JADE HOL­LAND COOPER COUN­TRY STYLE

The November meet­ing at Chel­tenham Race­course calls for a mod­ern take on the clas­sics, says the founder of lifestyle brand Hol­land Cooper

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Property -

MOD­ERN NEU­TRALS I like to nod to her­itage style while also of­fer­ing a fash­ion­able, up-to- date take. My Marl­bor­ough trench coat (£649), be­low, made from clas­sic tawny

as­cent. But we will be re­warded with some of the finest scenery in Lake­land: soar­ing sum­mits, danc­ing becks, and dom­i­neer­ing rock faces.

Four hours later we make it to the roof of Eng­land. The sum­mit feels al­most sa­cred. A small wooden cross, adorned with a sin­gle red poppy and the hand­writ­ten names of four lost loved ones, has been placed on the trig pil­lar. One hun­dred years on, those griev­ing still find heal­ing among th­ese me­mo­rial fells.

And that is some­thing the Na­tional Trust wants to safe­guard for the next hun­dred years. A variety of pro­jects are planned, from the re­build­ing of Scafell Pike’s circular sum­mit cairn to the cre­ation of a com­mu­nity choir that will sing in mem­ory of the fallen on Great Gable.

The hope is that fu­ture generations will still find so­lace in the world’s great­est war me­mo­rial. As Jessie Binns, the trust’s vis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ence of­fi­cer in the Lake District, says: “Th­ese moun­tains are memo­ri­als for ev­ery­one to en­joy – places where you can feel a ground­ing con­nec­tion with the nat­u­ral world, even if ev­ery­thing around you is feel­ing un­cer­tain.”

The fol­low­ing morn­ing, snaking up a boul­der-strewn path to the war me­mo­rial atop a blus­tery Great Gable, I take a quiet mo­ment to pay my re­spects to an old school friend. Rakesh Chauhan was an RAF in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer who trag­i­cally died in a he­li­copter crash in Afghanistan in 2014. I get a lump in my throat.

The words of Ge­of­frey Winthrop Young, a lead­ing moun­taineer of his gen­er­a­tion, echo in my head. In 1924, dur­ing a cer­e­mony on Great Gable to mark the Fell and Rock Climb­ing Club’s 12-moun­tain gift to the na­tion, he ded­i­cated the land to the men who “sur­ren­dered their part in the fel­low­ship of hill and wind, and sunshine, that the free­dom of this land, the free­dom of our spirit, should en­dure.” The sen­ti­ment seems as fit­ting to Rakesh now as it did to de­parted com­rades al­most a cen­tury ago.

Fifteen hours later, I zigzag up­wards over oceans of scree to emerge at the sum­mit of Cas­tle Crag. A re­mem­brance plaque, ded­i­cated to the men of the val­ley who gave their lives in the First World War, is set into the rock. I’m in­spired to call my dad.

“Did your grand­dad ever talk about the Great War?” I ask.

“Never – he fought in the trenches in France and suf­fered shrap­nel wounds, but that’s all I know. He al­ways had a haunted look on his face when the war was men­tioned.”

I never met my great-grand­fa­ther. But he did leave me a Great Gift – the lib­erty to en­joy, with­out con­straint, th­ese moun­tains of free­dom.

One hun­dred years on, those griev­ing still find heal­ing among th­ese me­mo­rial fells

han­dling the nar­row roads’ twists and turns with ease. Bound for Lyn­mouth, we de­tour off the A39. Weav­ing down a steep, wooded lane we cross Rob­ber’s Bridge, where as a boy I tossed stones into the wa­ter while on fam­ily pic­nics. Wrapped in le­gend and in­trigue, it has a rep­u­ta­tion – rightly or wrongly – of be­ing ban­dit ter­ri­tory in cen­turies past. Be­fore re­join­ing the A39 we ar­rive at Oare, eight miles east of our des­ti­na­tion, to catch a glimpse of the church where Black­more set the mar­riage of Lorna Doone and John Ridd.

Cross­ing the bor­der into north Devon at County Gate, we’re soon de­scend­ing Coun­tis­bury Hill, af­ford­ing us even more fab­u­lous views of the rugged coast­line and across the Bris­tol Chan­nel. I slip the car into first for yet an­other steep hill, this time down into Lyn­mouth, a name etched in his­tory for the dis­as­trous flood of Au­gust 1952.

