Fisherman’s friends in Port Isaac

Before leaving Bude there’s time to explore its two beaches. I like Bude. It feels like a town with a special character of its own and not just a holiday destination for visitors. It is early. The beach is empty. The lifeguards are setting up and the first dog walkers are out. The first activity on both beaches is from the surfing schools who have done their warm ups and force their way through the surf to begin a day on the water.

Down the coast the view from Widemouth is amazing.

Crackington Haven is a great name. A few people are having tea in the shop which doesn’t stop the surfing school from assembling down by the spray.


Boscastle feels a little bit precious. However it did not back in 2004 when the river flooded and caused havoc and chaos all the way down the valley. Now it feels fresh and sparkling and full of visitors.

Real people do live and work here.

Tintagel Castle was a fortified port between 2/500AD and the place Arthur was said to have been born. Ruins are all that remain but it is enough to appreciate the footprint it makes on the landscape and the extent of the defences of this old castle.

Port Isaac is such a gem. Quaint, atmospheric, historic…a lovely place to explore.

Clovelly, My Precious

The weather takes a downturn, today, with layers of grey gloom hiding the sun. The surfers are out in force across the vast expanse that is Saunton Sands. It has a special atmosphere in the dull drizzle but our wet-suited heroes don’t give a fan – they’re going to get wet anyway. They only come out when noses, feet & hands have turned the colour of unripened blueberries.

Westward Ho! (The exclamation mark is an official part of the town’s name) mixes up together the elements of this north Devon coast. So surfers attack the waves in front of the static caravans and apartments blocks and beach huts that look out from their cliff locations.

Families and school groups explore the craggy rocks pools and wait for the sands to dry out before cavorting around in disorganised games. I love it. Nothing is too precious. Everything just mixes in together and the empty beach shows it has the space for every background and class to do their own thing when the sun comes out to play.

Now Clovelly is precious. First of all you have to pay £7.50 per person entrance fee. The village has been owned by one family for hundreds of years and none of the 250 inhabitants own their own home. In the blurb they call themselves ‘one of the world’s most beautiful villages’.

It is amazing. The steep descent down cobbled streets between old cottages is half a mile or so in length. The old harbour beside the old pub opens up at the bottom. Thankfully there is a Landrover services from the bottom to take you back up to the top for £2.50 – cheap at 10 times the price.

Hartland Quay, like Clovelly, is a port used to take agricultural produce and to bring in heavy goods like lime and coal and manufactured goods. Just one bar and a few fishermans’s homes line the approach to the beach and the quay itself. The coastline is very stark here. Dragons’ tails mingle with crocodiles’ scales to create a coast line doing impressions of sharp, sharks’ teeth cutting out to sea. It really is an angry place on a drizzly day like today.

 

Surfer-dudes in North Devon

I cross over into England and start today from Weston-super-Mare. Now this resort town has three things, in particular, going for it. The first is the vast stretch of beautiful, soft sand that cries out for sand castles or jogging or picnics. The second is the pier which looks great whatever the light although it is closed between 4 and 10 so can only stand to be admired from a distance. The third are the beach donkeys – sadly they were not there although there was evidence of their presence in the hitching posts, the blowing hay and the neat baskets of poo.

Burnham-on-Sea is a few miles down the coast. Now here must be the UK’s smallest pier, if it even conforms to the definition of a pier. I call it the Thomas the Tank Engine of piers. Compared with its piers around the coast (you see what I did there?) its name pulls well above its weight.

There is not much else in the town, not even a place for a decent espresso. However at the top end of the beach a white-washed watch tower poses historical questions.

Now isn’t this the saddest of images. Some poor child’s bicycle abandoned in the sinking sands of the beach.

So many questions – did they forget it? Did the tide snatch it and return it in some guilty moment? Did they stomp off after a tantrum abandoning it to the elements? We’ll never know.

Hele is one side of a headland.

Ilfracombe is the other side. The harbour is framed by terraces of elegant houses along with working buildings and overlooked by Damian Hirst’s overwhelming statue of Verity.

Lee is my new favourite. A small cove hides a few well maintained houses with names like Shell Cottage, that cluster around a large abandoned hotel which awaits the developer to spoil the character of the place which, at least at the moment, remains isolated, peaceful, harmonious.

Woolacombe and Putsborough are the anchors that tie each end of the world-famous surfing beach to the land. A host of those black leeches wait in the water, horizontal & patient, until thrown into a frenzy by the build up of waves. The call is out that the surf is up and the surfer-dudes are out in full searching as a pack to find the right wave. It is quite a spectacle. Shame about the modern beach huts.

The class of Swanage Pier takes a lot of beating

I leave Weymouth and its soft sands and head to Lulworth Cove where the pebbles reappear. If you ever pictured a typical cove on our long & varied coastline then Lulworth Cove fits the bill in every way. You can see where the waves have forced their way through the hard rim of the coastline and eroded the softer rock behind to create a crystal clear bay, fred by a trickling stream.

