Body boarding in Croyde Bay

Relaxed start to the day for me but three of the party went down to the beach at seven in the morning for a swim. Well I say seven but in reality even though Helen had prepared her stuff, she was still ferreting around and rustling about in our bedroom at 07:30! I got up at about 08:30 and made myself some breakfast, black cherry jam on toast and a mug of coffee.

The other came back at about 09:00 they had managed to get wet up to the ankles (ed: it was above the knee!) and complained that the water was cold. We sat around deciding what we should do with the rest of the day and someone suggested some body boarding. Great idea, so C & T and I got into our swimmers and headed down the lane to find an establishment that would rent out the kit. Our first stop was Baggy Lodge Surf Hire but there seemed to be no one on duty, so after trying to get some attention we headed down to the Croyde Surf school.

The surf school did not hire out kit without lessons but they kindly pointed us in the direction over the other side of the road where the caravan park shops are. We headed over and were soon kitted out with wetsuit, boots, gloves and a bodyboard each. We used the shops changing rooms to squeeze ourselves into the wetsuits, then wandered back across the road to the beach. We left Helen looking after the kit on a handy rocky outcrop and headed to the waves.

Surprisingly in a wetsuit the keeps you warm in the sea, unless you put your back into the wave then the water goes right down the neck and through the wetsuit giving you an all over chill. Being novices we took some time to figure out how to catch a wave, but after about half an hour we had figured that you needed to be not too far out, and wait for the wave that sucks you in before you launch yourself forward using the purchase you get from your feet on the sea bed.

Rather than go back to the shop we walked back to the hut to have a shower and extract ourselves from our wetsuits. Then I drove down to the shops with Helen and dropped off the gear. We had also decided to stay in and I had volunteered to cook pasta for dinner.

I had seen a recipe in the Tesco magazine for baked chick peas and J had purchased some while they were out for a walk near Appledore. You bake them with a teaspoon of olive oil and smoked paprika to which you add honey and seeds for the second part of the bake. It took a lot longer than the recipe but I think it was a combination of the oven and the fact I did double the quantity. I will try again at home, with my own trusted oven. They tasted fine with extra time in the oven.

I had a portion of the cheese cake I made earlier in the week. The middle was not divine but the edges were still split, so the fridge is not the answer. We watched the bake off then went to bed, C, T & J were going on a Lundy boat trip on Thursday the rest of us were undecided.

Pirate golf at Woolacombe and a long walk back

Grey start to the morning and another leisurely preparation for the day. We left in two cars to drive to Woolacombe for a round of Pirate golf. We took the really small lanes via Georgeham to Woolacombe, I suspect there may have been a longer but takes the same time route further in land. We had to do a lot of giving way, and had to reverse once. Confusion with  a cyclist meant we had to sit behind them as they cycled up the road. The cyclist waved us past but in the confusion we missed the opportunity to pass and then the road narrowed, the cyclist shook his head in disgust!

At Woolacombe we parked up they have a car park where you pay £3 if you leave before 13:00 and £5 if you leave after 13:00, which means if you turn up at 16:00 and park for even 5 minutes it will cost you £5, is that the most  expensive parking around? The pirate golf is an unusual 15 holes, and although it has a pirate theme that is more the surroundings than the golf itself. Each hole is basically a straight forward rolling patch of green carpet, some of the holes are in dips which makes getting a hole in one fairly simple and keeps people moving on. T was winning most of the time, until C awarded him a 7 on one hole, then I got a hole in one at the penultimate hole and pipped everyone for the win.

We grabbed a pasty from a little bakery on the front then headed down to the sea front benches to meet the non-golfers. Next activity was either the slot machines or a walk back. I opted for the walk back. We wandered down the beach along Woolacombe Sand towards Putsborough Sand. On the way we saw a dead young seal washed up, and a plastic crate that had what looked like mussels on stalks, they were still alive and were putting out tentacles as if they were trying to taste the sea. A look on Google when I got back but could not figure out what they were. At the Putsborough cafe I had a coffee and a slice of Banana Cranberry and Orange cake which was nice. At one point a squall passed over so we waited for the rain to stop, people taking shelter by returning to the cafe.

Next was the slog up out of the bay and onto the coastal path towards Baggy Point, about half a mile round we were hit by another squall and I had to get the poncho out, but it has seen better days and only managed to keep the worst of the rain off, luckily it was windy so we dried out quickly once the rain stopped.We decided not to go right round the point and took the route over the top that comes down into the national trust car park, but we sneaked over a field and came down just above the hut. The others got back an hour later. T ran back to Woolacombe to pick up his car!

