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beach in cornwall

Beach life

Surfing, cycling and other surprises: there’s plenty to do in Cornwall, as Lorraine Ansell finds out

Stepping out onto the long stretch of sand, the wind forces you backwards. The water is so cold it makes you gasp. Despite all of that, and the sun playing hide-and-seek behind the clouds, Polzeath in Cornwall has long been a family favourite holiday destination. The beauty of the place means that even when it rains you can still go surfing because, after all, you’re going to get wet – so why not catch a few waves?

Polzeath, a magnet for wave-loving folk, is a haven for all things beachy. From a beach-front house perched on the cliff – where you can admire the view that takes in the Atlantic Ocean from Trevose Head to Pentire Head – to campsites dotted around the cliffs, there is always somewhere close to catch those waves. You can forage in the rock pools, make sandcastles or just sit with a homemade cream tea and ice cream and watch the world go past.

Even if you aren’t keen on surfing, the area has so much more to offer. There are walks and trails along the coast path, which snakes along to Pentire Head and the Rumps, where the rock formations stick out much like a tired stegosaurus.

Or cross the beach and follow the path past the camping site along the cliff tops to Daymer Bay, where dogs and windsurfers share the beach – both trying to outdo each other to get to the sea.

When the tide is out, you can skirt around the cliffs on golden stretches of sand alongside the dark blue ribbon of the River Camel. If the tide is in, you can navigate over or around Brea Hill and explore the sand dunes, perhaps visiting the picturesque church at St Enodoc.

Photographs top and above © T. Ansell

Further along, you arrive at Rock and – despite the Camel Estuary looking easy to cross when the tide is out – a small ferry will take you over to Padstow. This town teems with tourists in the summer months and is famed for its busy fishing port and connection with celebrity chef Rick Stein, who has a number of shops and restaurants here. Wander around Padstow’s narrow streets with its shops, galleries and eateries, where you can sample pasties, fish and chips or ice creams before catching the ferry back to Rock.

The Camel Trail has long been a popular route for cyclists. Cycling along it from Wadebridge to Padstow is a fun way to spend the morning or afternoon. The Camel Trail follows the route of the old railway line between Padstow and Bodmin, so the gradients are gentle and the scenery is stunning, particularly along the estuary. Hire a bike and have a race speeding or just a gentle cycle meandering along the path. Then have a leisurely lunch at Padstow, followed by a cycle back.

Back in Polzeath, tide times become a daily fascination as, when the tide is out, the huge sandy beach is revealed. There is enough space for any type of activity: kite-flying, cricket, rounders, football – you name it. As the tide comes in, rock pools are reclaimed by the sea and the families camped out on the beach hop further and further back, with windbreakers and towels fighting for space. The seagulls watch over the bay majestically, waiting for another opportunity to swoop down for a dropped ice cream cone or an unguarded sandwich.

Along the coast, there are other lovely villages and towns to see. Port Isaac is a short car journey away and home to a fantastic lobster and crab shop. Place your order in advance and pick them up after having a walk down to explore the harbour. The popular ITV series Doc Martin is filmed here and you can see why this picturesque village was chosen as a great backdrop to the on-screen drama.

Eden Project

Other activities include visiting the Eden Project (pictured above) where the bio domes are stunning, educational and fun for children – and adults – with games, including building shelters and archery. The Lost Gardens of Heligan are a great example of botanical gardens with many different styles. Lanhydrock, a National Trust property, is a perfect example of a late Victorian country house with magnificent grounds.

Even if you fancy just taking the weight off your feet you can look out to sea and watch the waves go by. If you’re lucky, you many even spot a seal or two. They pop up from beneath the waves, look around and then – with a tail swish – vanish into the inky waters. Each and every time, Cornwall is full of surprises!

Green Adventures September 2015

Lorraine Ansell is an experienced bilingual voice over artist showcasing British (Received Pronunciation) and Spanish (Latin American) voices. Lorraine focuses on bringing scripts to life to engage the target audience, and delivering a professional sound. She works with a home studio, skype and ipDTL, and is based in and around London, UK. Loves to travel, eat and speak! Twitter @LAvoiceart.

Family friendly activities in Cornwall