Photography, Travel

Croyde Holiday 2006

Welcome to the photo diary of our trip to Croyde 2006
09/09/2006 – 16/09/2006

In 2006 we revived the some time tradition of taking a holiday down in Croyde on the North Devon coast. According to the tradition this holiday is taken at the start of the off season in September and this means that we have to take pot luck with the weather. On this occasion we were very lucky (or unlucky in the case of those of us who burn in the sun) and had plenty of sunshine and it was even warm enough to swim in the sea without the benefit of a wet suit (unless your name is Lance that is). So my pictures are shown below, sometimes with an explanation and roughly in the order they were taken. My brother’s pictures are on another page just because our combined efforts were far too many for one page and it was easier than trying to shuffle them all together.

The house we stayed in was very nice and very reasonably priced (especially compared to the Unison Holiday Village where I get a discount for being a Unison member and the Ruda Caravan Park where we have stayed before) and was booked through Marsdens Cottage Holidays. The house itself was called Keats Lodge and is located 5 minutes walk from the beach.

Day 1

After much driving and a stop in Barnstaple to pick up much needed supplies, we arrived in Croyde at 1.50pm. After dumping the stuff in the house and grabbing a bite of lunch we headed straight to the beach. We were so excited that there are no pictures of this part of the day. Helen insisted that we must go in the water on our first day and since we had not had time to rent wetsuits yet, that meant going in unprotected. The water was surprisingly warm and pleasant but that did not stop Alan squealing like a girl when he got in above the knees. Still, Harry, Katie and Jacqui all refused to come in in the first place. Lance and Lizzie joined us in the evening (not in the sea) following a grueling journey down from York where Lance’s sister had just got married.

Harry kindly volunteered to cook the first meal (a barbecue in the back garden) and was ably assisted by Lizzie (that’s her with the lamp!) I had what looked like a really excellent picture where Lizzie’s head appeared to have been replaced by the lamp but when I looked at it on the big screen it was so blurred that I decided to throw it away.

The fine food was followed by a trip to the beach for a bit of a camp fire and some fire twirling.

Before the sun went down there were some photo ops in the dunes but these pictures were all taken on old fashioned film cameras so they are not available at present. Oh yes, and Katie encouraged every one to splash each other in the sea so we decided to throw her in as well. She did not take too well to this idea and threatened to never be friends with us again if we did. Obviously we value her friendship as she escaped with only slightly damp feet.

As you can probably tell by Katie’s attire, it was a bit cold on the beach that night. Perhaps she would have benefited from setting herself on fire like some of us did (moi?) but probably blankets are the better solution. Also, setting fire to a large pot of paraffin and then (while attempting to put it out) the sand itself is not a preferred option for keeping warm. I did not do either of those things either, it was someone else honestly.

The big blue bag contains firewood harvested from my little brother’s bed before we set out but no one wanted to light a fire which is probably another reason for the liberal use of blankets pictured above.

On returning from the beach much alcohol was consumed (to be fair much alcohol was resumed before, ask Helen where the big hole in her head came from). Games were played involving drawing and gesticulation and much hilarity. Significant amounts of vodka (flavoured with skittles) and absinthe were consumed (by Helen and Alan at least). Strangely Helen did not feel like moving the next day!

Day 2

Sunday was a bit hectic as Jacqui and Katie had to catch the train back to London that afternoon so there are no pictures from me here. Jacqui and I were up early for a walk along the beach and some inspection of the rock pools. We did not find anything interesting though but discovered that the rocks were very sharp and the pools very cold. Back to the house for lunch and watching the start of the F1 then back to the beach for last minute fun and games before driving down to Barnstaple to get the girls to the train. Helen spent most of the day in self-inflicted repose in front of the TV and Harry once again cooked dinner for us (we began to wonder how we would cope after he went home on Tuesday!)

Day 3

Monday morning and we were down by 2 but expecting my brother to arrive around lunch time. We went into the village in the morning to assess the availability of skim boards and for Lance and Lizzie to hire wetsuits and surf boards. After significant discussion with “the guys” in the little pink surf shop, they actually decided to buy suits but needed more time to think about whether it was really better value than renting. So we decided to go for a wander up to Baggy Point, where there are good views of the sea and the beach at Putsborough and Woolacombe, to give them some time to think.

On what I assume to be Baggy Point itself (there is no plaque or sign to indicate when you get there) there is a wooden pole which we assume to be part of a mast which you can climb up and get a better view. For some reason I neither climbed this pole myself nor took a picture of anyone else climbing it so maybe someone else could supply me with one.

