Category Archives: My Mortehoe My Woolacombe

My Woolacombe, My Mortehoe – Victoria Tay

Chasing a kite across Woolacombe Beach is a childhood memory that is as clear as day to me. I had a Garfield kite, and my dad let go of the string. The wind caught it and swept it across the beach, Dad and I running like crazy to try and catch it. Eventually it was stopped by the dunes and I had my kite back. It seemed like we’d been running for miles trying to catch the thing, and what struck me at the time was how big the beach was. 

I was about nine years old when the Kite Incident happened. I was in Woolacombe with my parents, and although I don’t remember much else about the holiday in detail, I’ll always remember the beach and the kite. A vast expanse of sand like Woolacombe beach isn’t something that can easily be forgotten.

I hadn’t been to North Devon at all since that family holiday, but when I was looking for somewhere to get away from it all last year, Woolacombe was the first place that popped into my head. I’d been quite ill during the previous few months, and was looking for somewhere quiet to go where I could do some walking, eat good food and get some fresh air. Woolacombe fit the bill – I was going to stay at the Woolacombe Bay, indulge in some good food and walk on the beach every day. It was almost exactly what the doctor ordered. 

I’m from Surrey, which is just south of London, and you’re never truly out in the middle of nowhere here. We have the Surrey Hills (including Box Hill of Olympic cycling fame) but even they aren’t really the middle of nowhere. There’s always the distant whoosh of the motorway or the rumble of aircraft passing overhead on their way to Heathrow or Gatwick. Woolacombe is so far removed from this bustly place, and I needed the change, even if it was only for a week.

Some of my friends were sceptical that I could survive a week in ‘the wilderness’, as they called it. ‘You’ll never make it,’ they said, ‘there’s no Starbucks.’ No, there isn’t a Starbucks, but Devon does have WiFi. And besides, I wouldn’t be working during my little getaway. Freelancers and bloggers have a bad habit of working wherever we are, but I deliberately didn’t pack my laptop. I wanted to disconnect as much as I could while I was in Woolacombe.

 As I was packing up the car, I found myself wondering if Woolacombe would be like I remembered from my childhood. The drive to get there certainly seemed less of a trial than when I was nine – perhaps that’s because I was driving there myself in my nice big air-conditioned car, and not wedged between suitcases in the back of my Mum’s ageing Metro. It was a long drive, that I remembered, but a couple of stops broke up the monotony and I knew I had a nice hotel room and some good food waiting for me at the end of the journey. 

The Woolacombe Bay did not disappoint – the bed was super-soft, which after five hours in the car was very welcome, and after an excellent dinner in Doyle’s, I was lucky enough to catch the sunset behind Lundy Island. My photography skills did not do the sunset justice, so I gave up trying to capture it and decided to just enjoy it. I spent my week in Woolacombe exploring without using the car, taking a walk up to Mortehoe on my first full day there. I had never realised how steep The Esplanade is – I felt like I had blood in my mouth as I crested the hill and entered Mortehoe properly. That hill is a killer, but it was worth the walk. 

I walked out to Bull Point Lighthouse, which is the perfect spot to have some sandwiches and a sit down. I bought some incredibly delicious fudge in the post office and a couple of other gifts. I headed back down to Woolacombe, clutching a portion of fish and chips from the takeaway to eat as I walked. It’s very much easier to walk down the Esplanade than up it! I had spent almost a whole day in and around Mortehoe, so I was very tired when I got back to the hotel. I had a camera full of pictures and a pair of sore legs as a reminder of what a good day I had had in such a lovely place. 

The remainder of the week was spent exploring the beach. Rockpooling was huge fun, even though all I found was a very small crab who seemed to be asleep, so I left him alone. I built a sandcastle, which made me feel like I was nine again. I spent some time one early morning sitting quietly on one of the benches up above the beach, watching the surfers – that was a good time to think, contemplate and create. I find landscapes like Woolacombe and the surrounding area extremely inspiring and idea-generating. My job is a creative one, and last year’s trip resulted in a design concept for an accessories line that hopefully will become more than sketches one day. 

