Sea swimming in Cornwall

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Goodness me. I haven’t written a blog post in 2 months. I guess I have been busy getting back into the groove of the ‘new-normal’, returning to the office, being social again and.. getting guinea pigs! More on that another time. Recently, Zoe and I took ourselves on a mini road trip around the Cornish coast and it was a joy. We stayed in 4 different places (including a book-ended trip to my parent’s house where they happily did mountains of clothes washing for us, offered endless cups of tea and there was my elderly cat to cuddle. Lush). Our 3 other stops were in the areas of Polzeath, St Agnes and Penzance. Despite being a Cornish gal, I haven’t actually been to that many different parts of my home county and it was so nice to have the time to explore various beaches, towns, coves and cream tea offerings. I thought it would be fun to do a round up of the trip via our outdoor swims and the snacks we ate afterwards.

Seaton

Our first swim took place the evening that we arrived at my parent’s house who are based in Saltash (a place I regularly moaned about growing up but now love to return to. Absolute small town vibes but a stones throw from some amazing beauty spots). After dinner my Dad suggested we kicked off our Cornish adventure with an evening dip at Seaton. Seaton is a large, pebbly beach with a carpark right next to it meaning no climbing required. It is very busy in the Summer days and popular with families and dogs but at around 7pm when we headed there it was fairly quiet with lingering day time bbq-ers and a few brave kids in wetsuits dipping their toes. This is the first evening sea swim I have done in a while. I will say now that all of our swims were cold, initially, but after the initial shock passed it felt great. Getting your chest/shoulders in is definitely the hardest bit, I usually wait to do this until my legs have adapted – or maybe gone numb. We bobbed about for around 20 minutes and revelled in the fact that our holiday had begun. We got changed gracefully underneath our towels before Zoe ventured into the v.fancy restaurant to ask for two takeaway hot chocolates, with whipped cream and marshmallows, obviously. It turns out that I can stress about money no end but will happily depart with £7 for two hot chocs after a swim without a second thought and did so regularly on this holiday. We took said hot chocolates to another level by dipping in some salty pretzel filled milk chocolate from Aldi which was a taste sensation. After warming up we went for a walk along the coast path. There is a really nice pathed walk underneath some houses that look straight out of ‘Selling sunset’ and some rocks to climb if you’re feeling adventurous.

Swim rating: A solid 7/10. Got the holiday off to a great start
Snack rating: 8/10. Anything involving two types of chocolate doesn’t deserve anything less
Beach rating: 4/10. Severe lack of amenities. Wouldn’t go here for a ‘day on the beach’ but nice for a walk or swim




Tregonhawke

Tregonhawke beach is probably my favourite beach in Cornwall. It’s what my Mum calls a ‘locals beach’ but I think it is more that a lot of people can’t arsed with the effort required to climb down and back up to your car. It is steep but worth it, promise. We parked at the top of the cliffs in a farmer’s field (£5 for the day). You can park on the side of the road but there are strict rules on wheel placement and rumour has it that if your car wheel is placed at an angle and onto the main stretch of road, you’ll get a ticket. We met our friends April and Lucy and their dog Ruby and spent such a nice day in the sunshine. Tregonhawke is part of Whitsands bay and is biiiiig. There is plenty of space even though we were there on a bank holiday August weekend. We spent a good hour in the sea before deciding to hire a paddleboard (£10 for an hour) from the rental shack next to the café. It was great fun but the waves made standing atop of the board extremely difficult so we mainly stayed on our knees and pursuaded someone else to push us around. We even got Ruby to have a go, but she wasn’t so sure.

After our paddle boarding we headed to the café for snacks and managed to get ice-creams and fresh watermelon slices! The café does loads of great options including hot food and they have an adorable pully system that carries the stock down the cliff to them. There isn’t a loo so you either need to climb back up the cliff or use the sea (no number twos allowed). Before returning to the car we were eager to find a giant rock pool that we had seen last time we visited when we looked over the cliff top. We had seen a woman swimming there naked and she looked like an actual mermaid. To get there we had to walk the length of the beach towards Sharrow point and tuck in to the cliff. I wasn’t feeling so confident we would find it and worried that the mermaid we had seen was the result of severe dehydration but we turned the corner and it was there! There were 2 young girls and their Dad jumping in from a rock (it was sooo deep) but they left after a little while and we had our own little spot of paradise. We kept our cossies on but did decided to eat some seaweed for a dare and I impressed myself by not being scaredy cat and jumping in from what felt like a dizzying height but doesn’t look so impressive on the video.

