Devon feels – a celebration of English style
Emily Wickstead GRS certified recycled wool jacket, £1,415. The Meaning Well Upholstery Shirt, £440, matchesfashion.com
Tove GOTS certified organic cotton dress, £625. Hunter FSC certified natural rubber boots, £105. Jewelry everywhere: wild fawn ethically sourced, traceable recycled gold necklace, £200. Kimai recycled gold bracelet, £475 and necklace, £945. Ilaria Icardi ring in recycled yellow and white gold and reused diamond, POA. Hat Valentina straw hat, £85
Maria McManus cupro dress, £735, and recycled cashmere and cotton jumper, £642
As you stand on Bigbury Beach looking across at Burgh Island on the South Devon coast, it’s easy to see why Agatha Christie imagined it the perfect setting for a novel. Some despicable act; a group of highfalutin socialites stuck in a remote location; even a Belgian investigator with a “gigantic” mustache. John Ruskin apparently once said, ironically I’m sure, that no good books are written in the cities, and walking the strip of sand that separates Burgh from the mainland, it’s hard not to feel inspired by its remoteness and palpable sense of mystery.
As a child, I devoured adventure stories. Beatrix Potter and Kenneth Grahame soon gave way to Enid Blyton and CS Lewis. My early teenage years were steeped in the escapades of Holmes and Hannay, the Baggins and Harry Potter. The ‘boy who lived under the stairs’ was 11 when he first rode the train at King’s Cross in 1997, by which time I was anxiously counting down the days until my (disappointing) arrival at secondary school. By the time I arrived, that flame had diminished somewhat. The spirit of imagination had been replaced by apprehension.
It’s still early in Devon and the sun hasn’t dissipated the clouds. The island is in a low fog. The steps leading up to the Burgh Island Hotel are smooth, as only stone eroded by centuries of salt water can be. I wonder how many smugglers have passed cutlasses on the way to the Pilchard Inn with its sign creaking eerily in the breeze. It’s quiet – maybe too quiet. I half-expect Blind Pew to stumble out and shove the black stain into my palm before vanishing into the fog. The illusion is unceremoniously disturbed by the sudden arrival of guests in a jet-black Land Rover.
Navy gray Responsible Wool Standard certified wool sweater spun in traceable Scotland, £190. Chanel vintage silk jacquard shirt, £1,020, almostneverworn.com. Raey natural fiber linen/wool coat, £895. GerbaseComment recycled mohair and wool trousers, £995
I detour through the croquet lawn and climb up to a rocky outcrop. What brings us back to the quintessence of adventure stories? Stepping through the portal, escaping our monotonous existence, and accepting the call remains an enduring part of what it means to be human. “History” is an unfulfilled promise made to our childhood selves that we will not give up. Lucy pushes the coats out of the closet before heading out into the snowy Narnia, Jim leaves the Admiral Benbow Inn in search of buried treasure, Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole… In Nebraska, a man has recently set a new world record by paddling 38 miles on a hollowed-out pumpkin he grew himself. If curiosity and escape are part of our humanity, shouldn’t we repress them? Do we all need to cross the threshold to grow? (Ourselves, that is, no oversized vegetables.)
A sign marks the edge of the cliff and I look over it: 50m below me is a pool of water surrounded by looming cliffs, its color an alluring emerald green. I throw a stone. The boom in the travel economy means it’s never been easier to leave the country – but we’re neglecting our own shores. I recently came across a Twitter thread titled “Growing up, this is what I thought England looked like”, complete with images of various enchanting scenes from The wind in the willows. The first comment below was, “That’s right. But without the animals wearing clothes. To correct. England definitely looks like this if you’re willing to leave our big cities behind. A reframing of the exploration is necessary. This involves knowing where you live, buying a sturdy pair of shoes, and being comfortable with getting lost once in a while.
Because England is an island of adventure. It is found in hills, rock pools and at the bottom of the garden; through the binoculars and under the microscope; in the conscious and unconscious realms of our own psyche. TS Eliot remarked that it’s not until we’re done exploring that we “get to where we started / And know the place for the first time”. As the dizzying height takes over me, I listen to my own instincts. I step back from the edge of the cliff and take a deep breath. Peering atop a hill above me are the ruins of an old stone fort. An inviting mini-adventure on the horizon. Do I dare?
Jil Sander by Lucie and Luke Meier recycled viscose dress, £1,670
Chanel vintage silk jacquard shirt, £1,020, almostneverworn.com
Tekla Oeko-Tex certified organic cotton pajama set, from £95. Hereu vegetable tanned leather shoes, £360. Cranleigh School vintage cricket sweater, 2003
Ferragamo recycled polyester jumpsuit, £2,280. Vintage Hermès silk scarf, £198, resee.com
Atlein recycled viscose dress, £660
Maria McManus GOTS certified organic cotton shirt, £448. another tomorrow RWS Certified Wool Jumpsuit, £1,206
Gabrielle Hearst cashmere and recycled wool dress, £8,400. Pantherella recycled cotton socks, £16. Hunter FSC certified natural rubber boots, £105
Celine vintage wool sweater, £700, resee.com. Ecoalf recycled polyester skirt, £275
Alexander McQueen recycled polyester coat, £3,990. Ariat boots in leather and recycled rubber (already seen), £230. Vintage Hermès silk scarf, £198, resee.com. Briefcase, specific to the photographer
Navy gray Responsible Wool Standard certified wool sweater spun in traceable Scotland, £190. Chanel vintage silk jacquard shirt, £1,020, almostneverworn.com. GerbaseComment recycled mohair and wool trousers, £995
another tomorrow Gold Level Cradle to Cradle traceable and ethically sourced merino wool sweater, £552, and matching skirt, £459, and recycled nylon coat, £1,772
totem recycled polyester coat, £1,290. Chloe recycled cashmere dress, £1,320. Vintage Hermès silk scarf, £198, resee.com. Ariat leather and recycled rubber boots, £230. Ray-Ban Vintage Wayfarer Sunglasses, £67.68, cloakroomcollective.com. Vintage Billingham camera bag, belonging to the photographer
Model, Luca Biggs at Premier. Cast, Ben Grimes. Hair and skin, Tomi Roppongi from the Julian Watson agency using Oribe and Violette_FR Boum Boum Milk. Assistant photographers, Jim Tobias. Styling assistants, Daniel D’Armas, Aylin Bayhan and Timothy Brooks. Production, Noot Coates at Town Production. Special thanks to Giles Fuchs and Lily from Burgh Island Hotel and Louisa Nairne from Sapience. Shot at Burgh Island HotelDevon