Travel

The Gold Coast of Devon on the first weekend of July

Just like most Fri­days over the last cou­ple of months, after fin­ish­ing up in the office in the after­noon it was time to pack up the van and hit the A303 for anoth­er trip to North Devon to hope­ful­ly enjoy a bit of surf­ing with friends. Although all week the fore­casts had been indi­cat­ing very lit­tle in the way of good surf with strong onshore winds, it wasn’t until late in the week that there was a hint of those winds dying down for Sun­day, worth tak­ing a punt. Besides, what would I do at home?!

The area north of the Riv­er Taw has been like a sec­ond home for the last few years. Saun­ton Sands was the first place I tried to surf and even now, after surf trips to Fuerteven­tu­ra and Por­tu­gal, still my favourite spot when the con­di­tions are right, although dur­ing the sum­mer week­ends, very busy. For­tu­nate­ly, hav­ing vis­it­ed a fair few times now, the area still has some nice sur­pris­es and there are so many ways to get away from the crowds in sum­mer.

On this occa­sion I was meet­ing up with friends who also have a T4, anoth­er 1.9td 800 Spe­cial which, accord­ing to the chas­sis num­ber, rolled off the fac­to­ry line in Poland just a hun­dred or so after mine. The plan was to meet up at the camp­site in time to watch Wales vs Bel­gium in the Euro 2016 Quar­ter-final, although this didn’t quite go to plan. Ear­li­er in the day I picked up a fuel fil­ter from my local car shop and as I just about had time before head­ing off I attempt­ed to fit it, only to find it would not go into the des­ig­nat­ed hole. With time run­ning out I had to put the old one back in. Prob­lem is, half way down the A303 the van start­ed to lose pow­er, I could bare­ly get above 50mph but it wasn’t dif­fi­cult to realise the prob­lem was with the fuel fil­ter. Thank­ful­ly Hal­fords in Taunton was still open and they had the cor­rect fil­ter in stock. A quick fit­ting in the car park and I was on the road again.

I was now on the M5 but real­is­ing I wasn’t going to make it for kick-off so was ready to lis­ten via BBC Sport App on my iPhone. On arriv­ing at Tiver­ton I came up against the next delay. The A361 was closed for resur­fac­ing, forc­ing me on a diver­sion through the mid­dle of Devon. Great scenery but not what I had hoped for. It also didn’t help the BBC Sport App as I had hard­ly any sig­nal until South Molten.

Final­ly, 4 hours 10 min­utes from home (nor­mal­ly around 2 hours 40 mins), I was arriv­ing at Easewell Farm camp­site, near Morte­hoe. As camp­sites go, hav­ing tried most in the area, I would have to rec­om­mend it here. Despite the fact I nev­er use any of their facil­i­ties, and they have a lot, the site itself is great. I have always stayed in ‘E’ field which has a lot of lev­el areas despite it being real­ly hilly, the views are great from the high­er areas. My van has two leisure bat­ter­ies so for a weekend’s stay I do not need an elec­tric hook-up. The only prob­lem is from July and through­out the sum­mer, the prices do go up con­sid­er­ably.

Plenty of facillities at Easewell Frm, here are the toilet and showers, further on is a swimming pool and a pub.
Plen­ty of facil­i­ties at Easewell Farm, here are the toi­let and show­ers, fur­ther on is a swim­ming pool and a pub.

My friends, Matthias and Sam had only just arrived too, caught up in the same diver­sion I had encoun­tered. We were now into the sec­ond half of the foot­ball, Matthias was just rig­ging up the lap­top to watch the remain­der on screen with a nice cold beer, what a great game it was, well done Wales on that one.

Despite us find­ing a fair­ly shel­tered part of the camp­site, the wind was blow­ing a hoo­ley on the Fri­day night, too strong to sit out­side on this occa­sion. Know­ing the wind was going to can­cel any chance of some good surf in the morn­ing, a few drinks were on the cards, no prob­lem get­ting to sleep on this occa­sion.

On this occasion the vans at Easewell Farm were not quite level but away from the wind
On this occa­sion the vans at Easewell Farm were not quite lev­el but away from the wind

Wak­ing up on Sat­ur­day was a lit­tle dis­ori­en­tat­ing. Every now and again, as on this occa­sion, I wake up in the van and won­der where the hell I am and tak­ing a few sec­onds to realise what’s going on. Then, when my alco­hol fogged mind catch­es up, it feels great to know I’m stay­ing away.

