Tag Archive | Woolacombe

Swimming and Al-fresco Dining

August in Devon means visitors – friends and family wanting the best of the British seaside. They are most welcome, as I get to have a holiday too, showing them the sights. We have walked and surfed and photographed, and have eaten ice creams and cream teas and fish and chips.

Not everyone wants to come bodyboarding with me in the strong Atlantic waves, so I have been searching out some quieter swimming spots on the north coast, in the shelter of the Bristol Channel.




This has to be my favourite, a little cove called Broadsands, accessible via 240 steps down from the coast path. Peaceful most of the time, it does however get visited by the boat trips that run from Ilfracombe, but they don’t land, just admire the view from the boats.

Another cove that we swam in last week is Lee Bay, which at mid-tide is just a rocky mess. But as the tide drops it reveals a smooth strip of golden sand, perfect for a gentle swim.




We also discovered that by passing through a narrow gap in the rocks, one finds a smuggler’s path…




…which leads through rocks and gullies…




…into the next bay.




Not as sandy, but nice and secluded.

Lee has another wonderful aspect – the little cafe serves pizzas on a Tuesday evening in the summer, and very good they are too. Sitting outside at high tide, with the water covering all the rocks and lapping at the wall ten feet away, and eating delicious food by candlelight as the sun set has got to be one of the most magical experiences in North Devon.





Another reasonably quiet beach, just north of the busy stretch of Woolacombe, is Combesgate. Descending the steps at mid tide it looks like a small cove.




But once the tide goes out it opens up to a wide stretch of sand, with huge rock pools and gullies to explore.




But the best bit about Combesgate at low tide is that you can walk round the end of the rocks to the best Sri Lankan restaurant in North Devon!




Here it is…walking up onto Barricane Beach…doesn’t look much, does it? Just a narrow strip of sand, and not soft golden sand either, but sharp, shell sand. With a tiny cafe in a cabin at the top.




This very unprepossessing little shack is owned by a Sri Lankan, and every evening through the season, it turns out plate after plate of delicious authentic curry. Served on china with proper cutlery, and eaten on your knees sitting on the sand, it is a real experience. After all, how many restaurants have this as a view?




Locals and tourists alike love it, and we turn up in our droves with clinking bags of wine and beer, folding chairs, and huge smiles. I like to get there early and have a dip first, and check the beach for cowries and sea glass. Unfortunately on a busy sunny day it can get rather busy, but the atmosphere is still great!




So there you are, some of the best swimming and eating beaches in North Devon. And if you really prefer the huge stretches of sand and the surfing waves, then Woolacombe is just around the corner.





Sunset at the beach



We have had to endure some very Devon weather the last week or so. Fog, rain, wind, mist, and hail, often in the same day. This afternoon the skies finally cleared, so we headed for the beach to watch the sun set.




Woolacombe beach is backed by high sand dunes which are fun to walk or run down, but much less fun to climb back up!




There were a few other folk on the beach, but with miles of beach to share, they weren’t very noticeable!




The patterns on the damp sand vary hugely every time I go down. Today they were fine, flat, angular wrinkles, but sometimes there are deep, curved ridges.




What a peaceful place for a late afternoon stroll.




One of the reasons that Woolacombe is not busier is that much of the length of the beach is protected from development by this high ridge, with just a dead end road along it providing access and parking.




The sun started to descend right over the low outline of Lundy.




A cloud bank on the horizon hid the moment that the sun finally set, but it was still a glorious sight.




As we left the beach, there were only a couple of folk still enjoying the solitude.




Our first year in Devon

A year ago today we started our new life here in our converted stone barn near the North Devon Coast. It has been a huge change from living on a modern housing estate in Hertfordshire, with a small square garden, and I want to take a moment to reflect on how we have got on, and share with you some of my favourite photos.




We looked at houses over quite a wide area, but were aware that the location was hugely important. We turned down some nice houses that were just too far from the coast, and that was definitely the right decision. We are perfectly situated here, with a ten minute drive to not only this stunning beach, but also the headlands and coastal paths, and we are loving being able to pop down for an evening stroll on the beach, or a late afternoon swim in the heat of the summer. Our village is really friendly, and has a shop, a village hall, and a pub, so what more can one want?




We did have concerns that it might get very busy here in the holiday season, and it certainly does. But we have learned which roads to avoid, and have found back routes to the town and the beach, and spent the busiest few weeks quietly at home. For most of the year, the roads around us are nice and quiet, although Barnstaple, out nearest main town, has plenty of rush hour traffic and queues, as does every town. We just avoid them as much as possible.




The house itself is mostly as it was when we arrived, with a few repairs, a new garage door, a new shower, and some new lights. Next year we replace the heating system, and start decorating through, now we have a feel for what we want. We love being ‘upside down’, with cooler bedrooms downstairs and living areas with views of the garden upstairs. The log burner in the lounge is great for these chilly evenings, and laying the fire is now my first task every morning.




The garden has given us both massive challenges and massive amounts of pleasure. Ideally it would have been about half the size, and flat, but 1.3 acres and sloping is what we have, so we are making the best of it.




