We’ve been back from Cornwall for a week and a half already but life has been so wonderfully full of late, in all the best possibly ways, that I’m only now getting around to properly looking at the pictures and do more than give you some teasers of our time. But in the true spirit of holiday postcards that means that they always always arrive after you’re back home, let me share with you the first of my postcards from the west west country.
Although I spent all my formative years in Devon I haven’t actually been to Cornwall that much. There were a few trips as a child to friends with a house on the south coast while our fathers were off on a course together, a handful of sailing expeditions, mostly to Fowey and the Helford River and the days spent in Falmouth before the start of the 1998 Tall Ships Race, but other than that, well Devon has the north shore and the south coast, hills to climb, fudge to scoff, the best ice cream and fish and chips in the world and they even import pasty, why would I need to go any further south?
But when we sat down to plan our summer holiday in Devon, and I mentioned how much H had enjoyed surfing in Putsborough last year and how much I fancied finding some waves now there wasn’t a bump in the way, Dad suggested we whizz up north for a few days for some sand and surf.
Which is why, a couple of days after arriving in Devon, we found ourselves loaded up, crossing the Tamar and heading for Newquay. Well technically just outside of Newquay, and doesn’t Pentire just sound so much prettier. Newquay had a bit of a reputation for being a bit tatty and grockly when I was a child and as we drove north from St Austell along leafy green lanes I wondered whether I was doing it a disservice, given that I’d never actually visited. But truth be told, when it comes to the town itself, we perhaps weren’t too far wrong; Newquay is not the prettiest of seaside towns and it has all the hallmarks of a town very heavily dependent on a seasonal tourist income. Bournemouth, land of mansions, palaces and some of the most expensive properties in the country it is not.
But as we drove out and along the coast into the little village-annex of Pentire and for the first time saw the coastline, you realise that no one in Newquay is looking at the town, not when they have this view.
The Pentire Peninsula is the headland sticking out to the west of Newquay itself, overlooking the River Gannel on one side Fistral Beach on the other. And it’s Fistral Beach that really draws the attention. It’s name comes from the Cornish for foul water, so it’s probably not a surprise if I tell you that it’s supposed to be the best surfing beach in the UK. Devonian honour forbids me from confirming this to be the case; my allegiance is to Croyde and Putsborough; but I will allow it to be very good. Very good indeed.
The day we arrived we picnicked on the cliffs at the top of the south end, sheltered a little by a handy wall, but still feeling the breeze that down below on the beach was pulling white crests from the waves as we watched a couple of surf school classes and their varying attempts at standing up on a board when not on dry land.
We only spent half an hour or so on the beach that day; long enough for Kitty to sprint to the water for a paddle, for Elma and H to find two brown shrimp hiding under the seaweed in a rockpool and for Pip to start eyeing up the sand hungrily, because our destination for the day was the very tip of the headland, armed with strawberries for tea.
It was (and is) a truly stunning spot but oh so very very windy. I think when you live in the Midlands, where there just aren’t that many places where the wind can really build up to full strength, you forget what it’s like to be in a proper constant blustery squall. We watched Elma moving forward most determinedly but in the end she was just having to battle too hard to move forwards and H scooped her up and buckled her into the sling, later adding Kitty to his shoulders for that complete super-Daddy look.
The strawberries were delicious and the headland and the views simply stunning, but I think we were all quite glad to make it back up the hill for a swim at the hotel before supper.
And it was after supper that Dad and I snuck out for another walk. Well snuck is too strong a word, Pip was seriously struggling to work out how to do sleep in this new exciting place with sisters everywhere and things to look at and to chew so I took him out to get into a sleepy frame of mind. He was asleep in minutes, and I got to enjoy a stunning sunset and an evening with my Dad, while H persuaded the girls to bed and watched Game of Thrones on the iPad and the sun setting out of the window.
What more beautiful way could you find to end the day.