For dinner we grazed on the contents of the fridge, most of it healthy.

A gentle walk from Saunton Sands to Croyde Bay

We woke a a reasonable 08:30 to rain, as expected, so we took our time with breakfast, followed by some card game version of Monopoly. By about 11 the rain had stopped and the weather looked good for taking photos. C&T were planning a bike ride and the others were going to Saunton Sands, so I hitched a ride.

I walked for a while on the beach at Saunton there were some surfers and bodyboarders. There was also a kite surfer, I think because the beach is not  patrolled by the RNLI and as such kite surfers are allowed. It seems that kite surfers are often not welcome on beaches.

We walked about half a mile down the beach and then the others decided to head into the burrows, I chose that moment to head back to Croyde on foot, the burrows are sand dunes and therefore hard going under foot. I purchased some Polos from the souvenir shop, then headed up the stepped path to the famous hotel, and sneaked through the car park. Rather than the coastal path which heads high up above the road, and for a good part of it the view is obscured by the bushes. I thought it might be possible to walk below the road on the field.

It turns out you can’t walk in the field despite what looked like a path, so I ended up walking up the road. There are a few parking spaces along the road and I stopped and sat on the wall and took a time lapse of the view across Saunton Sands. At the end of the road the coastal path crosses and I was able to get down to the sea, for another time lapse. The tide was out so  was able to walk straight across Croyde Bay which saves a lot of time. The hut is across the bay and up the coastal path, and there is a jetty you can take to get just about 100m from the hut.

Dinner was to be a fish and chip supper from the best chip shop in Braunton, South Sixteen fish and chips I volunteered to go and collect. After dinner we were planning some card games.

Walking to Baggy Point and cooking dinner

Early but slow start with a leisurely breakfast. Some of us left the house at about 10 for a walk to Baggy Point and round to Putsborough Sands for a coffee before heading back over the top. The weather was a bit grey so I put my 50mm on the camera which forces you to think a bit more, rather more than I do when I have my favoured wide angle lenses. Part way round we lost two of the walking party as they headed over the top to get back to watch the Davis cup matches.

At the Cafe there was a rush on and it took some time to get J and I a coffee and a portion of chips each. The trouble with going to the Cafe us that it is a long descent so to get back over the top we had a fierce hill to climb, however once tackled the rest of the way back to the north end of Croyde Bay is level or down hill. The path follows old farm tracks where you can see the way carts have worn ruts in the bedrock just below the surface. We also had to follow the path of a stream which had been paved with breeze blocks to make walking dryer.

The tennis finished Murray won but not without making it look difficult, then we turned over to watch rugby world cup matches. I had volunteered to cook and spent the afternoon in and out of the Kitchen. On the menu was my usual tomato pasta sauce, my new favourite roast cauliflower and hazelnut carbonara, and a BlackBerry baked cheese cake, with the berries coming from the bushes just up the lane from where we are staying. There were plenty about but not at the edges, they grow low so it was easy enough to kind of walk on them without getting too scratched by the brambles.

Timing for dinner went well with everything ready within 5 minutes of of the predicted 19:00. All the dishes went down well, I was pleased with the  cauliflower dish I seem to have cracked it, so it will now be part of my small repertoire. The cheese cake was not as good as I thought it might be perhaps it was still a bit warm but it seemed a bit split. Not sure what I need to do to fix it?

Downton starts again tonight so it will be a late night all of 22:30 before it finishes, so a lay in tomorrow will be the order of the day.

Holiday centre change from Cornwall to Devon

Holiday change over day, from Cornwall to Croyde in Devon, and from just me and Helen to Helens family and hangers on. We were up early and ready to leave the hut at 09:30 without any trouble at all there was not much to tidy, so we had time for a leisurely breakfast.  Helen prides herself on leaving holiday properties tidily, today was no exception, ensuring the mantle piece items were repositioned where we had found them.

We took the coastal A39 which winds through the Cornish and Devonshire countryside, the sun was shining and the atmosphere pretty crystal clear, so the drive was a pleasure. We passed through quite a few familiar places from holidays past. At Bideford we passed the turn off to Croyde but we had planned a detour to the National Trusts Arlington Court where our first priority was coffee and cake in the Cafe. The gluten free lime and coconut cake went down a treat with a large americano.

Arlington Court was or is home to the Chichester family which are related to Sir Francis Chichester who sailed around the world single handed at a time without GPS. (ed: bloody good book). The house itself is full of shells, stuffed birds and model boats, it seems that they were a family that liked collecting stuff. The last of the house even had a museum wing to store all of it that somehow there was no room for on the house itself. We left Arlington Court at about 13:00, time for a supermarket sweep before our anticipated arrival at the new holiday venue in Croyde at 15:00.

