A three day surf trip thanks to ex-hurricane Joaquin
With summer now firmly packed up and far behind, I finally find I’m back on the road again. It has been a good summer this year, however, exploring new places in the van has not been high on the agenda. Most of my overnight stays in Cornwall have been in a hotel car park, not even any views! June was a busy month, with three trips away, I have not featured these on my blog as they will soon be appearing in the VW Bus magazine. The first two weeks in September were spent in Portugal, enjoying the warm rays of the sun with some real pumping surf which a friend and I enjoyed for all but three days of our holiday.
Since my return from Portugal, the ocean has been fairly flat, with just the odd trickle of swell getting through at times but this week the weather has changed and with a low pressure containing the remnants of Hurricane Joaquin and light or off shore winds forecast, it seemed an ideal time to get away for a few days.
During my trip to Portugal, I couldn’t stop thinking about the place I first attempted to surf. It feels like my local break, but it’s 125 miles from my house. Saunton Sands is a complete contrast to the fast waves of the west coast of Portugal, here you can see waves coming from far out, great for longboards. This was the weekend’s first location, apart from a day trip in August to Putsborough, I have not surfed this area for a while now and Friday’s forecast of 1–2 foot with high second period waves, it seemed too good to miss and on arrival it definitely appeared to be what I hoped.
After donning my wetsuit and booties I was straight out, not hard to get out back on a small day fortunately. I had very little sleep the night before, earlier in the week I caught a nasty cold and was still recovering, I just had no energy whatsoever, I’d paddle but nothing. Luckily, after half an hour or so something clicked and I started catching a few nice 1–2 foot green waves, there’s quite a long ride to be had on the waves at Saunton, even on a small day, great fun! It was quite busy too for a weekday, pretty much everyone with longboards and many of my age or older which is great to see.
Some time later I realised the sun had dropped low in the sky, time was getting on and I had not yet sorted where I’m going to stay and I needed to cook dinner, so one more wave and it was back to the van. I grabbed my camera before leaving though and took a walk back to the beach for a few shots.
Knowing I would be in Newquay on Saturday, I planned to stop at a campsite somewhere half way, close to the A39 Atlantic Highway. The Atlantic Highway is a great road, especially when quiet, as it was when I travelled, the sweeping corners and hills, together with a smooth surface make it fun to drive and glimpses of the Atlantic often come into site along the route. I was now getting hungry so didn’t hang around enjoying the scenery too much. On arrival at Penhalt Farm, it was almost completely dark, I could just about make out Widemouth Bay far below. The owner of the site was a friendly chap, I paid just £6 for the night which is well worth it.
Once the van was set up for the evening, I started preparing dinner and at the same time, watch the England/Estonia game on my iPad. Tribute was my ale of choice this evening, seeing I was now in Cornwall and was much appreciated. I decided to cook up rosemary and garlic lamb chops with parsley butter potatoes for dinner, quite simple really and full of flavour, the full recipe and method is at the bottom of this page.
The next morning seemed quite dark on awakening, on pulling back the curtains I could see why. The whole coastline was shrouded in mist, something to be expected this time of year. I also discovered I was pretty much the only person on the whole campsite, the few caravans dotted about seemed to be empty.
It was also a little chilly so I thought I’d fire up the Propex heater for a few minutes and snooze in bed, but after just a minute or so, the heater had stopped, the light on the controller was flashing. Straight away I realised I had ran out of gas, absolutely gutted as I couldn’t even make a cup of tea, yet alone cook up breakfast. Therefore, the best thing to do was to pack up and move on, I didn’t have too much time before I was planning to meet a mate in Newquay anyway.
After an hour or so, and a stop at a garage to pick up some propane, I was in Newquay. Having not had any breakfast I was quite hungry by this point, so after meeting up with my mate Matt, we grabbed breakfast at the cafe upstairs in the Watershed, Newquay which is a great little cafe, this set us up good for a surf session.
It was late morning before we took to the water at Fistral, we watched for a while and figured mid-beach would be good for us. Just as we were leaving the van, I heard a knocking coming from what seemed like the inside of the van. I then thought it might be the handbrake so gave the van a bit of a nudge, the knocking increased slightly, very strange. I thought the van seemed fairly solid so set off anyway, it’s then when I noticed the cheeky seagull tapping his beak on my shiny front bumper, obviously thinking he was having a go at another bird.
