The Near-Death Walking Experience

ruth crilly walking clovelly

Something happened on our family trip to Cornwall, back in May: I almost died. Now some people will say I’m being melodramatic about things and that I wasn’t anywhere close to death and that also I shouldn’t make light of death, or near-death, and to those people I say this: try climbing up the world’s steepest hill with over thirty pounds of wriggling child hanging around your neck whilst your inadequate walking trousers (old Abercrombie and Fitch jeggings) repeatedly fall down. And then tell me it’s not a near death experience.

ruth crilly walking clovelly

Honestly, at a number of points during the climb I thought that my heart had actually stopped, but it turned out that my heart was just beating so fast that the beats had blurred into one. My vision went cloudy. My hands were tingling. I had childhood memories rushing through my brain and a strange metallic taste in my mouth. (That was thirst, apparently, but let’s not dwell on the specifics.)

It was my idea to walk up the road back to the carpark in Clovelly – Mr AMR was all for piling into one of the 4x4s that went up and down the hill, transporting people who had made it down to the harbour but were unable (or unwilling) to pick their way back up through the village. But no, I won that particular argument and basically became the architect of my own (near) demise.

ruth crilly walking clovelly

Have you ever been to Clovelly? It’s a gorgeous, unspoilt fishing village in Devon that has what must be one of the steepest inclines in the world. You almost need an abseiling rope to get to the pub. If you took a run and a jump down the main street, which is thankfully pedestrianised, you would most likely injure yourself quite seriously, because – depending on whether you’re a feeble jumper like me (approx distance 60cm) or you’re a jumping superhero like Greg Rutherford (840cm) – you’d find that the ground would be about five metres lower when you landed than when you took off.

I say that the street is “thankfully pedestrianised” but that’s a ridiculous statement. I mean, no vehicle could sensibly pass down it. If you so much as sneezed at the wheel of your car then the force of your head movement could easily tip the balance and you’d be flick-flacking like a tumbling domino, all the way down to the sea, the car turning over and over like in a James Bond movie. (You know, that Bond movie where a woman sneezes in her Renault Clio as she’s driving illegally down the pedestrianised street in Clovelly.)

ruth crilly walking clovelly

No, there are no vehicles at Clovelly – they made do with donkeys and sledges, apparently. Sledges! Signing your own death warrant, I tell you. Whatever, Clovelly is brutal – you have to walk with those stupid little penguin steps and your feet turned outwards to stop yourself hurtling down the slope. You also have to try and avoid the people who are coming back up the slope, who look at you with a sad, pleading look in their eyes, like they want to be put out of their misery.

But (as I found out) there’s no way you could ask to be put out of your misery when you’re climbing back up, because you can’t speak. If you’re climbing back up Clovelly then you’re focussing on the end game, which is the mad viewing-platform café thing that’s next to the car park. It has cake, water, ice cream and a huge gift shop and it’s like a beacon of hope looming out of the horizon. Sanctuary. A flat surface.

So yes, the perfect place to take two tiny children and an excitable dog. We were fine on the way down, but after a little meander around the harbour at the bottom the fatigue set in and we decided that it was time to go home. There was a queue for the 4×4 service, so we stood patiently in line. No 4×4 arrived.

“Will it be long?” said one elderly lady at the front of the queue.

“How long’s a piece of string?” said the queue-master general. People in charge love saying things like that, don’t they?

After a few more minutes I decided that waiting would be futile and that it couldn’t be that hard to climb back up to the car park and that – anyway – Ted was strapped to Mr AMR’s back, so in effect was weightless (ha!) and Angelica could walk most of the way herself. Probably.

I added to this a bit of a brainwave.

“I know,” I said, “let’s walk up the road way! The way the four by fours go! It’s obviously loads flatter and even if it’s actually a longer distance, it’ll be easier to manage!”

ruth crilly walking clovelly

And so, like a weird band of doomed explorers, we started to walk up the road. It was hot. We only had half a bottle of water. Dexter was jumping around like a demented fish on the end of his lead. The crowd in the 4×4 queue looked at us like we’d just stripped off and instigated a conga line. It was a look of pure amazement and a look of pity.