Swim rating: 9/10. Absolutely dreamy, added hilarity of trying to paddleboard earned this swim an extra point
Snack rating: 5/10. Aldi’s own brand ice-creams being flogged at Magnum prices
Beach rating: 9/10. If there was a loo on the beach I honestly think it would be deserving of 10/10




Trevaunance Cove

On our way to our first Air BnB we decided to stop off at Trevaunance Cove to break up the journey. We parked at the top of the cliff at a place that only accepted change so I had to ask someone to lend us 10p. We then found out there was a cheaper and card accepting car park right by the cove. You live and learn. When we arrived you could barely see the beach but there were a few keen people sat on rocks waiting for it to appear. It did slowly get bigger throughout the morning but it was still a small space which got very busy! That being said, we managed to find a nice spot on a stone step providing an excellent back rest for reading. In fact we got so involved in our books that we hadn’t realised we were sat in complete shadow once the sun had come out so we relocated once we could see some sand.

The sea was choppy and there were a lot of children with body boards meaning we had to swim out a little way to get some space. Despite that it was a really nice spot which boasted toilets(!!!), an RNLI charity shop, a v.boujie restaurant and a decent café serving sandwiches, cakes, pasties, ice-creams and more. As we finished our swim prior to the sun appearing we opted for hot chocolate after a quick change hidden behind an unclaimed beach hut where I definitely flashed my bum by atleast 3 times (not on purpose).

Swim rating: 5/10
Snack rating: 7/10. A score to match the cost of 2 hot chocolates. They were better than the ones at Seaton but I didn’t have any pretzel chocolate to dunk. Gutting
Beach rating: 5/10




Polzeath

Polzeath is touristy heaaaaven. There are tons of gift shops, cafés, ice-cream and fish and chip shops and lots of posh looking people ready to spend their money.. not as posh as the people seen in Padstow and St Ives but still second-home-by the-sea level. We parked in a farmer’s field again for £5 and these farmers must be making a bloody fortune. We ended up right by the main strip of shops and close to the beach. There was a car park closer but this was jam (after the cream) packed. The beach was full to the brim of people and it felt like a proper brits at the seaside sort of day. There were endless amounts of group going for surf lessons but a distinct lack of waves which made watching their lesson very entertaining.

Similar to Trevaunance cove we had to swim a little bit out to find a quiet spot of sea to bob about in via an obstacle course of bodyboards but there was a great atmosphere in the water. Due to aforementioned lack of waves you could do a lot of lying on your back and looking at the sky without fear of being carried off into the depths of the ocean which is always a bonus. After our swim we wandered around the shops and bought some supplies for an evening in at our Shepherd’s hut (they have a very well stocked Spar).

Swim rating: 6/10
Snack rating: 6/10. Just had our classic packed lunch after a swim but did step things up a notch with a trip to Vanilla where I had a rhubarb and salted caramel ice-cream!
Beach rating: 6/10. Busyness lost this spot some points but lots of shops, toilets and cafés mean it is great for a day trip

Chapel Porth/Porthtowan


We decided to have one walking day during our trip and decided on the stretch between Chapel Porth and Porthtowan (around 3 miles but we added in a walk to and from the hotel which we heavily regretted on the return journey). The start and end of this walk offers the opportunity for a swim but we decided to have our dip at the half way point, on Porthtowan beach. We detoured over to the Wheal Coates tin mines once we got to Chapel Porth, as the tide was in, before turning around and passing Chapel Porth on route to Porthtowan. At this point I must mention the Hedgehog ice-cream which we continuously read about in reviews of the area and only available from Chapel Porth. There was a lengthy queue at 10am in the morning for good reason but we decided to have ours on the return leg to give us a boost before a hilly ascent back to our hotel. The walk was glorious and totally took me back to reading the Salt Path, one of my all time favourite books. There was a decent amount of up and down hill along the way and much appreciated benches to stop and take off your back pack, rest your legs and wonder ‘how much further?!’.