We lasted in the water no more than 10 minutes, we found once in, the waves were quite fat, and with the large crowds, it wasn’t too much fun, so we thought we’d see what it was like around the headland and Towan, this was a mistake. There wasn’t anything there except for a bit of wind chop. We hung around for a little while, catching a few tiny waves, I even pearled and wiped out on what couldn’t have been more than a 1ft wave, just from trying too hard. We decided to call it a day, Matt had to work later and I needed to sort out a campsite to stay for the night.
My original plan for the weekend was to leave Newquay and head to South Devon, picking up the surf at Bantham for Sunday, but seeing we had not achieved much in Newquay, I chose to find somewhere local to stay and meet up again with Matt on the Sunday. The forecast was still looking good, 2–3ft with up to 13s periods, offshore light winds.
After leaving Matt I seemed to drive around for ages trying to find a campsite, I wanted to stay fairly local, but not in a ‘holiday park’ type of place, these are great for families with kids but I just need somewhere to park up. I eventually gave up trying to find somewhere as most had closed in September, I ended up staying at Quarryfield Caravan Park. By the time I arrived it was dark anyway, so just a case of settling down for the night. A couple of ales and a movie and I was ready to sleep.
Next morning, I was up with enough time to cook up some pancakes before meeting up for another surf. I had bought some strawberries before leaving home, these were in the fridge so nice and fresh still.
By 10am I was packed up and back in Newquay. There was plenty of time to get back in the water so we took a drive around some of the local beaches to see if we could get away from the crowds. The first stop was at Polly Joke, this is a small bay to the south of Newquay which rarely picks up swell, facing north west. It was a good place to take a little walk though. There is a National Trust car park here which is accessed by a small road through the Treago Farm camp site, this is where I should have stayed and will do in future as it’s in a lovely setting on National Trust land.
There are two families of seals at Poly Joke, one either side of the bay, one was swimming across when we were there, I’ve not yet come across a seal when surfing, but I’m not looking forward to it, they’re huge.
After Poly Joke, we took a quick look at Crantock, the tide was a long way out but again, it didn’t look too good so we decided we would just take on Fistral again. We were parked up and in our wetsuits by midday and ready to get in.
The surf was really good at Fistral, Matt caught quite a few waves on his board but I was struggling, I was not in the best of shape as I had lapsed on my exercising while I had my recent cold, but I was also struggling again with crowds, by time I decided to just take off at them, I was getting tired so then decided to leave Matt out back and take on some scraps on the inside, this was good fun and I knew if there was nobody else on the wave, I would have it. Overall though, it was a poor session for me, I just didn’t get it together.
It was now mid afternoon and time to think about getting home, so I dropped Matt off at the Hotel California and headed back on the A30.
Rosemary and garlic lamb chops with parsley butter potatoes
- 1 large frying pan
- 1 medium saucepan with lid
- 1 small saucepan
- 2 hobs
- 1 Fridge (if not cooking straight away)
- 2 plates
- Kitchen towel
- Aluminium foil
- 1 good kitchen knife
- 2–4 lamb cutlets, trimmed of fat and bones wrapped in aluminium foil
- 450g Jersey Royal potatoes
- Large knob of butter
- Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- Sea salt
- Ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 4 cloves of peeled garlic
- 6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, 35 to 40 minutes. This can be done while you cook the lamb cutlets.
- Sprinkle the lamb cutlets with salt and pepper
- Add the knob of butter to a plastic bowl and place on top of the potatoes until the butter melts
- Stir the parsley into the melted butter
- Heat a frying pan to a medium heat
- Add the olive oil, lamb cutlets, garlic cloves and 2 sprigs of rosemary
- Fry the cutlets until they are golden brown and cooked to your liking, 3–4 minutes on each side
- Remove the cutlets from the pan and set aside
- Toss the butter mix with the drained potatoes and season with salt and pepper
To serve, place the lamb on a plate, garnish with a sprig of rosemary and top with a fried garlic clove and add the potatoes.