When the same people passed us by a mere six minutes later, the first 4×4 having arrived almost the second we vacated the queue, they slowly turned their heads like cows to watch us stand to the side of the road. Sorrowful. Disbelieving.

When the next lot of people passed us three minutes after that, they witnessed two grown adults walking in such a manner that they looked as though they were struggling against gale force winds. (It was bloody steep, alright?) When the next lot went past in a 4×4, two minutes after that (FFS! why didn’t we just wait?) they no doubt heard me cursing them as I heaved and panted my way up the road.

Does it go without saying that I carried Angelica almost the entire way? And because she couldn’t be carried front-on, like a monkey (it’s impossible to see where you’re going like that), I had to put her on my hip. I was walking like Quasimodo by the time we got halfway up. To make matters worse, I had on some ridiculous jeggings that had obviously never been stress-tested for mountain climbing because they fell down every thirty seconds, which meant that I had to put Angelica on the ground and hoist the jeans back up again. And the fly zip liked to open in between those pitstops so that I was permanently inconvenienced by one sort of jegging malfunction or another.

Angelica, meanwhile, was busying herself with parts of my anatomy to keep herself amused on the long and arduous ascent.

“Boobies, Mummy! I tickle your boobies? I’m tickling your boobies Mummy!”

Mr AMR, sensing my rapidly worsening physical state, took it upon himself to begin a running commentary and real-time appraisal of my progress.

“Come on Mummy!” he bellowed from his vantage point high above me. “Doing well! Mummy needs to run faster, doesn’t she Angelica? Run, Mummy!”

At one point he waited for me to catch up, which I thought was quite romantic until he darted in behind me and started poking at my bottom. “Let’s poke Mummy’s bottom and make her go faster!”

ruth crilly walking clovelly

It’s amazing he’s still alive. Though I would never have summoned up enough energy to push him over the side of the hill. I was so tired. My heart was going like the clappers. Every turn in the road promised progress but then just led to another nondescript bend. It wasn’t until I heard the sound of a brass band playing that I had any hope we would make it home in one piece. Surely a brass band signalled civilisation?

And it did – one more corner and we were on the home straight, the path to the coffee shop. The band finished butchering Jerusalem and began a rousing rendition of Congratulations just as we staggered up to the gift shop entrance, Angelica smacking my love handles enthusiastically and shouting “giddy up, yee-hah, superspeed Mummy!”

Never again. Not with cargo. Apparently a US soldier carries, on average, sixty pounds of kit. I had over half of that weight on one hip and it talked incessantly. And played with my boobs.


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  1. October 2, 2018 / 5:15 pm

    Hilarious! Please consider writing a book Ruth(I don’t know where you would find the time to do that though…)! You’re brilliant. X

  2. rachel
    September 27, 2018 / 5:49 pm

    Hilarious! reminds me of the time we went on a coastal walk to a village that looked very close by in a straight line. Cliffs apparently do not go in a straight line and meandering pathway took hours and hours around little coves, up and down hills. We finally arrived in the dark hungry and tired with 2 slightly terrified children, ate the worst fish and chips ever and called a taxi to take us home. The taxi turned out of the village, went about 100 yards up the road and deposited back at our starting point. I was so embarrassed and happy to be back I paid about 4 times the fare.

  3. Stephanie Mills
    September 25, 2018 / 10:20 pm

    This is so funny. We were also there in May, and on our way down the hill we struck up the conversation of how people get their food shopping here? Next two men carrying a double mattress passed us and a man carrying a side table. They shouted “like this”. There were obviously moving in to one of the adorable houses. But can you imagine doing that with your Sainsbury’s shop every week- hell no!!!

    I will add that we did get the 4×4 back up and saw some people walking and thought they were made ha!