There still looked liked some hope for surf on Sun­day but for now, the wind was still fair­ly strong. It had dropped off a bit from the day before but we’d decid­ed it would be a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to keep active and get in a good walk. At first, the plan was to walk to Woola­combe and to the top of Potter’s Hill but that turned out to just be part of it. Easewell Farm’s loca­tion is just on the north­ern edge of the west fac­ing Atlantic coast and right next to it is Morte Point which we’ve known from pre­vi­ous vis­its is a great place to walk and see the seals. Despite being sum­mer and with the sun actu­al­ly shin­ing, the wind was bit­ing so it was a lit­tle dif­fi­cult to know what to wear, for­tu­nate­ly a T-shirt, shorts and a hoody was suf­fi­cient. And of course, appro­pri­ate footwear, instead I opt­ed for my Vans.

The views as you walk around Morte Point are real­ly some­thing else, since my first vis­it to this area I have nev­er been dis­ap­point­ed from what can be seen. On approach­ing the coast we released from the white hors­es out afar and the lumpy mess on the coast­line that we were right not to take the surf­boards out. Fol­low­ing the coast­path around the point even­tu­al­ly meets the road between Mor­ti­hoe and Woola­combe, it’s then just a short walk down into the vil­lage of Woola­combe. Time to get some­thing for lunch and an ice cream before mov­ing on to Potter’s Hill. Out of the wind, the sun was real­ly warm, the whole coast­line just lights up on a sun­ny day, hence being named the Gold Coast.

A view across Rockham Bay towards Bull Point Lighthouse
A view across Rock­ham Bay towards Bull Point Light­house

Potter’s Hill is just south of Woola­combe, it’s only a short walk up from the busy crowds of Woola­combe and when you arrive you feel like you’re in a dif­fer­ent place alto­geth­er, the views are astound­ing and on this occa­sion we were the only peo­ple there. Once we had tak­en in the views and placed our own stones on the rock pile, the sug­ges­tion came of walk­ing on towards Puts­bor­ough, it was still ear­ly after­noon and the only oth­er plan we had for the day was to stop off at the pub on the way back to watch the Germany/Italy game in the evening.

It feels like I have my very own hill.
It feels like I have my very own hill.

The path climbing Potter's Hill, looking back towards Woolacombe
The path climb­ing Potter’s Hill, look­ing back towards Woola­combe

Looking from the top of Potter's Hill, shows exactly how blown out the surf is
Look­ing from the top of Potter’s Hill, shows exact­ly how blown out the surf is
Looking over towards Putsborough and beyond. Hartland Point being in the very far distance
Look­ing over towards Puts­bor­ough and beyond. Hart­land Point being in the very far dis­tance

The walk up across Woola­combe Down con­tin­ues to astound, with great views out and beyond the head­land between Puts­bor­ough and Croyde. The sky was still very blue and the wind was real­ly blow­ing at over 500 ft above sea-lev­el. We stopped off to watch the launch of a handglid­er launch which was good to see, rather than the usu­al run­ning down a hill and tak­ing to the air, it had to be held down by three oth­ers, then when released it just took a ver­ti­cal climb towards the sky. It was inter­est­ing speak­ing to those who had launched the glid­er, as with any sport there are so many things to learn, some of what we were told about it I’m sure only scraped the sur­face. Good that they’re hav­ing fun, but that’s not a sport for me, I pre­fer to be on the ground, or water.

Mov­ing on, we even­tu­al­ly dropped down the hills and onto Puts­bor­ough Sands, it was near­ly high tide and the beach was quite busy. Although we couldn’t be sure what had hap­pened, we had the unfor­tu­nate sight of medics see­ing to an indi­vid­ual on the beach as we arrived, pos­si­bly a surfer, lat­er to be tak­en by the HM Coast­guard heli­copter.

At this point, we were all ready for a cof­fee, the beach shop at Puts­bourough gave us a chance to get out of the wind and begin to feel a lit­tle nor­mal again. Sat drink­ing a cof­fee, there were a few surfers who had no doubt realised or adhered to Eyeball’s advice that Puts­bourough could be the best spot for the day. Pos­si­bly true, as by this point the waves had began to form more in the way of lines rather than the lumpy mess we had seen ear­li­er. We were still hap­py with our choice not to go in today though, the fight against the ocean would have just wrecked us for the next day.

Walk­ing back to Woola­combe via the beach was a great deal eas­i­er than over Woola­combe Down. Sam’s idea for a beach clean result­ed in quite a col­lec­tion of plas­tic and this was only a small part of what was there, sad to think what that will all do to marine life.