We originally wanted to go to Porthtowan because we had read about a beautiful tidal pool in our Wild swimming book. However, despite trying to get it just right for a prime-time swim the pool was pretty much empty. It was still nice to see though and maybe next time we’ll get to go in. Despite our tidal pool woe we still managed to have a lovely swim at Porthtowan which was fairly quiet and had beautiful golden sands and still waters although it is fairly shallow. There is a popular restaurant/bar next to the beach, a village shop and some clean toilets which we used to wash our feet and get changed in before our pilgrimage back to the Chapel Porth ice-cream shop.

Picture this: A scoop of vanilla ice-cream (or you can have chocolate or blackcurrant too) topped with clotted cream and then lazily rolled in honey roasted hazelnuts *chef’s kiss*. They also offer 2 other toppings, the foxy – rolled in homemade flapjack or a kids version – rolled in pick n mix. Hedgehog ice-cream is worthy of every accolade the Chapel Porth TripAdvisor page gives it and in the words of countossie “Been coming here for over 30 years and there is no other ice cream to compare. Go there, get a hedgehog and enjoy”.

Swim rating: 5/10. Mainly because I was disappointed about the tidal pool!
Snack rating: 10/10. I bow down to the Hedgehog ice-cream
Beach rating: 7/10




Praa sands

Our final stop off took us to the very bottom of Cornwall and to the wonderous Praa sands which is genuinely, beautiful. It offers a huge stretch of white sand and plenty of space for you to feel like you are the only ones there! Apparently, and here’s the science, the light sand is made from seashells that have been pulverised by wave action over millions of years and in the sunshine, the sand can look almost blinding (not that we would know..the day we went was very grey and windy but the beach was still a looker!). As we wanted to have a quiet day on the beach we headed away from the lifeguards swimming flags (sorry Mum) but we got our comeuppance as the sea was really rough so we didn’t stay in for too long. It was still a nice but brief swim and accompanied by some chunky chips, the perfect way to finish our road trip. There are some nice cafés, plenty of beach side parking, a restaurant and somewhere to hire surf boards, body boards etc. A great beach for a family especially as a large stretch of the sea is nice and shallow (when the tide is behaving!).

Swim rating: 4/10. Purely due to the sea conditions that day
Snack rating: 6/10
Beach rating: 8.5/10


There were a few other places which we passed and didn’t swim and the one I really wish I’d packed my swimming gear for was Rock. We got a boat from there over to Padstow and on the return leg a beautiful sandy beach had appeared and water that almost begged for you to get in! Next time..

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you’re interested in reading more about my more local wild swimming, check out this blog post. It feels nice to be writing again.

Wild swimming in Bristol

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Itchy feet during lock down has seen the UK desperate to get outside whenever they can. Whilst many have laced up their trainers and pounded the pavements, others have opted to plunge into rivers, seas, lakes and lagoons and enjoy the chill of a wild swim. I am one of those people. I am also someone who has had a pretty tricky relationship with exercise over the years and it has been the best feeling to find something that calms me, connects me to nature and encourages me to be gentle with my body.

“When you swim, you feel your body for what it mostly is – water – and it begins to move with the water around it. No wonder we feel such sympathy for beached whales; we are beached ourselves at birth. To swim is to experience how it was before we were born.”Roger Deaken

I thought it would be useful to collate the places I have been swimming in and around Bristol other the last few months. I don’t have any fancy drying kit, or a wetsuit or a swimming cap and that’s the best thing about wild swimming, it’s free, it’s easy to do and it’s really bloody lovely. As a relatively baby wild swimmer I quickly realized how helpful it is to have tips from people who have tread the waters before you and I hope this will encourage you to take the plunge.

Saltford: Mead Ln, Saltford, Bristol BS31 3ER

Saltford is the first place that I swam this year and it is my favourite. It can be reached off the Bristol to Bath cycle path (about 10 miles from the start of the path in Bristol) or by car – although be warned that the road directly next to the river where we used to park has now been filled with double yellow lines so parking is very limited. There are many easy access points into the water from both sides of the river. Being 5ft11 I sometimes struggle to find places that are deep enough for me to properly swim but I can’t touch the bottom at Saltford and there is a large area to do some energetic swimming. That being said, this probably isn’t the best place for children as it gets deep fast. This is definitely a place to bring a picnic as there aren’t many shops close by, however, there are 2 pubs along the main swimming stretch.