I hadn’t banked on the amount of shopping that would be required at the Braunton Tesco we needed provisions for 7 for a week, almost £300 and a trolley full. The very helpful store manager asked if we had picked one of every item they sold! The shopping took about an hour, we wondered why people bothered doing that every week, we get Tesco to deliver which is far more convenient.

C&T were already at the hut when we arrived and five journeys later I had unpacked the car of luggage and shopping. Everyone was accounted for by 17:00 and we all settled in, some resting on the lawn others taking a stroll on the beach. Dinner would a simple affair preprepared salad stuff from Waitrose. Bring Devon on.

Padstow to Stepper point look out including Padstow to Rock ferry

The next door neighbours have have vacated the property next door and annoyingly have switched off their broadband hub, so we have lost the small internet access point that is the corner of the sofa in the front window of the property. Last full day in Cornwall we fancied a light walk, so Padstow was the obvious choice. Helen was not keen on a boat across the river Camel but a 5 minute drive to Rock  and a ferry, compared to a 30 minute drive to Padstien made the sensible choice the boat. Parking at Rock is an exorbitant £4.50.

The wait for the ferry was short and we boarded with a family, and made the short crossing to Padstow. Feeling lazy and because it looked like it might rain we opted for a coffee before heading out on the coastal path. We nostalgically looked at the flat we rented above the public conveniences quite a few years ago, whilst make use of them.

The path hugs the headland and is relatively flat compared to the walk we had done the day before, and is semi paved with Cornish rock. The sun came out as we got to the point and it seemed like a good place to stop for sandwiches and to lose a layer. Two marmalade sandwiches later we popped round the headland where the wind was blowing and spent ten minutes with the coast lookout volunteer. I always find the coastal lookout people very accommodating, and always make a point of popping in. On a winters day they always have a heater going and it is a welcome break from the constant coastal wind.

The lookout also provided a short cut saving us a big descent and adventure on the coastal path, however it did mean that Helen had to walk through a field of friendly (ed: ???) and inquisitive cows. We were soon heading down hill as luck would have to a Cafe in a set of cottages called “Rest a while Tea Garden” where we stopped for another cup of coffee. A flock of house sparrows were scrounging for food but every time I tried to get a picture some one walked through the garden gate and they flew off, I even tried offering them my sandwich crumbs. (ed: very friendly and good quality food/drinks).

It was not far back to the ferry pickup which had moved closer to where we were because the tide, which had the added benefit of allowing us to walk on the sand directly across the bay. The ferry crossing was smooth enough for Helen to announce that she was enjoying the mode of transport.

We were back at the hut by 15:30 so we went down to the seafront where Helen did some shopping then after a brief walk on the beach we went to the Waterfront bar for a final Cornish beer, Tribute, before moving on to Devon beer next week. Pasta for tea then watched the opening game of the rugby world cup. Tomorrow a new county and another week of holiday.

A circular walk from Croyde to Sauton and back

Croyde sunset
Croyde sunset

Three of us (the men) decided a walk would be preferable to a shopping trip, so we thought a walk to Suanton Sands for lunch and back again looked like a good idea. We headed into Croyde and then hit the beach and headed up between the dunes where the stream flows onto the beach, from there you can pick up a foot path that heads to the center of Croyde, along Carpenters Lane, rather than having to walk along the road. When we hit the main road J went to grab his Telegraph from the post office while T and I waited.

Head out of Croyde by taking Cloutmans Lane which turns into Milkaway Lane, perhaps because they used it to get the milk to town possibly? Take a right branch onto Pathdown lane, a suitable name had we been going in the other direction. It was a steep climb but meant that we got all the hard up hill out of the way at the beginning of the walk always the best option in my opinion. Eventually you get to the top of the hill which is wide and round, but at the very summit you have views all around. Over the top the foot path signs are mounted on large gate posts we speculated whether people ogt lost in the fog up there and whether veering off the path could lead to a fall off a cliff.

It would be mainly down hill from now on, we headed down to Saunton Court a very large house with a very manucured expansive lawn and garden, where you walk down the drive and eventually get to the main road at which point (according to the map) there was a vague path which you could pick up if you walked into the golf course club house area. We were a bit worried about being told to get out of the golf course but followed the road to the clubhouse then the signs to the driving range, were a trodden path headed down the back of some houses and parallel to the road and in the direction of the cafe at Saunton Sands.

