Saturday, 25 July 2015

Surf and Sun in Perranporth, Cornwall

6 - 10 July 2015

Years since my last surf session, or camping holiday, our recent trip to Perranporth on the north coast of Cornwall was bound to hold a few surprises.

After a long drive from Dorset, we arrived at Perran Sands Holiday Park in late afternoon and battled the strong winds to set up camp. What had happened to the warm and still days of the week before?

Ideally located in the dunes, our campsite was a steep but short walk to Perranporth Beach which took my breath away with its rough naturalness and the size of the waves. The main reason Mark and I decided on Cornwall was for the surf, as we both wanted the chance to develop our board skills.

We rented a learner board and a couple of wetsuits from Bathsheba Surf Shop in the village. It was about £45 for 3 days - which is a great deal - and luckily they were also happy to look after the board overnight, saving us a long walk back to the campsite with the board under our arms!

Mark heading out for his first surf

Our first day's surfing had some rough conditions, not helped by the fact I had my head in SUP mode after my recent class, but despite the weather I managed to get to my feet a few times. Incredibly, the beach was spattered with jelly fish, both washed up and the tide line, and in the shallows. Jelly fish are a big fear of mine, so I was proud I managed to put it to the back of my mind and focus on catching some waves.

The following day was much sunnier, warmer and had all round better surf conditions. Both Mark and I got a few hours surfing in between dozing on the beach, reading and lunch at The Watering Hole. The water was sparkling blue and there was a real summer feeling in the air. Before we knew it, it was 4pm and we'd spent 6 hours in the water! We were exhausted but had had an amazing day.

The summer returns; bring me the sea!

Back at the campsite I was enjoying spending so much time outdoors. There's something about scrambling about in the morning to make a cup of tea and midnight walks to the toilets which is reviving at least if not relaxing. No phone signal or wifi definitely helped us digitally detox, something I desperately needed.

Perran Sands is a family orientated park, with all the child friendly amenities you'd need as a family. I admit, we were a little out of place as a twenty-something couple with a 3 man tent and a BBQ. We were surrounded by touring vehicles with electric hookups and windbreaks, and whilst they undoubtedly waited out the wind and rain with the evening entertainment, we cuddled up to watch Skyfall in our sleeping bags with a mug of Dorset Tea and a pack of Fudges Florentines.

Once we'd worn ourselves out on the waves and had fastened our ear plugs in place against the wind, it was easy to drift off, still feeling the rock of the waves in our bones knowing we'd squeezed all the surfing and sun tanning we could out of the British weather.

59 years between these pictures of me and my uncle in Perranporth

A special few moments on our trip included receiving a collection on photos from my mum of my grandparents and baby uncle enjoying a day in Perranporth in 1959. My Nan was the epitome of a pin up, and I had fun re-creating the images, though the light conditions weren't in our favour.

One sunny morning, we made our way to Newquay, which I had been to a few times before as a teenager with a friend and her family. I thought I'd have some memories coming back to me, but I was left blind to everything but the vision of boardmasters on Fistral Beach back in the early 2000's. Newquay is still a lively town, and Fistral Beach is certainly worth your time, especially with The Stables, and Rick Stein restaurants all to hand.

Fistral Beach, Newquay

Keep sailing with my coming posts which will take more trips down memory lane as I blog about my adventures before I launched Weigh The Anchor in my Sail back series, including 24 hours in Bruges and cruising down the Nile.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Bournemouth

SUP is the most recent watersport to take the UK coast and waterways in its trendy grip. Stand up paddle boarding has already seen spin offs in the field of SUP Pilates and Yoga take this sport, which started in Hawaii, to the masses.

And it's easy to see why it's so popular; participants use a board slightly wider than a surf board and paddle themselves from a standing position. This requires a lot of balance and works your core muscles as you fight against the water for stability, which is great news for anyone like me trying to find new and exciting ways to workout. Not so much a sport as a way to enjoy the water on a day with no significant surf, SUP has been quickly adopted in my hometown of Bournemouth, so I thought it was high time I tried it. I'm happy I can now add SUP to my summer of watersports which has already included sailing and kayaking.

My first class was called off on account of the conditions, but on Sunday 5th July the weather went my way and I made my way excitedly to Surf Steps on Boscombe Beach for class. We started with a safety briefing and Baywatch style warm up before getting straight into the water.

I'll be there!

There was a breeze and the water wasn't quite the mill pond still you'd prefer for a first lesson, so I took my time starting off knelt down and paddling along. Some of the other people in the class were quick to stand and make it all look very easy, so I thought I'd give it a go. Using my hands to bring my feet up beneath me I steadily straightened my legs and stood tall before falling quickly backwards onto my bottom. At least I didn't fall in (to begin with).

