A Little Bit of Devon, a Little Bit of Heaven; HARBOUR HIDEAWAY: The Pretty Port of Lynmouth in Exmoor National Park. Left: A Scene from a BBC Production of Lorna Doone, Which Is Set on the Moor

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Byline: Ray Connolly

YOU won't find a place called the North Devon Riviera on any map or in aguidebook because it doesn't actually exist. I made the name up to describe abeautiful stretch of the coast for a novel I've written called Love Out OfSeason.

I didn't want to upset the people of Lynmouth by reordering their beautifullittle town so that it fitted my story.

Novelists do this all the time. Usually, though, we don't own up to it.

But when I first visited Lynmouth about four years ago and walked thesurrounding cliffs and moors, it seemed to me to be the most perfect place fora romantic story.

I think it's one of the prettiest and most unspoilt seaside places in England.

I say unspoilt, meaning in the commercial sense, of course. Because, as theolder people of Lynmouth remember to their distress, it was very badly spoiledin 1952 when, after 24 hours and 9in of rain on the Exmoor hills, roaringtorrents of water and tumbling boulders ripped the village apart.

In a night the place known as England's Little Switzerland because of its neat,steep, wooded beauty was totally vandalised by nature. The massive damage wasrepaired decades ago, and now Lynmouth once again enjoys the relationship thatit always had with water - the water that wrecked it Y of heaven but which alsomakes it so special. Because quite apart from Lynmouth being a little port,water also created and still contributes to the extraordinary beauty of thehills and gorges, provides some of the local electricity and made possible astaggering piece of Victorian engineering which must be ridden to beappreciated.

The characters in my story visit the North Devon Riviera in the winter, chosenby one of them because it seems a bleak, inaccessible hideaway, tucked underExmoor, peeping out at the Bristol Channel. The perfect place for a quietweekend. But in summer it's completely different, almost Neapolitan from someangles.

With the forest dropping straight down to the sea to the west of the town,Lynmouth, with its white hotels set in the woods, seems to stroll with lateVictorian/ Edwardian ambience - a sparkling splinter of that tranquil Englandwhich was left behind when the modern world flew off to sunnier climes incharter jets.

What fascinated me when I first visited were the gorges cut deep by the tworivers which converge in Lynmouth itself - the East Lyn, wide and babbling andmade-for-picnics at Watersmeet a couple of miles upstream; and the West Lynwhich charges through the narrower Glen Lyn Gorge. If you have children theGlen Lyn Gorge should not be missed.

There they can generate their own hydro-electric power on a tiny model and evenmake their own rainbows.

No less interesting, however, are the walks through the woods in Glen Lyn andall around Lynmouth, where the spray from the waterfalls and the abundantrainfall has created something of a microclimate and with it a dense forest,where giant ferns, larches, beeches, oaks and Spanish chestnuts wrestleupwards.

All the walks around Lynmouth are spectacular - whether you venture inland toExmoor and to what's become known as the Doone Valley, after the novel LornaDoone by R. D. Blackmore, or concentrate entirely on the cliff paths, which at800ft are some of the highest in Britain. …