View from Motehoe Point Devon
View from Motehoe Point Devon

It was time for lunch so we decided on the Cafe with the terrace who were more than happy to allow the dog. The cafe is run by the Hotel above and the smart waiters in all black seemed very good at their job. I order a coffee to go with my Smoked fish anti-pasto platter/starter, Mr T had the meat anti-pasto and J had spaghetti bolognese. The food took quite some time to arrive but the sit down after the long walk and the lovely weather was welcome anyway. The food when it turned up was excellent. I managed to leave my phone there when we left but realised very soon and was able to retrieve it by retracing only 100m or walking.

Again the walk started with a steep section up to the hotel over the road onto the foot path which climed a bit more to get above the road which it followed all the way to the end of the finger of land which ended at Downend, where we had to turn the corner and then walk back the way we cam up the road for about 75 yards, to follow the coastal path around the point and onto the beach at Croyde. We crossed the beach on the harder sand hwere the sea had been at high tide for an easier walk. Back at the hut we had a peaceful rest of the afternoon updating blogs and reading.

The ladies had followed us to the Cafe at Saunton and the service was even slower for them they they waited an hour while the waiters forgot their order then they were given their drinks for free as an apology. We had fish and chips for tea from Braunton.

Activity number three sea kayaking near Ilfracombe

Croyde Devon Beach view
Croyde Devon Beach view

Mr T fancied some sea kayaking and C was up for it, I threw myself into the mix we had the minimum of three people required for a couple of hours paddling along the coast. The rendez-vous was at 12:30 in a car park at Helle Bay just the other side of Ilfracombe. We had a leisurely start with the late appointment and took our time over breakfast. I filled some of the time taking some local panorama photo sets.

The drive to the Helle Bay took only 30 minutes compared to our estimated 40 minutes so we were very early. The guy taking us for the paddle was a bit early too. We were soon into our wetsuits but I had managed to leave my car keys in my shorts pocket, so a partial wetsuit removal was required. We had a fairly long walk to the waters edge carrying kayaks which made the arms burn a bit a good preparation for the paddling? Once there we had the obligatory safety brief and instructions on what to do in the very unlikely event that we were to fall out of the kayaks, and that a clenched fist means I need help.

We jumped in the kayaks and headed out to sea, the water was a bit choppy compared to the mill pond we had left over in Croyde. We were about a hundred yards out when C decided enough was enough the kayak seat did not suit her hip and could not last two hours on discomfort. We paddled back in then Mr T and I then shared the double and headed back out again.

Croyde Devon Beach view
Croyde Devon Beach view

The seas was quite choppy and paddling was hard again the wind and out of the bay to the north but once around the corner and in the lee of the wind it was much calmer. We kept close to the shoreline and worked our way in and out of the rocky shore. The guide also took coasteering parties around the area so knew his way in and out of the inlets. After about 45 minutes we turned around the plan was to head across the bay and south towards Ilfracombe. The sea was now more choppy but with the wind behind us we were soon across the bay, and into the rocks. The wave direction and currents between the rocks meant were were whisked along just passengers. I remember thinking it is going to be hard work paddling back against the current and wind. We did some more looking at the rocks and visited a couple of caves one with an interesting circulr poo which was called the washing machine, then headed back.

We had to paddle hard to get through the worse bits and then turned around and landed on a beach for a rest while the guide explained how the rock arch we were near had partially collapsed during the severe winter storms of 2013/14. The break was welcome I had not realised how much of a strain sitting and paddling was on the core, my upper leg muscles were glad of the 5 minutes rest. We got back in the kayak for the final push to shore we had to cross out into the middle of the bay to avoid the waves crashing on the rocks to the south of the bay, but this mean that we had to paddle against the swell, which when you are low in a kayak seem much higher than the are, they looked about 5 foot but probably more like 3 peak to trough. We obviously survived and being back on dry land was welcome.

We went back to the hut and then had a leisurely rest for the remainder of the day. We had pasta cooked my myself.

Real day one of the holiday in Croyde

Sea view from Saunton Sands
Sea view from Saunton Sands

First day of holiday has to start with a good walk with a view of the sea today would not be and exception. We were up relatively early after a sensible time going to bed. A leisurely break fast saw myself, Helen and Helen’s dad leave the house at 09:30 heading north up the coast path around the headland to Pulborough sands, where we had a coffee at the campsite/seaside cafe.

The return journey took us over the headland and down a very old track, you could see three ruts in the bedrock, one in the middle wide and shallow and two eaither side narrow and deep, clearly made by a horse and cart. We also spotted many Red Admiral butterflies feasting on the flowering ivy plants which they seem to love. Apparently they migrate back to Morocco when they have had their fill.

