Wednesday – a tale of two beaches

It’s time to up sticks and for the perennial camper you just hope for dry weather when unpitching. The omens during last night’s storm were not good but the morning breaks calm and sunny, the brisk wind having dried out the tent. Packed, I head off down the coastal road signposted Newquay on the lookout for a nice secluded beach. After a mere 2 miles Trevose Head entices me. It is a picture book Cornish cove village consisting of a mix of newish holiday rentals and old local stone houses. There is a combined store/post office, a socially active church and a minuscule village hall. Equipped with a take-out mocha I plant my fold up seat in a prime spot on the beach allowing me a complete view of the bay from a wind-shielded location.

Trevose Beach
Trevose Beach

This small sandy inlet provides a perfect bubble for young families who can keep an eye on the kids while soaking up the sun. One such family nests next to me and their youngest (James) sets about gleefully transporting shovels of sand to the base of my chair. Mum admonishes him but James is enjoying the game too much for that to stop him. A couple of hours drift by as I read a book and capture the odd gem of dialogue from my neighbours. My favourite was one father suggesting to another that they dig a pool – “for the kids”. Yeah.

It’s lunchtime and my stomach navigates me to the Tredea Inn with its great views down a valley to Porth Cothan beach. They have WiFi and I can help myself. When I ask them for the network key they don’t know it. “Don’t I know it?”. Fortunately the tourist trade is booming and the surrounding cultivated fields suggest a significant local farming economy so shortcomings in the IT skills market won’t keep too many people out of work. Apparently Orange are the major player down the coast as in many places they provide the only coverage, enabling roaming users to access broadband and with it such luxuries as streaming digital radio. For some the “digital switchover” will actually just be the “switch on”. Insights like these really interest me on my travels and locals seem only too eager to spare some time to talk.

It’s easy to forget that tourism is only one (albeit major) spoke in the Cornish economic wheel. Cross country journeys through unheralded small towns like St Eval reveal only minor concessions to tourists with schools, community centres and affordable housing the more prominent landmarks. This presumably is where the disenfranchised locals live, priced out of their ancestral coastal villages and reliant on tourism, farming and – decreasingly – fishing. None of this is headline news but it’s interesting to see how the community is re-inventing itself. The local papers dedicate many column inches to future economies (eg: renewable energy) and as you drive through villages it is common to see hand painted signs along the lines of “Pengelly – building work, car mechanic, calor gas”. People here are resilient, flexible and entrepreneurial.

It’s a one night stay at Watergate Bay Touring Park. I’m not sure when Tregurrian Bay was subsumed by Watergate Bay – maybe around the same time Jamie Oliver opened a trendy restaurant there – but the rebranding exercise is an example of re-invention in action. The bay is – oh dear, I promised myself not to use this word yet again, but here it is – stunning. Vast, golden , vibrant, powerful and made for the big screen.

Watergate Beach
Watergate Beach

It has clearly gone upmarket and there is a slightly different vibe here to the other beaches on my travels. There is a more affluent feel about the visitors with car parks full of Audis and more trendy single sex groups hanging out together. A group play boules nearby but probably call it “petanque”. There are also kite surfers and large groups playing cricket. If there is such a thing as a lifestyle beach this is it. It’s different but I like it because despite some airs of pretension it has soul and life. Like me then!

Afternoon becomes evening, the heat of the sun is on the wane and I decide it is beer o’clock. Doom Bar on a pub balcony – gorgeous! It’s named after an infamous sand spit at the mouth of the river Camel. Legend has it that many a sailor has found his vessel beached on this spit and had no option but to head ashore and get bladdered until high tide. The North Cornwall Guardian I’m reading is to be recommended if you want a grasp of local affairs. For starters it’s a daily rather than a weekly like some of the competition. Also it provides journalistic nuggets such as the major problem with under age drinking in Cornwall. Really?! Also a youth group is looking forward to a visit to Alton Towers. Is there really nothing similar a bit closer? A new cinema has been criticised as being vulnerable to terrorist attack. Let’s hope that Osama hasn’t picked up the Cornish Guardian from his local newsagent in the Pakistan border region (or Iran / Saudi / Texas depending on your conspiracy theorist tendencies) or you’ve just offered him an open goal. There’s nothing as entertaining as self important journalism in local papers!

As the sun sets I return to the campsite via the coastal path and the cliff-top views are breathtaking.

Watergate Cliff
Watergate Cliff

I really do need to work out how to set the camera mode for this kind of photography. It makes point and click easy but there are several menu drill downs to get to the interesting stuff. Back at camp a sign tells me about an apparently “unmissable” band in the bar tonight. Presumably they couldn’t make it and the mulleted 50 year old blokes twanging out soft rock are stand-ins. Unless of course they meant unmissable in an ironic sense – now I get it!