My love affair with Woolacombe and Mortehoe began 40 years ago when my Grandad moved from London to Lapford, some way down the A377. Many holidays were spent at Grandad’s and we always went to Woolacombe. My Grandad believed, or so he told us, that the Devon seas helped his collapsed arches. That is where my memories begin; “Grandad with his suit trousers rolled up to his ankles paddling on the very edges of the sea healing his collapsed arches at Woolacombe!” Fast forward 20 years and Grandad had passed on and my mum had retired to Ilfracombe. I was a mum of two and so the next generation began making their memories.
My childhood memories resurfaced and endless hours were spent at the beach. Day after day was spent playing in the shallow pools left behind at the rocks by the receeding tides. We rock pooled, climbed the mountainous rocks, explored sand dunes, played on the huge skeletal remains of the dinosaur along the beach, saved buckets full of jellyfish by putting them back in the sea (75 on one go!) bodyboarded and had beach bonfires toasting marshmallows.
As a home educating family we visited term time when the beaches were quieter. I loved the atmosphere of the village and would spend any few precious moments alone mooching about or watching the surfers dreaming of moving nearby. The feel of the place is very different outside of the chaotic holidays. There was always one house that had a wooden balcony and I would stare at it dreaming of living there so I would never miss a single sunset. It’s gone now, the balcony, not the dream! Fast forward another 17 years and Mum now lives in Chulmleigh so we camp near Woolacombe visiting most months. Now divorced I found the sea air and walking up and down the beach fast, talking to myself allowed me to sort things out in my head. No where else has such a positive cleansing effect on me. I am lucky to have found the place for me to be. The kids have grown/are growing up so it’s me time. Time to make more memories! Adult memories! I wanted fun and new, exciting adventures so I started with skim-boarding.
My short lived passion for skim-boarding ended after my humiliating ‘faceplant’, where I ended up laying face down in the sand at the edge of the sea after the board I leapt on decided to immediately stop moving. Witnessed by the entire beach it wasn’t only my knees bruised! Next up body boarding. Excellent fun and riding in on a wave felt freeing. “After 20 years of watching surfers I spent my 40th birthday having an afternoon surf lesson at Woolacombe.” That was the most fun I’ve had on a birthday! It is not as easy as it looks especially if you feel stupid dressed in a wetsuit attempting to stand on a board on top of a wave. But such fun! With the kids over the years, and alone more recently, I’ve walked some of the coastal path; my favourite stretch to date being Woolacombe to Lee Bay. On occasions I’ve been lucky enough to watch seals at the north end of Morte Point.
On a surf free day this year I swam Woolacombe to Putsborough, my first proper ‘wild swim’. As Woolacombe is lucky enough to have the RNLI I spoke to them first to check there were no rip tides and all was safe to swim. So my 40 years of memories include the hazy memories of my own childhood, the clear recent memories of my childrens’, endless sunsets, coastal paths, humiliating attempts at skim boarding and surfing, although I haven’t given up on the latter, and dealing with the world as a teenager, a 20-something, 30-something, and now, although not for much longer, 40-something! “So what next? Are there anymore memories to be made down in one small corner of Devon? You bet.” Yoga in the garden in Mortehoe, swim Woolacombe to Putsborough AND back, an early morning horse ride along the beach, further along the coastal path. Further afield a tidal pool to swim, kayaking, mountain biking in Exmoor, all on Woolacombe’s doorstep.
My love affair with Woolacombe and Mortehoe and my dream to live here has not ended nor has it lessened. It has intensified. I have another 40+ years of memories to make yet. So what else can I do?