  4. Natasza
    September 25, 2018 / 12:42 pm

    I am wiping away the tears of laughter from my face! Brilliant writing and you have perfectly caught all the horror of that situation. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Carly Powell
    September 24, 2018 / 6:22 pm

    This made me laugh so much. You really brightened my day!
    Today I took my dog on a walk with my baby who first sat in the buggy well but started demanding boob milk while on the canal path. AlsO my dog has a cone on his head from an op last week. So feeding baby on the path while dogs cone starts filling up with water as he’s jumped in the canal for a stick. I hadn’t seen anyone til this point but suddenly a barge full of people sailed past and 2 other dog walkers. All wanting to chat while I tried to hide my escaping boob and hold my cone head dog. What a laugh

    • September 24, 2018 / 7:46 pm

      It’s always, always a barrel of laughs! Nothing like the feeling of breastfeeding al fresco with an audience. : )

  6. Bethany
    September 24, 2018 / 2:43 pm

    Looking closer at the pictures I see you had a backpack , which makes my suggestion moot. Glad you survived this ordeal !!

  7. Bethany
    September 24, 2018 / 1:05 pm

    This was absolutely hilarious ! Wonderful to start my day off with a laugh. I doubt you’ll ever find yourself in this situation again , as long as you can help it , but I thought I’d share a slightly easier way to carry kids – in my opinion at least. I’ve been in those spots and had to carry my boys when I wasn’t prepared at all. When possible I put them on my back , their arms around my neck and my arms crossed behind me holding their bottom. Sounds mighty miserable so I’m not sure if this would’ve made a difference or not , but figured I’d share. Have a lovely day Ruth !

  8. Jo
    September 24, 2018 / 10:52 am

    Ruth! Where did you stay with dog and little ones? Looking to visit this exact place xx

  9. Laura
    September 24, 2018 / 9:01 am

    Oh I can relate.
    Once my enourmously heavy child was sitting in a bike seat while I was biking the steepest incline known to man. My boyfriend decided to comment: “If you could cycle a bit faster, that would be great.” If I had had the wind to yell at him I would’ve.

  10. Cat
    September 24, 2018 / 3:02 am

    Ahh, this made my night to read. You are so hilarious and this story is so relatable! It does look like a lovely area though, so hopefully the coffee shop at the end of the hike was worth it a bit?

  11. Anna
    September 23, 2018 / 11:42 pm

    I use the climb back up as a yard stick to measure by, as in ‘It’s not as bad as Clovelly’ Honestly have never felt so ill as I have from the ascent from the harbour to the car park. The phrase ‘we dot need a lift back up with the fogies’ will haunt me until the end of days.

  12. Julia
    September 23, 2018 / 11:10 pm

    Ruth – I couldn’t sleep & read this in the wee hours while biting my cheeks to try to stave off the snorting laughter that threatened to awaken my husband. So glad the entire family made it up & out alive. What a delight you are – thank you so much for a completely wonderful story.

  13. Jo.C
    September 23, 2018 / 10:51 pm

    Ahhh! When the kids have grown up that will be such a precious memory to remind them of. Just like my memory of when I was 8 yrs old and slid down that bloody hill, in the rain, wearing ballet pumps, watch my parents eat a tub of cockles {heave} and walk back up again LOL.

  14. September 23, 2018 / 10:28 pm

    I loved Clovelly – apart from all the walking and the insane steepness. Charles Kingsley’s house was interesting, the food and ice cream were yummy, the walking back up made me want to cry.

  15. Aurelie Sanchez
    September 23, 2018 / 9:09 pm

    This is amazing, it made me laugh so much – and I’m going through a hard time these days! So a BIG thank you to you Ruth

  16. Niki
    September 23, 2018 / 8:52 pm

    You are so damn funny! I love reading your blogs it started with makeup and skin but has definitely moved onto a very very funny girl!

  17. MIggs
    September 23, 2018 / 8:36 pm

    LOL I could forgive my little one for playing with The Girls, but my husband trying to urge me on up an incline like a deranged goober, oh hells no.