We then headed back down to Croyde, mentally marking the route over to Woolacombe for another day, and had another look round the village. Croyde village is really nice but, unless you like surfing or fudge, there is not a lot to do there. There is a very nice ice cream shop there though (where Alan bought some fudge). About this time John turned up and I left the others in the village to go and let him in the house. We had left a complicated arrangement of keys and strategically unlocked doors so that John could get in (but burglars hopefully could not) if we were out but the plan was scuppered by someone (we never did determine who) bolting as well as locking the back door which he was supposed to get in through!

That evening there was more fire on the beach but I unaccountably failed to get any pictures of it so you will have to look at John’s page to see that.

Day 4

On Tuesday we had to take Harry over to Barnstaple to get his train back to London and we decided to combine this with a trip out. After an amount of deliberation that had to be experienced to be believed we found that there wasn’t anything locally that we wanted to pay to see (The Big Sheep, gnome world and a rather nice set of waterfalls were all discussed and rejected that morning). So instead we went to visit Appledore and Westward Ho! which I believe is unique in being the only place name that has an exclamation point in it. However we only got as far as Appledore and had a great time looking around the quaint streets and checking out the boats. We found a great pub that produced huge amounts of food for us.

Once again I was remiss in my photographic duties and you will have to visit John’s page to see what this village looks like.

[Editor’s note: while looking up the website for The Big Sheep, I discovered that they also have a brewery which might have changed matters if it had been included in the discussion!]

The rest of the day was spent taking Harry to the station and buying some more food.

The evening was spent playing games and it may have been on this occasion that Lance broke the Uno record by scoring 250 points in one hand. Alternatively it could have been that time that Lance beat the pants off me at the pirate game that he brought with him by stealing all of my treasure. I would have complained but the only possibly response would have been “pirate!” which would obviously stump any complaint I might have.

Day 5

Wednesday was the day of stink however that came later. The Morning was spent in disastrous attempt to fly a stunt kite on the beach. This generally went as follows;

  1. person holding the kite in the wind throws it up in the air
  2. person holding the strings begins to run madly backwards towards the stream or the sea depending on the wind direction
  3. kite rockets up into the air and performs a neat turn to the right
  4. kite travels to the right through about 190 degrees and crashes with significant force into the sand

We did get a bit better and managed a few loops before we got bored and headed back.

Now for the stink; for some reason Alan decided it would be a good idea to bring a Durian fruit out with him. Now this is considered quite a delicacy South East Asia but is banned from most places due to the fact that is smells strongly of garbage. I know, you’d have to be a mad Irishman to even consider eating one (needless to say he did eat it and Helen tried some too).

Day 6

On the First day of the holiday we had discovered some paper half buried in the sand on the beach. Katie and I were quite excited about the possibility of it being a treasure map of some kind. Imagine our disappointment if you will when we discovered that it was a perfectly ordinary piece of lined paper with nothing written on it at all. To avoid similar disappointment for future visitors we decided to make it into a treasure map. This work had been ongoing since then and had several contributing artists. Part way through the work I decided to take some photographs, mostly because I was slightly drunk and thought I might accidentally burn the whole thing rather than just burn holes in it!

Besides the all important task of map distressing, we decided that today would be a good day to head over baggy point and on down to the beach on the other side. Lance and Lizzie decided that they would stay in Croyde to get some surfing done so Helen, Alan, John and I set out in the early afternoon.

On the way down we passed this strange feature in a field full of sheep. A prize to the person to tell me what this points at! An even bigger prize for anyone who can get themselves featured in a Google Earth aerial/satellite image with the arrow pointing at them, or at something even more amusing.

The surf was good that day as can be seen by the number of surfers in the sea off Putsborough in the pictures. Also I can testify to this personally having been soaked by a rogue wave that traveled about 10 metres further up the beach than its immediate predecessor, filling my boots up with water and obliging me to walk home with wringing wet socks and making an undignified squelching sound.

After having our lunch and a cup of coffee (it was pretty damn cold out in the wind) we decided to walk along the beach to Woolacombe. What we did not realise at the time is that the beach is 2 miles long and has little of interest on it (hence no pictures). By the time we reached the other end the sun was starting to go down so we had to head straight back to avoid having to navigate the cliff top paths in the dark (see earlier photos of pointy rocks and sensible advice about not getting dashed to pieces on them).

Once we got back to Croyde, the plan was to watch the sun go down. John and I could not see the point in walking back to the house to come back to the beach so we stayed and waited for Helen and Alan to bring Lance and Lizzie back.