I was sorry to leave Woolacombe at the end of my stay, so I’ve decided that a trip out there needs to be an annual thing. I’m returning in April this year, and I am so excited for my holiday. I can’t wait to walk on the beach again and feel the wind on my face. I can’t wait to feel the burn of my leg muscles as I hike up the Esplanade to Mortehoe, knowing that there’s fish, chips and a good cup of tea waiting at the top for me. And most of all, I can’t wait to be woken up by the seagulls and the distant crash of the sea. Woolacombe is a world away from Surrey, and it’s my ultimate escape.

 

Kelly Moss – My Woolacombe, My Mortehoe

We fell in love in Mortehoe. Our first real date involved a road trip to Mortehoe in 2009 (my now husband was a drinks delivery driver and had delivered to the pasty shop in the village). We stayed at North Morte farm campsite, which would soon became our special place, we travelled their often as it was great for escapism and just enjoying getting to know one another. We tried to impress each other with bike rides to begin with and long walks across the cliff tops but over the years realised we were very content with each other’s company and a drink in the Chichester or the Shipaground. As our relationship progressed, our family grew and we had a dog called Lennox, we couldn’t wait to introduce him to Woolacombe and Mortehoe, it then grew further and we had a dog called, Ronnie and again couldn’t wait to introduce her to camping and beach walks. In 2014 my now husband finally popped the question (it was meant to be on Rockham beach but the steps took to long to repair!) so when the ring arrived we sat above Rockham beach and he got down on one knee again.

Our engagement photo shoot was on the cliffs around Rockham. We got married in 2015 and although we got married at Ilfracombe Tunnels, Mortehoe was so special to us that we hired The Crescent for the weekend for the wedding party. We always spend New Years Day in Woolacombe and Mortehoe. We always have food at the Chichester, always eating the steak and ale pie! We just can’t deviate from it, we must be the only people who drive a 300 mile round trip for steak and ale pie in mortehoe in a day! In 2016 we found out we were pregnant and told my husbands parents at Little Roadway campsite and then we wrote it in the sand on Woolacombe beach to share the news with everyone else. When our baby girl arrived in March this year we couldn’t wait to bring her to our favourite place in the world so we stayed in our caravan when she was only 4 weeks old to show her the views. We’ve upgraded our caravan and we will be spending the next however many years creating memories in beautiful north Devon and more specifically Mortehoe. My husband and I always talk about when we will live in Mortehoe, I’m in no doubt one day we will live in the most beautiful village where we fell in love.

Sam Kruger – My Woolacombe, My Mortehoe

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?

Caroline Delin – My Woolacombe, My Mortehoe

I’m not alone in my infatuation and fascination with Woolacombe, after all you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t feel the same. It’s a very special place to many and there are hundreds of reasons why. “For me it has been part of the story of my life and has brought good but also bittersweet memories for me.” As a child Woolacombe was the number one destination for our family. With a dog usually in tow my parents rented a cottage and we children spent all of our pocket money in the then Pleasurelawns and also ‘Once Upon A Time’ – renamed ‘Piggyland’ by my siblings and me. I find it sad that houses now stand on that old station land. Although I remember many rainy days spent indoors (well this is the British summer time we’re talking about here!), my main memory of those holidays was having so much fun on the beach and ‘surfing’ in literally one inch of water! We thought we were so cool modelling our wetsuits and pretending we were ‘Beach Boys’!

Fast forward approximately ten years and back to Woolacombe I drove, this time with my new boyfriend. We had a lovely time down there, with new memories created and others revisited – like cycling the Tarka Trail to Instow. We couldn’t get enough of the place and got engaged on the beach a few years later, visited during two pregnancies (I wanted to make sure my babies had the fresh sea air!) and took our eldest there for his first holiday. Unfortunately my marriage didn’t last but those memories will last forever and Woolacombe was a big part of our time together. As a way to start over again and ensure old memories didn’t stop me from going back I visited Woolacombe again last year with both my children and they absolutely loved it. The pure joy on their faces as they sat/ran/splashed on the beach is something that brings me a lot of happiness. That look of freedom and excitement is not replicated anywhere else. My eldest often talks about Woolacombe, asking when we can go back and to hear him talk about it with such enthusiasm is wonderful! To give them a special place to go, to make memories for them and any future families they have, to put smiles on their faces – it’s what family holidays are all about. On a sunny day I can’t think of anywhere better. “There’s something really special about Woolacombe. I can’t put my finger on what that is, but I guess I’ll have to keep going back until I can!”