The collection of plastic picked up between Putsborough and Woolacombe
The col­lec­tion of plas­tic picked up between Puts­bor­ough and Woola­combe

Sam certainly picked up the most plastic on this beach clean
Sam cer­tain­ly picked up the most plas­tic on this beach clean

Once in Woola­combe it was time to eat again, Fish and Chips of course, the sta­ple diet of any week­ender at the sea­side. Tim­ing couldn’t have been bet­ter, we arrived just ahead of a huge group of lads, prob­a­bly down here on a stag do. Tim­ing con­tin­ued to work to our favour when we arrived at Cap­tain Jacks to watch the foot­ball, there was nobody there when we arrived so we got a table right in front of the large screen, moments lat­er the place was full. Time then to relax with what was planned to be a cou­ple of pints but thanks to extra time and penal­ties we made it to our third. Hav­ing walked enough for one day, we got a taxi back to the camp­site, was only £5.80, so well worth it. Tim­ing for this was spot on too, we walked out the pub and the taxi was parked up out­side.

It was now get­ting late, so con­sid­er­ing we would be surf­ing the next morn­ing when the winds were fore­cast to be at their light­est, we had a cup of tea and called it a night. The wind had already died down so things were look­ing hope­ful in the morn­ing.

Sun­day morn­ing, first thing I do is check the web­cams on the Mag­ic Sea­weed App, result! The sea had cleared up overnight and the wind had dropped to almost noth­ing. After pack­ing up the vans, which was fair­ly quick on this occa­sion as it was too windy to put much out­side, we took off in the vans. We had not yet decid­ed where we were going to surf today, Saun­ton would be busy, as would be Woola­combe, we know of a few oth­er spots with­out the crowds but our jour­ney didn’t actu­al­ly last too long. Just as we dropped down from Mor­ti­hoe we looked out across Combesgate Beach and it was look­ing great. I’ve nev­er surfed at Combesgate before, prob­a­bly the only place on this part of the coast I haven’t. The tide was ebbing and not far of low tide so was the per­fect chance to try it out. At high tide the water just crash­es up to the rocks. Park­ing was easy here, there is plen­ty along­side the road and with it not yet mid morn­ing, plen­ty of spaces avail­able and the park­ing charges are less than some of the car parks in the area.

As we approached Combesgate, the water was looking so inviting
As we approached Combesgate, the water was look­ing so invit­ing
Looking out at Combesgate on a lovely sunny day with fun waves to be had
Look­ing out at Combesgate on a love­ly sun­ny day with fun waves to be had

Once in our wet­suits and boards waxed, we were down the steps and into the water. No mat­ter how much I stretch and warm up, those first few waves are always the worst but once los­ened up, the fun begins. It wasn’t a very big day, no more than 2–3ft on the odd set, but this is how I like it. We end­ed up surf­ing for 3 hours, great fun but at the end of it I was done! If I had stayed at home and seen the web­cams I reck­on I would have cried. We got back to the vans just as the tick­ets were about to expire, feel­ing excep­tion­al­ly hun­gry and ready for Sun­day lunch.

Often when vis­it­ing Woola­combe I will take a route in via Braun­ton which gives a chance to stock up at Tesco. This time how­ev­er, fol­low­ing direc­tions giv­en by my iPhone’s Waze App, I took the B3230 via Mud­di­ford and noticed what looked like a good pub to stop off for Sun­day lunch, The Mud­di­ford Inn. There­fore, with the appetite of a wolf we stopped off on the way home and found they serve food until 8pm, result! Roast chick­en for me, fol­lowed by sum­mer fruit crum­ble and cus­tard, now that’s a good way to regain my lost calo­ries! The sun was shin­ing still, the weath­er was on our side and sit­ting in the gar­den was a great way to unwind before the jour­ney home.

The Muddiford Inn
The Mud­di­ford Inn

It was time to say good­bye to Matthias and Sam, until the next surf trip (next week­end no doubt). More often or not, when trav­el­ling with friends in oth­er vans it’s a case of con­voy­ing home, but not rec­om­mend­ed in this instance, as sug­gest­ed by Matthias, his 1.9td is stan­dard, no tun­ing to the tur­bo or fuel pump so that sad real­i­ty of 50 MPH up hills. There­fore once past Barn­sta­ple I left them and took off home­ward bound.

NOTE: Thanks to Sam for many of the pic­tures.

Previous post

Trying to finish reading a book.

Next post

Gone Logging: Surfing our way through France, Spain and Portugal - An Introduction

The Author

sharkbait

sharkbait

A complete self-confessed VW nutjob. My VW T4 is actually my first and only VW I have ever owned but I love it. Having bought my van as a straight forward panel van, I enjoyed the process of converting it how I wanted. Now the van is all done, it's getting out and exploring I love to do.