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
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.