Well into the festivities at a New Year’s Eve party about 7 years ago, it was drunkenly suggested we should all go for a dip in the sea the next day. Full of Dutch courage, we all agreed this was a splendid idea! Thinking no more of it, I awoke the next morning a little worse for wear and looking forward to a bit of breakfast and an afternoon watching Shrek on the telly. However, I hadn’t counted for Claire’s great memory, steely determination and lust for new and invigorating experiences. So off we went with a bunch of friends, about a dozen or so of us, to Woolacombe, where we proceeded to strip down to our costumes (no wetsuits for adults) and race into the sea together. I seem to remember our first plunge was blisteringly cold, and mercifully brief, but we have continued this ‘tradition’ every year, and have built up our endurance in the water to over half an hour. There are sometimes upwards of 30 of us, and afterwards we all return home for a big feast of curry, chilli or some other warming dish, have a great party and usually raise a bit of cash for charity too.
Barricane I was let in on the secret of this hidden gem by a friend in a Dads’ Group I used to run, a couple of years after arriving in North Devon. As a family we had been to the main beach, which is special enough, but I quickly discovered Barricane was something else. I love the fact that it never seems too crowded; there is a fabulous snack bar in the summer, and a really happy and friendly vibe. On summer evenings families and friends gather to light BBQs while the kids play in the waves, as the rising tide squeezes everyone further up the beach, encouraging socialising and sharing with fellow beach-lovers.
Whenever I walk along the North Devon coastline, I always keep a keen eye on the sea, hoping to spot some interesting or unusual marine life. A couple of years ago, while the September sun was still warming the seas, I was walking with a friend along the coast path between Morte Point and Rockham Bay, when we saw a couple of seals bobbing around near the rocks. Being rugged, adventurous types we carefully picked our way over the rocks below the path, as the seals followed our every move from the water below. We managed to get to a plateau of rock with a raised ridge about 5 feet high separating us from three seals basking about 10 feet away. As we watched them dozing for a while I was lucky enough to get this photo with a fairly basic mobile camera.
‘Coalition’ is a unique piece of outdoor sculpture, on the headland overlooking Grunta Beach near Morte Point. It was designed by Jay Clement, a local artist, and is one of five pieces located on this stretch of National Trust headland. I was one of a team of volunteers who worked on ‘Coalition’ in May 2013, dismantling an existing dry stone wall and using local slates to recreate a new boundary in the shape of a breaking wave, symbolizing the meeting of land and sea. I understand this was a contentious project to some at the time; I hope that it has now become a well-loved landmark that will be enjoyed by many generations.
I’d never visited North Devon before our family moved here in 2004, and I am thankful every day that we seized the nettle when we had a chance to relocate. It really is such a special area, with an exceptional coastline; I have so many favourite places, but the coastline between Woolacombe and Mortehoe must rank among the best for me!
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