Dundas aqueduct: Brassknocker Basin, Monkton Combe BA2 7JD

Swimming at Dundas is pretty magical. We swam here on a really hot day and there were many families lining the ampitheatre style seating down to the water. Getting in and out of the water is easy and there are shallower and deeper parts meaning that it is suitable for all ages. There is limited (paid for) parking so I’d advise going early if visiting in the Summer. Getting to swim underneath an aqueduct is fantastic although watch out for the teens who love diving off the bank just beyond the bridge. Despite being busy you can soon find spaces of quiet if you swim away from the main hubbub and you’ll be greeted by lots of electric blue dragonflies flying the lily pads. Make sure you bring some cash as on sunny days there a canal boat selling delicious Cornish ice-cream.


Clevedon Marine lake: 170 Church road, Clevedon BS21 7TU

I’m from Cornwall and every now and again I need to be by the sea. Growing up, we swam in the sea all year round. October was always my favourite because on clambering back to the sand my Mum would have salty chips and hot chocolate to return my Dad and I to a functioning temperature. Sadly, Bristol is lacking in beaches but it almost makes up for it by being in driving distance of Clevedon which boasts it’s own marine lake. The marine lake was first opened in 1929 and has been kept full by the high tides every since. If you are driving there is a car park right next to the lake or on street options. Clevedon is also easily reachable by bus form the centre of Bristol. There are plenty of places to sit around the lake and there is a smaller shallow pool for children aswell as a very large deep pool for more serious swimmers. You will often seen triathletes training in Clevedon but it is suitable for all. It is fantastic on a hot day to perch on the edge of the lake overlooking the sea and the pier (you can almost kid yourself that your abroad!). When you have finished swimming there are lots of nice local walks, pubs and fish and chip shops – which as family tradition stands, is a must after a cold swim.

Important to note: Make sure to check that the marine lake is open before visiting as it is closed during hide tide when the pool is being refilled or if the water quality is poor.

Warleigh weir: Ferry Ln, Claverton, Bath BA2 7BH

We swam at Warleigh weir after a hot day of gardening. I was desperate for a swim and despite being told Warleigh weir would be absolutely packed we still went. The rumours were true, on a hot day Warleigh has people packed in like sardines and we even had to queue to get into the water. Be warned, when the sun is shining Warleigh feels more like a festival booze up than a tranquil place to dip on a hot day. That being said, the water is fantastic. You can sit on the weir and hang your feet into the water or take the plunge and enjoy a large open stretch for swimming. There is a shallower area for children too, lots of rope swings and despite the boozers, there is a family friendly atmosphere.

Bitton

I have swam at Bitton a few times and it is easily accessible via the Bristol to Bath cycle path. Unfortunately there is no parking so a bike is needed for this trip. Just before you come across the railway bridge in Bitton that goes over the river, there is a turn right which takes you down a hill and to the riverside. Access to the water is from a wooden pontoon. When passing recently I noticed a lot of canal boats parked there so it might not be so easy and could cause some annoyance. Getting in is simple, however getting out requires lots of upper body strength. I’m just warning you because I ended up being hauled out by 3 friendly swimmers and it was not chic. The water is deep and there is a large space to swim in. I have heard there are other access points which don’t require annoying boaters or the beached seal routine when you have finished your swim but I am yet to find them.

Another place which deserves an honourable mention is the Portishead open air pool. Less ‘wild’ and more ‘lovely and heated’ but if you enjoy a swim outdoors and aren’t ready to take the plunge with a river then this is a really nice place to come for a dip. You must book before visiting as the swimming sessions are really popular.

I hope this has been helpful and will save me from the many DMs that I receive after uploading photos of wild swims (it does make me feel extremely popular though which is nice). We have so many fantastic swimming spots nearby that can transport you to somewhere which feels very far away from the city. With everything that has been going on in the world, wild swimming has been such a tonic. I hope you find that too. If you try any of the places I have suggested, I would love to hear about it either in the comments or on Instagram.