 

Pam Bodimeade – My Woolacombe, My Mortehoe

My love affair with Woolacombe began one frosty morning in Spring 1981. My (now) husband Neale had spent many summers holidaying in Woolacombe in the 70s and had talked about it endlessly. So, as we were staying in Somerset for a week, and were in easy drive of North Devon, a trip to see what the fuss was all about seemed too good an opportunity to miss. As we turned the corner, just past the Ossaborough turning, I was told to close my eyes. A minute later I opened them and was greeted by one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. The sea was azure blue, edged with a frothy white shoreline breaking onto an endless golden beach. This was VERY different to the beaches I was used to as I’d holidayed on the north-east coast of England. After a long walk listening to Neale’s tales of sand dune surfing and rock climbing we escaped the biting wind and sought refuge in a very different Red Barn to the one we visit today. It was here I had my very first cream tea while sitting in the steamed up window that perfectly framed the view beyond. I was in love!

Over the next 20 years we visited Woolacombe at least once a year, more when we could afford it. From discovering the remains of shipwrecks during walking weekends with friends, to enjoying the traditional bucket and spade holiday with our young family we experienced all the delights Woolacombe had to offer. We stayed at most of the campsites, rented cottages and had weekends in B&Bs, none of which disappointed. There were summer days when it rained, so we’d hire out one of the traditional named beach huts where we would use the slope in front to create crazy ball runs to amuse our toddlers. There were many days when it was so hot our beach tents would be like greenhouses. We’d arrive early and set up our camp on the right hand side of the beach meaning the children could explore the numerous rock pools easily and still be in sight. Rarely would we leave until we witnessed one of the beautiful sunsets. We explored Baggy and Morte Points in the quieter months and pottered around Mortehoe in the fog. Each time we visited it became harder and harder to leave.

And then in 2001, it happened completely out of the blue. Neale had an opportunity to relocate to North Devon. We didn’t hesitate. Our children, Tom (then 11) and Alexandra (5) were at key points in their education and the chance for them to grow up in the North Devon community with it’s clean air and laid back attitude was too good to miss. It was a now or never moment.

July 6, 2001 we said tearful goodbyes to friends and family and headed west to begin our new lives. As my mobile phone pinged continuously with the farewell messages the reality of our new adventure finally hit home. I cried the entire length of the M4 and looked ridiculous wearing sunglasses under an overcast sky. When we arrived in our new home in Braunton it still felt very strange but at least I had stopped crying. Neale knew exactly what to do, after unpacking we drove the oh so familiar road to Woolacombe. As we turned the corner my heart felt lighter and after a drink (or two) in the Red Barn it felt so much better. That first year was both exciting and difficult, although a constant stream of visitors made life easier. We spent most days of that first hot, long summer at Woolacombe.

We watched pods of dolphins playing in the sea, got used to watching Concord fly over us 5 PM each day booming as it hit the sound barrier, and witnessed numerous rescues by the big yellow Chivenor helicopter, now sadly gone. The biggest turning point for me was when I found a job at our local secondary school, where I still work to this day. We’re all now very much established in our community and have made many friends some of whom live in Woolacombe. 16 years later our camp on the beach is considerably smaller and our car far less loaded when we make that 15 minute drive from home to our favourite beach. We continue to find Woolacombe a very special place despite having the luxury of visiting whenever we wish. In 2008 we celebrated our silver wedding anniversary by spending a wonderful luxurious weekend at the Woolacombe Bay Hotel. We do use other beaches in this area but we inevitably end up at Woolacombe. It is impossible to count the times we have visited our special place however the one thing that has never changed is that little leap my heart makes as we drive around that corner.

