On Bank Holiday Monday we set out, like most families in Cornwall, with a foam surfboard strapped to the roof, in search of perfect waves. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever looked for perfect waves for a seven year old to learn to surf in, but we seem to be struggling. More often than not, they are “not as good as Perranporth” or “they hurt my eyes” or they “taste yucky” etc – you get the idea. The wrong kind of surf is plentiful ’round these parts apparently. Anyway, we did the usual disorganised (I prefer organic) beach selection process starting with my predictable question as we leave our road; “Left or Right?” “Quick, before the lights change… left or right?” as no decision was forthcoming, we followed the traffic into the middle of town only to turn around and finally head somewhere… “Crantock!” I announce at the exact second it pops into my brain. “Let’s try Crantock!” and with a general car-wide murmur of consensus we drop a cog and rattle off towards Crantock – which is just to the West of Newquay on the Atlantic Coast.
The wrong kind of surf
Crantock is one of those beaches that always surprises me. It’s always much bigger than I remembered. The tide is always further out than I’ve ever seen it and the river, The Gannel always looks a bit different than the last time I was there.
Now, I don’t think the beach changes wildly but it is true that we have a massive tidal range and, combine the ever changing tides with ever changing light and weather and yes, this is a beach of a thousand faces.
As we approach I’m pleased with my flash of inspiration as Crantock is a National Trust beach which means we can park for free where others have to cough up £4.50! I wait patiently in the queue to enter the car park listening to the guy in the van in front giving the attendant ‘what for’ about the price. Eventually he grudgingly pays to cross the sandy threshold. I feel a smug glow as I flash my National Trust membership card and am warmly waved in like a VIP. Excellent, it’s not even lunchtime and I’m £4.50 up!
Eventually he grudgingly pays to cross the sandy threshold.
In the car park there’s much debate about how much of the gear we should carry down to the beach. Will we need three different types of windbreak? Exactly how many different sports are we planning to do? We leave the football and the beach tent behind as the absence of a team of sherpas means we must be selective. With still more delay as three of us squeeze into cold, damp neoprene we are eventually ready!
…and off we trek, full bags, equipment under every available arm and surfboard sleds dragging behind us looking like seriously off course polar explorers. We head first up the high sand dune and then down the other side onto the beach. It happens to be a low spring tide. To the uninitiated that means simply that it’s another half a mile to the sea. We make our camp and go surfing, which to cut a long story short, lasts all of four minutes before the inevitable “I don’t like these waves!”… Right!(Voice of Basil Fawlty)
With surfing well and truly done we need a new goal. There’s one of THOSE families about fifty feet from our meagre camp. You know, THOSE families! The ones where every generation and every branch and root of the family tree from all over the UK meet up. They’ve set up approximately fifty or so windbreaks to create a perimeter wall Donald Trump would be happy with and now they are all on their feet for a game of rounders (baseball with a small bat for my US friends). Our little patch of beach is quickly morphing into part of the outfield, so it’s either stay and play or move on in search of another activity.
There’s one of THOSE families about fifty feet from our meagre camp.
It was at this point that we remembered The Fern Pit! The Fern Pit Cafe is one of those beautiful places that you see Facebook friends at looking like they are having the best time. Normally they get a swift Like and swipe in one action from me! Swipe off! With your beautiful selfie and delicious looking food. Well somehow we had joined the dots, we were at Crantock, the Fern Pit is at Crantock! We subtly edge away from the rounders pitch looking at our watches and rubbing our tummies, the international signal for “I’m not playing your game, it’s lunchtime!” We’re out of there and off in search of one of the best little beach cafes around.
Depending on the height of the tide, you can either walk over a little bridge, or if the water’s in you catch a little ferry. Either way you arrive at a small quay and boat shed which has saltwater tanks with live lobster and crab. They are interesting to look at but of course it’s less Holiday Inn and more Death Row for these crustaceans. You can by them live or cooked to take away or if you continue up through the gardens to the cafe there are crab sandwiches on the menu!
The steps up through the hillside garden take you past a beautiful array of flowers packed with pollinators. The Red Valerian is stunning at the moment and one of those wild hedgerow plants that thrive on the coast here. By far the most impressive feature of these gardens are the abundance of Echium Pininana flowers that line the route up to the cafe like tall blue and green stalagmites.
With all this drama on the way there, by the time you reach the cafe at the top you’ve worked up an appetite and are ready to take the weight off. The view is worth the climb! From the terrace you have the loveliest commanding view down The Gannel and plenty of tables and chairs to pick from. The food doesn’t disappoint and is served by friendly and conscientious staff who were really welcoming and working very hard to make sure everyone was eating well and enjoying themselves. I say go there – you’ll love it!