I quickly learned that with the wind in the direction it was, my best bet was to paddle into it knelt, then turn and give standing a try whilst the wind was giving me a slightly smoother ride. This way I could practice standing and paddling with some success.

Standing up!

The funniest moment was as I fell off the side of my board and, as I pulled myself back onto it, ended up throwing myself head first, feet in the air, off the other side. I knew my husband had seen from the safety of the beach, and I couldn't help laughing to myself so much the instructor had to ask if I was alright!

Toward the end of the class the wind had picked up even more, but I was happy to paddle about from the relative safety of my knees, enjoying being out on the water. I had such a blast, and can't wait to grab a board on a still summer evening over the next few months. Call me converted, man!

Book your class

SUP and surfing beginner lessons are available from Surf Steps in Boscombe for £35 for a 2 hour class with board, paddle and wet suit provided.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Bermondsey Beer Mile, London

A craft-beer-athon isn't my usual style, but after developing a taste for red beers at the summer fiesta in Santo Stefano, Italy last year, I was up for the chance to discover the London scene.

The Bermondsey Beer Mile is a collection of craft beer breweries all tucked around the train line running from South Bermondsey to Tower Bridge.

Bermondsey isn't an area of London I'm familiar with, and heading up to stop number 1 through an industrial estate, I didn't think I was going to enjoy my day. Mark and his friends had planned the day and brought the wives along too. As we approached Forepure though, my spirits lifted and I realised this is an already pretty developed operation, hiding behind the scenes in the city. Here's what happened:

1. Forepure

There was already a queue and a crowd at 11am, and of the most unlikely people. Seniors from up north, a loved up couple and a few day trippers like us. Where were all the hipsters I was expecting?

Branded glassware, electronic tills and a street food van were all in place, as well as port-a-loo's and a few scattered benched. Don't worry that is stinks of booze - it's also the brewery. Soak up the factory like atmosphere without a hair net or safety goggle in sight.

On the suggestion of my husband, I chose my first pre-noon drink to be a Roux. I don't claim to be a beer expert, but it was tasty! I was pleased they had the bottle option available, as the draught tap was off.

2. Partizan Brewery

A short walk from Forepure, stop number 2 along the mile was Partizan. Tucked up an old access road and nestled into a recently renovated train line arch, Partizan had a proper loo and a few benches. A quick scout at the menu had me settled on Saison with Lemongrass. It was very pale and refreshing, the lemongrass adding a delicious spice - this was a beer I'd happily drink again!

We'd clearly beaten the crown here, but it wasn't long before they caught up, some poor woman actually running to ahead of the crowd! In her defense though, there was only one toilet, and the seals were about to be broken.

3. Kernel Brewery

Stop 3 is The Kernal Brewery which passed by an emerging micro market featuring an Enoteca, cheese shop and honey shop.

Kernals was larger than the previous 2 breweries, and had a shop where you could buy beer to enjoy later. No outside drinking was allowed here, and I wasn't as impressed with the options, settling for Table Beer.

It was very busy with the queue quickly lengthening as the bulk of the mile-tourists arrived. Stay ahead to get served quicker.

The best bit about Kernals was it's proximity to food and the fact it had not 1 but 2 toilets!

4. Brew by Numbers

This is were we found the hipsters. Just a hop, skip and a jump from Maltby Market (see bottom of post) Brew by Numbers was where we found the mustache'd crowd.

A few long benches, hole in the wall shop and upturned barrels were all it seemed to take to turn this brewery opposite a housing estate into a hangout.

I can't really remember what I drank, but it was refreshing, and beer at the very least. By now we were starting to feel the effects!

5. The Bottle Shop

Around the corner, The Bottle shop beckoned us in, and dizzy from all the brew, Mark and I opted to share a Brown Ale with Maple Syrup. I only had one sip before deciding I should have had the one with Rooibos (tea).

At least The Bottle Shop had free water on the tables though. That was much needed after a day's walking and drinking.

The Bottle Shop is where we ended our mile. I couldn't go on. I needed something non gassy, preferably served in a cocktail glass. But we did pass the final stop Ansbach and Bobday; it was crowded!

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the Bermondsey Beer Mile and I have a lot of respect for local businesses being creative with how they find customers. Who needs the likes of multiple retailers when you can pop to your local brewer for the goods!

Maltby Market

One of my favourite parts of the day was exploring Maltby Market; a foodie nirvana squeezed down a back alley. Fresh oysters and smoked salmon rubbed shoulders with scotch eggs and ice cream sandwiches.

For lunch I opted for a Brazilian steak wrap, and a few squared of baklava; I even for 2 for the price of 3. There were girly drinks on one side and grilling on the other, but the atmosphere was electric!

Map of Bermondsey Beer Mile