Re­garded as Eng­land’s “Lit­tle Switzer­land”, thanks to Vic­to­rian build­ings adorned with Swiss-style bal­conies, it’s hard to be­lieve that much of the vil­lage has been re­built since that fate­ful sum­mer’s night when nine inches of rain fell in 24 hours, swelling the East and West Lyn rivers and a tor­rent of wa­ter crashed its way through Lyn­mouth.

We climbed the steps to the Flood Me­mo­rial Hall and stud­ied the dis­as­ter ex­hi­bi­tion, a grim re­minder of the sheer power of the el­e­ments.

Lyn­mouth nes­tles at the foot of a cliff, hun­dreds of feet be­low its sis­ter vil­lage of Lyn­ton. We jump aboard the wa­ter-pow­ered fu­nic­u­lar rail­way con­nect­ing them. It was built in 1890 to pro­vide a more at­trac­tive op­tion than a don­key ride for tourists want­ing to reach Lyn­ton. We wan­der around, in­clud­ing vis­it­ing the Lyn Val­ley Art and Crafts Cen­tre be­fore ad­mir­ing the views – along with cake and cof­fee – at the Cliff Top Café.

Back in the Mini, we re­turn to Lyn­ton via an­other gru­elling climb ramp­ing sky­wards, al­beit shorter in dis­tance, but to the Coun­try­man it was a breeze. We drive on to a mag­i­cal cor­ner of Ex­moor, a tourist at­trac­tion with an evoca­tive name – the Val­ley of Rocks.

Just a mile from Lyn­ton, the first thing that hits you is how dif­fer­ent the land­scape is to the rest of Ex­moor: a se­cret world, tucked away un­der the shel­ter of hills, the jagged rocks sport such in­trigu­ing names as Ragged Jack, Chim­ney Rock and Devil’s Cheesewring.

Ex­moor is both wild and gen­tle; its scenery stirs the imag­i­na­tion. In places brushed by the in­flu­ence of man, in other cor­ners un­bri­dled wilder­ness, the lush land­scapes are punc­tu­ated by quaint vil­lages, small towns and farms.

The B3223 winds its way across the wilder re­gions of Ex­moor, cross­ing open moor­land, af­ford­ing the chance to put my foot down a lit­tle. I feel com­fort­able be­hind the wheel, pleased by the pre­cise han­dling while the kids en­joy the roomi­ness and its Blue­tooth ca­pa­bil­i­ties. While diehard afi­ciona­dos of Alec Is­sigo­nis’ orig­i­nal Mini might not be so en­am­oured of the Coun­try­man’s ro­bust, bulkier shape, we’re quickly be­com­ing avid fans of what can be re­garded as a gen­uine small SUV.

An early lunch beck­ons so we stop at Ex­ford Bridge Tea Rooms for de­li­cious home­made meals, over­look­ing the vil­lage green. Sit­u­ated by the river Exe, in the heart of Ex­moor, this is a real cho­co­late-box vil­lage. Af­ter­wards, we stroll across the green and re­lax in the mid­day sun. We could stay here all day, but have more to ex­plore, in­clud­ing Dunkery, where a stone bea­con marks the high­est point in Som­er­set.

Ex­moor is ideal for burn­ing off the calo­ries with paths criss-cross­ing some of the UK’S finest coun­try­side. We get out to stretch our legs and stay a while be­fore con­tin­u­ing our drive down to Horner, out through Mine­head and on to Dun­ster, the last port of call on our drive. We wan­der the cob­bled streets, ad­mir­ing the wa­ter mill, 17th-cen­tury yarn mar­ket – where Dun­ster cloth was once sold – and visit the im­pos­ing cas­tle. The gate­house dates from the 13th cen­tury, but the Lut­trell fam­ily, who have lived here for 600 years, hired ar­chi­tect Anthony Salvin to re­model the rest of the build­ing in the late 19th cen­tury, to im­pres­sive ef­fect.

It’s a vil­lage ooz­ing his­tory, just like the Mini, which has come a long way since BMC pro­duced the orig­i­nal Coun­try­man in 1959. De­spite what purists might say, the lat­est model gives a nod to its roots while of­fer­ing an up-to-the-minute driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. We’re impressed.

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