In the afternoon I had a walk across the rocks and then the beach with my camera, and took a panorama set looking back to land which turned out better than I expected. The sea was quite calm so the surfers where not getting a long run in, but I guess it was ideal conditions to learn. Back at the hut we decided to pop to the Manor pub in town which looked good from the menu we found on line, but in reality the food was not great, I like to think that it was probably because it was a Sunday and the pub had been busy all day.

Tour of Britain and start of holiday in Croyde Devon

View from Kop Hill
View from Kop Hill

The tour of Britain was passing through the area and I had the day off so I thought I would go and have a look. After consulting the maps for the route I figured Kop Hill, a category 2 climb, would be the best place to see them as they would be going slower on the ascent. I figured that parking spaces would be at a premium in the area so I needed to have a plan. Looking at the ap there is a parking area about a mile away on a parallel road with a foot path leading to the whiteleaf car park.

Before heading out for the race I had and appointment with Roman Britain. There was an open day on Bishops field where an archaeology dig has been going on before a new housing estate is inserted into the space. There is an obvious track way across the field where the ditches which bordered the road showed up darker. The road was part of the Icknield way. They had some interesting finds on top of the usual bits of pot and animal ones they found a skeleton of a woman and in another spot the skeleton of a small child. I met up with Helen and parents to have a look around, and gave them a lift home on may way to Kop Hill.

Tour of Britain Bike Race 2014 on Kop Hill Buckinghamshire
Tour of Britain Bike Race 2014 on Kop Hill Buckinghamshire

On the way to to my parking spot, i had to negotiate many cyclists down the narrow country lanes. The parking area was about two thirds full probably unusual for a week day, so others had probably had a similar idea. The foot path was a familiar as I have walked in the area quite a few times in the past. It took about 25 minutes to get over to the whiteleaf parking area and I was glad that I parked else where as the car park was overflowing on the road leading to it. A short walk following the crowds that were gathering got me to the top of Kop hill where I walked down a few hundred yards to get to the steepest section, whch would make getting photographs easier as the cyclists would be going a bit slower.

It was not long before we saw some action, marshals and police on motor bikes and the odd official car drove ast and everyone cheered them by. There was not much room on the road due to spectators and it was not yet closed to traffic s the odd car tried to negotiate us who were spilling on to the tarmac. Eventually the motor bikes and cars got more frequent then word went out that there was a break away 6 minutes ahead of the bunch, and they were not far off. As if on queue they then appeared hauling them selves up the steepest part of the hill, then some minutes later the buch appeared passed and then the stragglers trying to keep ahead of the broom wagon passed followed by all the team cars and it was all over and very everyone started to disperse. I walked back to the car headed home again negotiating cyclists on the way, my next job was to pack for our holiday week in Croyde Devon.

Sky team car
Sky team car

Fairly early start on Saturday we picked up Helen’s parents and the dog and got away on schedule at 10:00, destination, Clevedon and Tyntesfield National Trust, which was just past half way on the journey and beyond Bristol a pinch point for M4/M5 travellers. We made good time and the roads although fairly busy kept moving all the way until we turned off towards Tyntesfield. Helen and I had been to Tyntesfield before when we had the good fortune to be able to say the weekend in the house when R who works for the National TRust was house sitting to give the property manager a weekend break.

We arrived at the house from a different direction the last time we visited from above the house on the Farm side, where they had built a large parking area. The place was pretty familiar as I had previously been for a run around the grounds. We headed straight to the cafe for a coffee and to get a slot to look around the house, we managed to get a 13:00-14:00 entrance slot which suited us perfectly. After coffee Helen loked after the dog while went with her parents around the house. The house was exactly as I remembered it not much had been moved, and I even got to see the bedrooomwe had used those years ago.

I managed to get a few panorama sets one f the chapel which although needs some further processing came out well, despite the low light, people in the way and having to hand hold the shots. We found Helen outside the cafe, and we left the property at 14:30 which would get us to Croyde for a bout 17:00. The going was good n the motorway but we got stuck behind a few lorries on the single carriage road, with very few overtaking opportunities. We arrived at the house just before 17:00 the sat nav took us down some very small roads for the last couple of miles.

I cooked a really tasty minestrone soup for tea the recipe came from the Guardian saturday cook section. It was mirepoix with tomatoes, green beans, grated courgette,canneloni beans, and spinach stirred in at the end, it was a very hearty soup with not much stock. I will most likely do the soup when we are home and freeze it for eating during the week.