A herd of feral goats living in a beauty spot outside Lynton have sparked hate mail, death threats, even a murder inquiry. William Atkins reports

In the Crown Hotel in Lynton, they tell a gruesome tale about the Valley of Rocks. One June night in 1995, a chef, raging drunk, snatched up a meat cleaver and, announcing he was going to kill someone, vanished into the night. Early next morning, on the clifftop path that leads from the north Devon village to the valley, a dog-walker came upon a 300-yard trail of blood. A murder inquiry was launched, the scene was taped off, forensics tents erected and samples sent away for analysis.

The Valley of Rocks is one of those incongruous corners of rural England that seem immune to time’s passage. This is partly down to its sheer seclusion, pressed between the expanse of Exmoor to the south and the Bristol Channel to the north. Half a mile east is Lynton and, on the coast 500ft below, the village of Lynmouth, with its memorial museum to the devastating flood of 1952.

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