We have acquired an arsenal of tools to help us, all bigger and more powerful than those we owned before, and two new sheds in which to store them. There are some lovely plants in the garden, but also some invasive thugs, and this has been our greatest challenge to date. One thug has finally been defeated, and I am now tackling the second. Once this is done then I can start to be creative.




One of the most enjoyable aspects of the garden has been the wildlife. We have seen so many different birds, moths amphibians, and mammals, and every new species causes great excitement.






The sheep invasion was not quite as welcome, but all part of living in the country.




We intend to do a little write-up at the end of the calendar year about all the birds and moths we have caught.

So is my life here as I imagined it? Yes, in some ways. I knew that I would be spending most of my time gardening, but somehow I imagined myself swanning around in a long skirt and floppy hat, gently snipping flowers to place in my trug… a Lady Gardener. Not so – most of my gardening clothes are worn to holes, and I am usually smeared with mud and sweat, having spent the day wielding a mattock or lugging vast quantities of unwanted plant material down the garden. I do enjoy it, although I didn’t expect that I would always be exhausted by the end of the day.




The other difference is that we have been out and about far less that we though we would. There are so many wonderful walks that we want to do, so many days out, and we have done very few. We have simply been far too busy, and I am hopeful that we will have a little more time next year…(or maybe the year after???)




We do feel that we fit in here, and we have certainly been made to feel welcome. We are already well known in the village, and take part in local activities, and are starting to make new friends.

The one thing I do miss is shops, especially clothes shops. The nearest decent shopping centre is Exeter, and that is a 90 minute drive! Not that I need clothes, as a clean pair of jeans counts as being dressed up round here, but a girl likes to look…




So has it been a good year? Yes, most emphatically yes. We are less stressed, fitter, more relaxed, and generally happier. We can walk out into the garden and hear nothing but birdsong, and see nothing but greenery. I have space to create a beautiful new garden. The nature that we both love to study is all around us rather than being a car ride away. And the sound of the sea is nearby for us to listen to whenever we want.




A bit of August Weather

We are having a spot of interesting weather, and it has made all the grockles (holidaymakers) disappear like magic.




Normally, this end of Woolacombe Beach  on a Saturday afternoon is a seething mass of humanity. Today, just a few hardy folk walking their dogs.




It was very pleasant and peaceful, but less good for swimming…red flags, killer surf, nasty currents, you get the picture.




We were looking forward to seeing the sand castle this guy was building, until we realised he was helping make a protective sand bank in front of the beach huts before tonight’s very high tide. Maybe he will put little crenelations along his protective wall!!

Gotta love August weather…



Cooling down on a scorching hot day

Finally we have some proper summer weather, with blue skies and temperatures in the mid twenties. We have had sunny days earlier this summer, but there has been cooling winds. We have had hot spells, but usually only for an hour or so. Today was properly hot.

We sent the morning removing all the boxes from the garage, which had been thrust in willy-nilly on moving day, and putting them back in an organised fashion. Hot work, only made possible as it was in the shade of the house. So by mid afternoon, I was melting, and snuck away for a couple of hours on the beach.




The car park behind Woolacombe beach is only ten minutes by car from our house, and by driving to the far end one can take a path down through the dunes to the quiet centre of the beach, far away from the crowds at the Woolacombe end.




It is also a long way to the less busy but still popular far end called Putsborough Beach.




I did have to share the beach with one or two others, but it was still pretty fabulous for July. The tide was nearly in, and the water was really warm having come up over the roasting sands. Ok, maybe not actually warm, but I walked straight in, and only gasped a couple of times as the waves splashed my hot skin.




Normally a fabulous surfing beach, there were only a few waves today, and it was quite calm, making it excellent for swimming. I spent ages in the water, and didn’t get chilled at all. I do love to swim in the sea, but I also love to bodyboard, so whatever the sea state, I am always happy!


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Returning to my towel, I roasted gently in the sun for a while to dry off. Bliss! Can you spot my towel in between all the other people on the beach…?




Quite a nice view to admire…




Sadly I had to drag myself away after a couple of hours, but I shall be back soon. Preferably with some company next time – who fancies a day on the beach?



Beach views

The sun is shining, the countryside is green and lush, and we have been showing friends around our little corner of Devon. The jewel in the crown of this area is the beautiful sandy beaches, but the best views of the beaches come from high up on the cliffs, not down on the beaches themselves, so we headed to the National Trust headland of Baggy Point. The walk to the point is one I have written about before, here, but this time we continued on around the headland and made it a circular walk.

The hedgerows and verges are getting more colourful every week, and I loved this stretch with the pink Red Campion flowers and the fuchsia pink spikes of Gladiolus byzantinus.




Once we rounded the headland the long stretch of Woolacombe beach appeared in the distance.




The paths were easy underfoot, with gradual gradients for the most part, passing through rolling green pastures. This was the view behind us.




As we approached the end of the beach, named Putsborough Sands, the views became stunning!




As you can see, it gets busy at half term…..To be fair, it was mid morning, and the beaches always fill up more during the afternoon, but the beach is so vast that there is always a quiet area in the centre, as the main access points are at the ends.




After a drink and an ice cream in the café by the beach, we meandered back over the headland and returned to the car park via a network of sheltered lanes and pathways.

It was a very enjoyable morning walk, with the best views we have had yet of the best beach in the country.