Join Modern Traveller on a picturesque ramble along the coastal path.
Tiny, twisting lanes are bordered by white and pastel cottages, their wood and stone bodies bulging at the seams, almost ripe to bursting in the afternoon heat. Gardens of sweet-smelling lavender, of dusky pink roses and of brightest red and orange poppies spill over picket fences straight from a storybook.
Pear Tree Produce Café, too, seems straight out of a fairytale. Flagstone steps lead to a kitchen-garden set on the slopes of the hillside, where terraces of vegetables, bushes heavily laden with summer fruit, and pink and purple wildflowers grow up and up in a wall of vibrant green.
Mugs of tea and glasses of elderflower are sipped by families basking in the summer sunshine, tucking into warm scones and tiny pots of delicious homemade jam in myriad flavours, chatting to the lovely lady owner, who bustles about between the blue-green benches, the dog lolling at her feet. This is the place to while away an afternoon; to forget about the whole big world, and to think of nothing else but clotted cream, iridescent flowers and fingers sticky with jam.
Beyond the tranquil villages, tucked into the nooks and crannies of the rolling hillsides, sprawls the salty sea.
The well-trodden coastal path meanders along the edge of recently sown, overgrown and flat-out fabulous fields, past more rusted wrought-iron kissing gates than anyone could possibly count, and along craggy cliffs which fall away to rough and rocky beaches.
Couples stroll hand in hand on the trampled wild grass, past knots of foxgloves and delphiniums, hair tousled and tangled in the salt-scented air. Toddlers chase butterflies through the rushes, fisherman cast their lines in practised silence and lone boats sail past, pinpricks in the distance.
Nestled into a crook between two undulating pastures, well within sight of the sandy shore, rises the charming stone spire of somnolent Old Fleet Church. The churchyard is still as if in slumber, a relic of a half-forgotten past to which only lop-sided headstones now nod, moss-coated and sinking gently into the soft ground. This was once smugglers’ country, as the plaque at the church gates reminds us; a place of hidden coves, of boats braving the vast expanse of saltwater darkness, and of a people shrouded in mystery.
This is the wild, windy English countryside of myth, of legend and of many a children’s story. The smugglers may be long gone, but the sea air which swirls in cool gusts through wildflowers and stone cottages, imbuing everyone and everything with the tangy scent of salt, carries a sense of chance, of promise and of secrets still.
WORDS BY SASKIA WALKER // IMAGES BY CHRIS ROWLANDS