This break and the lighting conditions gave me the opportunity to take the following poncy close up shots of the sand. Fitting really as we had got to see a significant amount of the stuff over the last few days and I had the notion that I would continue to see that very same sand, especially when I was least expecting it, for a number of weeks after leaving Croyde far behind.

At this point Helen and alan returned to say that they had not been able to determine whether it was “safe” to disturb Lance and Lizzie as the door to their bedroom had been shut. [Apparently they had been asleep]. They proceeded to play the game we had invented the previous day which was like volleyball but involved throwing a tennis ball across the net and your opponent catching it and throwing it back. As the light was failing, this rapidly became a game of who can fall in the sand in the most comical fashion:

Day 7

This was our last full day in Croyde and we spent it as we had most of the other days, lazing on the beach and in the sea, playing Frisbee, volleyball and other stuff on the beach. We finished up by heading back down after dark for a final bit of fire twirling and to burn up the remains of our supply of wood.

During the day we buried the treasure map. Actually Lizzie got bored while Lance was off surfing and dug a hole as deep as her arm was long and suggested that we place the map in the bottom of it. As you can see from the pictures below, the map was by then fully distressed with the aid of lighter and teabag. It is a good job I took these pictures for posterity as it is now buried so deep that I doubt if anyone will ever find it. Those of you who have followed my suggestion in the Keats Lodge guestbook and came here looking for clues, the only clue I will give at present is that the location that the map is buried is shown in a number of the pictures taken over my stay in the bay.

What a beautiful last day we had! I think it was then that I got sunburn on my legs but it might have been the day before. This was supposed to be a picture of the RAF search and rescue helicopter which repeatedly flew down the beach and out over the rocks at Baggy Point however the zoom on my camera is not up to much and I was too slow to get a picture when it was closer.

All too soon the sun is going down again. This time it is going down not just on another glorious day but on the whole glorious holiday. Still, it is not all bad news; we have to wait for the sun to go down for the full impact of the fire to be appreciated!

This doesn’t stop the playing of silly games though and nor should it!

Following the sunset, it was all back to the house for the last barbecue of the holiday. We also took the opportunity to get some practice in with the fire toys before heading down to the beach for the final burn. John was even brave enough to try to teach Helen and Lizzie some moves with his fire poi. acqui, please note that I kept my promise to not use the fire sticks in the garden. At least I think I did, we did indeed use them in the garden but we did not light them so I hope that is ok!

The stars were absolutely beautiful that night but all I managed to get was a snap of the blackness. You could see the milky way and everything, I’ve never seen so many stars in my life. John got a picture similar to this one but was able to bring the stars out using photoshop.

And that was then end of the final day. Or almost…

Helen had wanted to sleep the night on the beach and, while I agreed that this was a nice idea and it was certainly a nice enough night, we had to be up early the next day to “check out” and some of us had to drive a very long way the next day and would rather spend the night in a bed. Therefore Helen decided to come back to the house and sleep in the back garden. Pictures of this phenomenon can be found on John’s page as I didn’t think it was fair to have 2 people taking pictures of her going to bed!

Day 8

The final day. The morning consisted of a mad rush to get everything packed up and out of the house by 10am. We were not aided by the fact that the bin men had, for unexplained reasons, failed to empty our bin earlier in the week so we had to pile bags of rubbish in front of the house. I don’t want to be overly dramatic but I still have frantic dreams along the lines of “there are 500 of us and we have to get everyone packed and accounted for and into the busses out front in the next 10 minutes”. We managed to be out by 10.07 but still earned some extremely disapproving looks from the unhappy looking people who came to clear the place up after us.

We packed up the cars and took Lance and Lizzie off to the station in Barnstaple where they began their mammoth journey back to Nottingham. Since our journey lay along the same path for a considerable distance, John, Helen, Alan and I decided to stop off on the way home to look at some landmarks and so prolong the holiday. The land mark we chose was Tiverton Castle. Unfortunately the castle was not open. However, we had a nice walk round the town and stopped for a nice lunch in one of the many oddly named pubs in the town.

On the way back to the car/van/bike, we were admiring the church when we were approached by a local who informed us that the church was “almost always open” so we went in to have a look round.

We finally parted ways outside the closed Tiverton Castle and all headed back to our respective homes.

Thoroughly knackered but extremely satisfied with an excellent holiday, I felt like sleeping for the next week or so. Unfortunately, the next day I had to drive back to Nottingham and the day after that I was back at work, and on the early shift!! Surreal it was and I can’t believe that that week is over already.

Now take a look at the pictures John took for even more beach related madness.

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