Tuesday, 22 November 2016

A sunny day on a surfing beach

It's just been lashing down with rain again outside, and it's a typical dull and damp November day. I've been keeping some posts in reserve for days like this, all about fine-weather holiday events during the last couple of months, that can add cheer to a sunless and chilly late-autumn day. Here's one of them.

It's 3rd October, and I'm still in North Devon. My friend Rheya texts me, saying that she's popped down to Putsborough from Sussex, and is offering a meetup.

I'm delighted to hear from her, and jump at this opportunity. I had of course met up many times in the past with friends while on holiday. But it had always been the friends who lived at a distance, in Gloucestershire, the Lake District, Scotland and occasionally elsewhere. Although the notion of meeting up with a 'local' Sussex friend - I'm thinking particularly of Alice, who has a campervan - had often been floated, nothing ever come of it. But now, for the first time ever, I had Rheya nearby (well, an hour away from the farm) and the deed could be done. And it was a dazzlingly sunny day, and mild, the last gasp of summer, even though a little breezy too.

We agreed to meet at Putsborough at 11.30am. I drove over in Fiona, cutting across-country via Georgham from Braunton, and encountered Rheya walking up from the bay, where she had already got in a few hours' surfing that very morning. She piled in, and our route took us into Croyde Bay, then round the point below Saunton Down, with Saunton Sands coming into view. We briefly stopped above the Sands, and admired the panorama. It looked liked this. Those people down there were just tiny specks on the wide expanse of wet sand:

Here are two location maps to click on:

Putsborough is at the southern end of Morte Bay in the upper map. Saunton, our destination, is near the top edge of the lower map, with the vast Saunton Sands stretching southwards towards the mouth of the Taw and Torridge rivers, Appledore being just off the bottom edge. The first locality for my birding afternoon with Vicky (mentioned in a recent post) is in the bottom right corner of the lower map. That's where we saw the pelican. I should perhaps mention that birding is one of Rheya's interests as well.

So here we are, about to park at Saunton:

And here's Rheya, standing in the car park, and looking completely natural...

...although some people always have to pose:

24mm lenses have a steep perspective, close-up objects seeming much larger than they really are, but this shot seems ridiculous. Fiona isn't nearly so big:

It was almost noon. We decided to eat straight away, then walk on the sands afterwards. There was a smart beach restaurant/café right there, called the Beachside Grill. It had a sunny and airy outside upper deck, so we grabbed a table there. From that deck one had a great view out to sea, and also up to the famous white-painted Art-Deco Saunton Sands Hotel which overlooked the Sands:

Mind you, the interior of the restaurant/café was very pleasant and sunny too:

But why stay indoors on such a fabulous day, when you can eat al fresco?

Considering the upmarket ambience, we wondered whether there were any connection between the Beachside Grill (and its collection of smart shops on the ground floor) and the posh Saunton Sands Hotel above. And in fact there was - see the Hotel website at https://sauntonsands.co.uk/ and click on 'Dining'. In any event, we readily found several nice things to consider on the lunch menu. Here's me, menus in hand:

This is what we both ordered. Just a burger. Simple peasant fare, rudely served on slate platters - rustic and unsophisticated, the kind of thing Devon fisher-folk and farm labourers of yore might have eaten while waiting for the surf to get up.

Now that I'm into my Slimming World regime, I'd probably have to forgo half the brioche, but the burger, chips and salad wouldn't be synful, although the salad dressing definitely would be on the naughty side.

And here we both are, about to tuck in, a shot taken by the young, beautiful and very obliging waitress, who was doubtless a rising starlet in her free hours:

Note the ruffled hair - it was pretty breezy! And yet we bore it because of the sunshine, which was glorious. From time to time I messed about with silly shots.

We ate in a leisurely manner, enjoying the view, watching the other people, and catching up with our news. Then we paid up. £15 each for those burgers and coffees. Not too much for a very decent rustic lunch. On the way out, there was another opportunity for frivolous posing:

Next, the beach.

The eye was constantly drawn to the Hotel. What a position it had. What a view. Imagine having a wedding there (as people do). Which rhymes...

But the Sands were also compelling. It was low tide. The sea was distant, but drew you to it. We walked out towards it. There were curious dark patches on the sand. On closer inspection, we saw they were apparently dark-coloured pulverised bits of shell, or possibly even bits of coal dust washed up here from South Wales, just across the Bristol Channel to the north. The tide had formed it into strange patterns:

These parts of the beach were also littered with razor shells. Rheya took a great interest in them.

She also kept an eye on how the waves were doing, and gave me her expert opinion on whether they were any good for surfing, or might be later on that day.

It was good to be sharing the sunshine with my surfing friend.

Ever alive to the possibilities of a shot, I noticed how distinct our shadows were on the sand. We played with the shapes we made:

Great fun! Time was passing though, and we wanted to leave before the parking became too expensive. But first, we had ice creams. (I'd have to think twice about having one nowadays, of course)

And then a look around the gift shop and the surf shop.

That was our undoing. Consternation at the ticket machine! We'd just gone over three hours, and the charge of £7 was rather more than expected. But hey, it had been worth it.

I took Rheya back to Putsborough. She intended to get in the sea one more time, around sunset, then drive back to Sussex. Here she is, overlooking Morte Bay with Woolacombe in the distance, the very model of the laid-back surfer with a smart converted van (which she calls Nemo), avid and able to dash off to the sea for a day and a half, whenever she fancied.

Next day it would be Vicky, and the weather wouldn't be so nice. It had started to turn, getting cooler and cloudier. Rheya and I had enjoyed the last really summer-like day of 2016.


  1. It sounds like you two had an amazing time! It's always fun to get together with girlfriends, and a trip to the beach to boot. What a perfect day! I can so relate to trying to eat smart when you're at the beach. I have the same problem when I stop by my local restaurant, but I never miss a chance to go!


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