    • September 23, 2018 / 10:25 pm

      He was on thin ice I tell you. x

  18. Andrea
    September 23, 2018 / 8:14 pm

    Absolutely the most funny thing I have read in forever! I was crying laughing, so funny!

  19. SomeGirlMel
    September 23, 2018 / 7:17 pm

    I’m crying! I can’t with you!

  20. September 23, 2018 / 5:20 pm

    I loved this post! So entertaining. I do hope you had a Magnum at the top Ruth, for all your efforts.

    • September 23, 2018 / 7:26 pm

      God, no such luck! I think we drove home in stoney silence, haha!

  21. September 23, 2018 / 2:20 pm

    I must have missed that Bond movie, but I still get the picture. We are lucky all of you made it out of this experience unharmed!

    Anne – Linda, Libra, Loca

  22. Isabelle Bouwen
    September 23, 2018 / 1:42 pm


  23. Cathy L Pack
    September 23, 2018 / 12:10 pm

    I feel for you. Many years ago, I had this bright idea to hike up the back of Stone Mountain in Georgia with a two year old on my back. She did not want to ride but wanted to walk. It was granite and steep. My husband told me to let her go. The climb was hot (in the high 80s F) and steep. My daughter skinned her knees within minutes, husband took the backpack with her in it and we thought we would die before finishing the hike. We reached the top and I decided it was going to be aerial tram for our trip down and the husband was afraid of them. He hummed “Viva Las Vegas” with his eyes closed all the way down. People looked at us like we were lunatics. I did not plan that well.
    I’m glad you survived and please let us know if you had cake. You deserved it.

    • September 23, 2018 / 5:02 pm

      Oh my God. That is NOT fun!

  24. Lisa
    September 23, 2018 / 11:42 am

    Oh my gosh this hilarious! Honestly, you are my favorite blogger because you talk about everything from skincare to life. Thank you for the much needed laugh!

  25. Lisa
    September 23, 2018 / 10:55 am

    Ruth, I adore your videos but have for some reason never read your blog. Not sure why given that you are hilarious so naturally you would be a hilarious writer. This has made my Sunday!!! Love it and thanks for making me laugh until I almost wee!!!!!xx

    • September 23, 2018 / 5:01 pm

      Oh thanks Lisa – welcome! x

  26. Nyree
    September 23, 2018 / 10:50 am

    I known Covelly well as my partner grew up in Bucks Mills, the next village along. He used to walk across to Covelly when the tide was low and then walk back through the woods along the top. He would do this bare foot
    We now live in Devon and he took me to visit Bucks Mills/Clovelly earlier this year. The tide was out, so he wanted to do his old walk. The beach walk was longer than it looked but a pub lunch was our rewards.
    Then came the crunch; the tide was it and we couldn’t get back along the beach. So he took me the ‘coastal path’. You think the road was was steep, this could only be a path for Mountain goats
    So yeah, I hear you!!

    • September 23, 2018 / 5:01 pm

      ARGH!! That sounds fun… : )

  27. Kelly
    September 23, 2018 / 10:12 am

    Please don’t ever stop writing – your wit is genius.

  28. Vero
    September 23, 2018 / 10:10 am

    Please write a book.

  29. Eve
    September 23, 2018 / 10:08 am

    Haha, I can relate to this, that place is ridiculously steep! At risk of being pedantic though, Clovelly is not in Cornwall, it’s in Devon!

    • September 23, 2018 / 5:00 pm

      I know, bad error!! Is amended! : )

  30. Kay
    September 23, 2018 / 9:10 am

    This made me laugh so much. We have a hill in Lincoln that is called Steep Hill, it is very aptly named. Steep Hill is made from cobble stones, and is hundreds of years old, no vehicles are allowed (too narrow anyway) and there are handrails to help you make it up or down. At the top is the castle and cathedral with amazing views. x

    • September 23, 2018 / 5:02 pm

      Handrails are a great addition!

    • Sue harris
      October 3, 2018 / 2:15 pm

      I’ve done that before it’s a killer, and that steep hill in Lincoln, how do people cope in the winter god only knows.

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