said...

I'm sorry but you have no idea what you're talking about. Comparing the village to other pretty cobbled villages holds no weight because other villages' upkeep are paid for by the local council etc. The residents of Clovelly pay their council tax like everyone else but receive NO rubbish collection, recycling, repairs etc. seeing as it is private property. How would you pay for the upkeep of 100 or so properties and 4,600 acres?

The admission fee is not profit-making, so there is no rip-off. That only helps (but not completely) to cover the massive cost of maintaining a village perched on a 400-foot cliff with no vehicular access. The rest of the cost is covered by the rent from the properties. When the charge was introduced in 1988, the owners of the village were spending £40,000 per year more on maintenance than they were receiving in rent.

Clovelly is a private estate. I would like to ask the blogger if he knows of ANY private estate anywhere in the UK that does NOT charge to get in? And how many charge less than £6? Most private estates charge at least £10 for the privilege. All complaints about paying to visit this private estate are completely misplaced and all you have to do is think a little bit before writing unfair comments.

The charge has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with it being a village! It is because it is private land and like all other private estates, the owner has put a charge to enter his land. In this case it is even more worthy because it is not for profit, only for survival. If the entrance fee was not there, Clovelly would cease to exist how it does. The owners would be forced to sell off cottages and it would become like any other village. You are not paying because it's a village, you are paying to enter a 4,600-acre estate, of which the village is a small part. Engage brain before typing misinformed nonsense.

Anonymous said...



The village is a total rip-off and the signage is designed to defraud.

Unknown said...

Residents of Clovelly rent from the Rous family. Not for profit is absolutely bollocks. It goes in to the estate kitty and is used for everything including Rous family boat and house upkeep.
They are multi millionaires and want visitor's to pay their costs of owning an estate.
Road in is a public right of way and the charge unenforceable.

Steve M said...

The last two comments - idiots! I have spent my working life working for this estate and know more about it than random keyboard warriors. There is barely a profit in the admission fee. Most of the profit is from the gift shop, the pubs and the land rover taxis. The right of way down it is irrelevant, as you have to pass through private land to get to it, and like any other piece of private land anywhere in the country, the owner has the right to charge to pass through it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve M, can you clarify which private land you have to pass over please? I am looking at the public highways map as supplied by Devon County Council and it is not showing a break in the public highway. In fact it shows two routes down. If the Highways' map is inaccurate, this is where the confusion probably lies.

HH said...

Hi Steve M, can you clarify which private land you have to pass over please? I am looking at the public highways map as supplied by Devon County Council and it is not showing a break in the public highway. In fact it shows two routes down. If the Highways' map is inaccurate, this is where the confusion probably lies.

Unknown said...

It is a ripoff i love it im going to charge people to enter my drive if they can do it so am i.Clovelly should have a giant piggy bank on the entry saying thanks all you mugs Ha Ha

HH said...

On further investigation it appears that Steve M is incorrect. There highways map is correct, and there is a public right of way down through the village. Payment is required for parking in the privately owned car parks but there is no right for anyone to prevent access across the public rights of way. I can find no evidence that this right of way has been withdrawn.

Anonymous said...

John Rous sold the cobbled streets to South West Water after the flooding occurred in October 2012, this was because he didn't want to pay to repair the sewers under the street that were flood damaged and required a sizeable investment. Therefore, all bill paying residents in the South West Water district footed the bill for the repairs, i.e. the public. John continues to charge the very same public for access to those streets. There is public rights of way into Clovelly around the visitors centre, down the road marked 'No Entrance'. John Rous has placed a sign on his private land next to the public road and therefore misleads visitors and profits from their ignorance. No unsuspecting visitor would know any of this and simply turn up and are charged. The 'No Entrance' sign is designed to misdirect visitors for financial gain. The car park is indeed privately owned but one can legally park on the approach road which is council owned, as long as one obeys parking regulations and avoids yellow lines. There is also a public right of way down the backroad (past the 'No Entrance' sign) into Clovelly to the Harbour at the bottom. This is why the council need to grant a permit to block this route for safety purposes when there is a festival. If it was indeed privately owned, the council wouldn't be required to grant permission. In summary, John Rous and the Clovelly Estate Company pray on the ignorance of visitors to make profit whilst claiming the costs are for the upkeep of the village. Anybody visiting the village can clearly see that very little is spent on the upkeep. Just ask the residents if their houses suffer from damp and are unfit for purpose, if carpets are threadbare and full of cat excrement when moving in, or if their deposits are returned when they leave the property in the same sorry state as when they arrived. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions as to his conduct and moral standards, I am simply presenting the facts.

Anonymous said...

Just to be clear Steve M, hundreds (perhaps thousands) of villages throughout the UK are free to access in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Privately owned estates are usually closed (the key is in the name). Therefore, the upkeep of the private estate is the responsibility of the estate owner. The Rous family operate a hybrid model whereby the profit is privatised and the costs are democratised. Some would argue that this is entirely OK, enterprising even. However, when the owner relies upon deception to trick people into paying for access via a public road, that is entirely different and many would consider this not just immoral but illegal too. When a low income family visit save for a holiday, enter a scenic village and are tricked into parting with £28 just to gain access, this really isn't OK. People should be given the correct information to make an informed choice, not deceived into accessing a public street maintained by the taxpayer (i.e. the visitor).

Anonymous said...

I walked in via the coast path and was astonished that people arriving by car had been gulled into paying