My Mortehoe, My Woolacombe by John Fielding

My love of North Devon goes back nearly as far as my love of flight. From the age of ten in 1971 until well after I had left school, my family would spend a couple of weeks every year at Saunton Sands. The best part of it, as far as my older brother and I were concerned was the surfing and our favourite spot to surf was Putsborough Sands in Woolacombe Bay. The quality of the surf in this relatively sheltered bay was worth the fear of the rocks that lurked beneath the waves when the tide was in. On a later surfing trip in my early 20’s, I was camping at Perranporth in Cornwall when I stumbled across the former RAF fighter base, in its spectacular location at the top of some 300ft high cliffs. It seemed like an incredible place to position an airfield. I never, in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I’d be able to pilot my own aircraft to land there. Jump forward thirty years to August 2016. I’ve recently retired, have a small aeroplane and my hobby is aerial photography. “What better, more exciting place to fly and carry out some aerial photography than the spectacular coasts of Devon and Cornwall?”

My wife bravely volunteered to drive our campervan the 400 miles from our home in Norwich to Perranporth whilst I had the fun of flying down in what should have been considerably less time, I didn’t know much about the unpredictable vagaries of the weather in the South West Peninsula but quickly found out! The weather forecast had been ideal for my trip but the further West I flew, the murkier the conditions became until the air traffic controller at Exeter informed me that there was fog at Perranporth and that it might be wise to divert. My aircraft spent the next four days, squeezed into a hangar, courtesy of the wonderfully friendly people at Bodmin airfield whilst we waited for the weather to improve. Tuesday 23rd August was a gorgeous sunny day so I took off from Bodmin Airfield and headed north east until I reached the north Devon coast at Combe Martin. From there, I flew at a leisurely 60mph along the Devon coast until I arrived at the beautiful and hugely busy Woolacombe. I’m used to seeing crowded beaches around my local East Anglia but this was in a different league! There were clearly, tens of thousands of people enjoying a day on the sunny beaches along Woolacombe Bay.

I circled overhead at about 1000 ft whilst occasionally snapping a photograph out of the open window of my aircraft. The aeroplane, a Skyranger Nynja microlight has a surperbly quiet engine, and looking at the aerial image of the people on the beach, you would struggle to find anyone noticing an aircraft above them. A highlight of the flight was passing over the familiar beach at Putsborough and onwards above the golden sands of Croyde and Saunton. During our 8 days, I was able to take hundreds of aerial photographs of practically every beach, lighthouse, harbour and bay along much of the North Devon and Cornwall coastline. Taking the photographs is the quickest part of the project. Processing the images and obtaining the best result from each raw file takes over ten minutes for every photograph.

I have processed 170 of the images and have hundreds more to go. If you’re interested in viewing the images, they are gradually appearing on my Flickr pages:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/john_fielding Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/johnfielding001

 

My Woolacombe, My Mortehoe – Ellen Mooney

Hello everyone this is my story of wonderful North Devon, in particular, Woolacombe and Mortehoe. My mother was from Combe Martin and was one of two girls born into a small cottage along with five brothers. She met my father during World War 2 and when the war ended they made their home in Nottingham. However, North Devon had an abundance of Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins just waiting for me. I used to relish my summer holidays from school back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s because that was when I stayed with my Aunt. It was a wonderful place to grow up in. As a treat my cousin and I used to be taken to Woolacombe to play on the vast sandy beach and paddle in the sea and eat ice cream, proper Devon ice cream made with clotted cream, my favourite being a 99. I longed to live there, but alas it was not to be, and in those days you just didn’t relocate at the ‘drop of a hat’.

Those childhood days are now long gone but my children and grandchildren have all shared the beauty of Woolacombe and Mortehoe over the years. Even my second marriage was celebrated in the lovely Watersmeet Hotel that stands proud on the headland overlooking Combesgate beach, with Lundy Island seeming to rise from nowhere on the horizon and majestic Morte Point in the distance. Last year I had a stroke, but I’m happy to say I’ve made a good recovery, and consider myself truly blessed. After I was given the all clear from my consultant to travel, my husband brought me home to Mortehoe. At first I was very anxious about the long journey from Nottingham but I knew as soon as I breathed in that sea air and looked over to Morte Point, I’d be fine. Part of my rehabilitation was painting. It had been 15 years since I last picked up a paint brush, but I dusted off my watercolour paints and began in earnest to paint once again. I work from photographs and I’m inspired by the rugged coast of Woolacombe and Mortehoe.

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