Swanage is my next stop. I wasn’t really looking forward to my visit, remembering from past experiences nothing of particular interest. I must never have passed the bend because when I did,  there, in front of me, is the prettiest pier I’ve seen on the UK coastline so far. It is built in wrought iron, painted white and blue. It is quite small with good lines and a kink in the middle. The white limestone cliffs give it a wonderful backdrop. A small, well maintained, classic pier that just oozes class.

I take the longer route via Studland and its wonderful, long, duned sands.

and catch the ferry across to Sandbanks.

Did you know that Sandbanks has by area the fourth highest land value in the world? I know Harry Rednap lives there but we don’t all want him as a neighbour. Hey, they may some posh, two-tiered, 60s beach huts but they don’t have a pier of any description.

Now home. A great trip in with blue skies and brilliant weather.

From West Bay to Portland along Chesil Beach

Lyme Regis at dawn is magnificent. I got up early to capture the bay in its best light.

I caught a couple of smaller coastal villages – Charmouth and then Seatown (well hardly a town; more Seavillage although that doesn’t sound so good).

Then I came to West Bay. I did the Broadchurch shot first, much to the anxious consternation of a couple of householders or rather bungalowholders.

Then I went to the centre to appreciate the size of the pebbly breach and the iconic cliffs in the distance.

West Bay is one official end of Chesil Beach. It is 18 miles of pebbles named after cisel, the old English name for shingle or gravel. It’s not single or gravel. The beach off pebbles graded from small to large art watch and banks to very high 12 metres in places, creating a sort of lagoon between the shore and the beach itself.

West Bexington is a hamlet on the beach, occupied by anglers.

Climbing the pebble dunes is like entering a dry world of hollow sounds & crunching and death rattles of rolling pebble-dash. It’s harder to walk on than deep snow.

The far end is anchored by Portland where cliffs stand proudly on its Bill, protruding into the English Channel, a feature to be avoided by any vessel. Not sure how much Bill’s got to offer the visitor either.

The resort of Weymouth is around the coast. Another typical seaside resort with lovely soft sand…and look what I found – a Rossi’s Ice Cream Parlour.

The rhythm of the Jurassic Coast

This part of the coast has a gentle rhythm to it, a curving monotony that extends along the crescent of the shore into the distance. With amazing regulatory it rolls up to a truncated headland before dropping down to a bay where a settlement of some kind nestles in against the beach.

Sidmouth is the first of the day. The resorts seem to merge together along this part of the coast. Each has a rather grand facade lining the promenade, consisting of tall whitewashed buildings housing apartments, hotels, cafes, tea rooms & beach ware ( balls & buckets). Like a fading actress a lot of work has gone into making this as glam as possible. The heart of the resort lies behind this glitter where it lives a normal existence with all the warts of an ordinary town.

Seaton is very similar. The only difference being the increase in the range and number of mobility scooters that race up and down the promenade. I found it really hard to capture an interesting image of the place. I can show you where the beach huts will go…when they get them out of winter storage.

Excited? This sculpture around the sea defences says ‘shore shapes the wave’….hmmmm.

The small fishing settlement of Axmouth at the far end of the beach by the sailing club, has a bit of character.

The place I really liked was the small historic fishing village of Beer. What a great name. A working fishing village with boats & ropes & tackle & nets. Real fishing stuff. Oh, and some very well kept beach huts.

Of course, Lyme Regis is the jewel in the crown of the Jurassic Coast. It has the history and the culture and the industry. The place glows with the afternoon sun and memories come flooding back – the French Lieutenant’s Woman seeing her man off from the Cobb; numerous nights of alcoholic abandonment whilst on cricket tour including marathon games of beach cricket and moonies under the full moon. It was very civilised today, with a lack of rowdy cricketers and racing mobile scooters.

The mouth of the Teign, not the Tyne

Moving eastwards along the south coast, my next stop is Teignmouth. I like Teignmouth. It’s what it says on the town map…..the mouth of the River Teign. One side faces the river with Shaldon on the other side.

The gem on the Teignmouth side is a row of quirky fishing shacks which stare at passers-by, a bit like the cast of Toy Story,

The church anchors Teignmouth Pier to the sea side (!). I like this pier. It is plain & rather subtle. Sadly access through the arcade machines is blocked. I don’t know if its for safety reasons, maintenance or simply a seasonal closure. However, from a distance, I think it comes across really well – understated and underdone…..bit like me really!

Dawlish is the place where the main railway line hugs the coast. You may have seen it when winter storms have battered it and waves attacked it in baths, no pools, no lakes… full of water. It’s hard to believe on a day like this as picnics are taken and the warm spring sun enjoyed.

Further up, Exmouth Beach boasts a very impressive lifeboat and some even more impressive beach huts that share the car park. So impressive are they, that locals try to emulate their style and colour scheme.

Budleigh Salterton glows contentedly as the beach catches the evening rays.