The last month has been for my wife and I, an amazingly busy time socially. It seems we’ve attended more weddings than Lindsey Lohan has rehab clinics and along with the sheer volume of nuptial ceremonies comes the now seemingly obligatory 3 day eventing. I don’t mean a Pimm’s soaked jolly watching brave riders take on the challenge of Badminton, I refer to the fact that unlike 10 years ago when my now wife kindly said I do, the Bride and Groom feel that one day of celebration at a beautiful location isn’t enough voyeurism on their love for us privileged onlookers. Instead a three night stay in the deepest luxury and expense to celebrate the happy couple’s joy seems to be becoming a decedent norm.
With three such amazing wedding ‘experiences’ in one month, the most elaborate of which cost more to stay at than a ten night stay in a luxury spa in Phuket, including flight, 4 tours and two dives (not that I checked, but it was), Philippa and I decided to celebrate our own 10 years of married joy in the less glamorous sounding North Cornwall, reliving our first days away together and seeing whether we could fire up some of the spirit of adventure we had on our first camping road trip to the surf at Polzeath.
Just in case you imagine that at 41, I’d be packing two pairs of boxers, some boardies, a couple of t-shirts and a joss stick in to a back pack and charging off to sleep on the first uncomfortable North Cornish rock I came to, I should assure you to the contrary. Although l love disappearing in to the wilds of the farm for a day or two, 7 nights on a wet cliff face to celebrate 10 years was simply a no. Whilst our budget in 1996 enabled us to just about manage to get there, pot noodles and cheap cider to get tiddled enough to not notice the howling storm outside the tent and puddle within, this time we thought we’d try a slightly higher level of comfort.
Whilst Polzeath attracts some of the most well known names in the UK, for example Harry, William and Kate, also that charming family from Down the street at No 10, Dave and Sam, I very much doubt they stayed on the same cliff top storm factory that Philippa and I had on our first camping visit and my mind was at their comfort level now, rather than our first adventure, so we started planning with a brief more toward well – being and relaxation than Vesta meals and damp undies. We were looking for first class self catering accommodation, an excellent restaurant close to hand with the beautiful Polzeath beach nearby and enough outdoor facilities to keep us entertained. I also wanted an opportunity to continue my determined yet not quite successful wish to conquer surfing and somewhere for me to go shooting, preferably a days guided pigeon shooting whilst Philippa could enjoy luxuriating in some pamper time at a spa. A tall order to fill you may think but it was to celebrate 10 years and as we haven’t any kids, we can spoil ourselves occasionally!
Our search began and within a day, through high praise and personal recommendation we found almost everything on our shopping list at The Point at Polzeath, so a quick late booking taking advantage of the lull just before the half term hoards did the same and we were off!
First thing on arrival in the area was to ensure my Berretta Silver Pigeon was secured for our stay. I have read an awful lot on line about securing a fire arm whilst away with it and with so many contradicting statements, I decided safest was best and left it with Ian Hodges, a Gun Smith and Shooting Supplies shop in Wadebridge, 5 miles from Polzeath and at a princely £2.00 per day, far more secure than locking the fore-end in the glove compartment for a week!
On arrival in Polzeath we could see why The Point came with such high praise, situated about two miles outside of Polzeath centre and with a stunning 15 minute wonder along a picturesque path straight on to the beach. The Point is set amongst glorious scenery taking in the 18 hole golf course, a sea view and open rolling farm land, offering a tranquil and relaxed vibe and far enough away from the bustle of the village centre and the masses to avoid claustrophobia. With a Golf, Tennis, Gym and Spa centre attached to their amazing clubhouse and restaurant it certainly had everything we were looking for plus an excellent opportunity for potential personality spotting over dinner in the restaurant!
We had booked in to one of their newly opened two story apartments that had been converted from the old driving range. As top end, effortless comfort was what we had wished for, we certainly hit the mark! Sleeping four and with an upside down approach we could make the most of the sea view from the balcony upstairs, whilst our bedroom with on-suite wet room, thick soft towels and king size bed was heaven downstairs. Although within 10 minutes walking distance of our first trips rocky accommodation, we might as well have been in a different country!
Sadly my wish to do some pigeon shooting fell foul of the Royal Cornish Show, leaving my potential guide no time to fit me in. I was a bit disappointed, but a ring round of grounds on the CPSA website and I had found a guy who apparently had his own ground and could accommodate me at any time that week. I was delighted and booked immediately, paying scarce regard to the arranged meeting place, a layby on the A30. Had I thought about it anymore, I may have decided that laybys, strangers and firearms are not always a good mix, but I was too happy to have found a shoot to let the small chance of mistaken intentions in a layby distract me!
After a lazy long weekend of beautiful weather and true tourist delights including amazing cliff top walks, long lazy lunches, the obligatory homage to the Patron Saint of Sea Food chefs Rick Stein, via a pilgrimage to Padstow and super dinners at The Point’s restaurant, my afternoons shooting was upon me.
I picked up my Beretta from Ian Hodges and made my way in somewhat trepidation to meet my host at “A layby on the the A30, with a sign for Temple Fisheries as you won’t find my house”. I’m not sure about any of you others out there but I was still unconvinced that meeting a guy called Abbo, in a layby, with a gun and not having an actual address is the best idea I’ve come across. However, by now and in some way thanks to a couple of locals who had sent me on a wild goose chase in other directions (clearly a local sport of sort), I was determined to see it through. Arriving, all be it an hour late thanks to my directions, I finally met my host for the afternoon Abbo, aka Roger Abbondanddolo, a dyed in the wool Cornishman from Italian decent.
After mutual apologies and disarming of high tempers on both sides, I agreed to follow Roger to his house on Bodmin moore. As a start to an adventure and an experience in itself, I couldn’t have wanted much more. As both 4×4’s negotiated tiny lanes, traversed fords and ploughed up steep unmade tracks, my fun had already begun. No wonder Roger had insisted we meet on the main road, there was no way I would have found it otherwise. After 15 minutes we passed through a farm yard, but we still had another ten minutes climb on dirt paths to finally reach his amazing little bit of paradise.
Roger and his wife own about 15 acres of ‘Garden’ and Roger being an impassioned shooter and spending a lifetime arranging top class Clay competitions has turned most of it in to four clay discipline set ups, including Sporting, Down the Line, Skeet and what he was to show me today, his all weather, undercover Sport Trap set up which could also host Flood Light shooting at night. With a license to shoot 365 days a year this was truly impressive, as was his wife Susan’s ginger biscuits and warm welcome in to the club house. Although I had my own gun and cartridges with me, Roger was at pains to offer a selection of guns to try and cartridges of all weights and calibres, should I need.
After an amazing couple of hours of learning Sport Trap, Rogers tutoring and general shooting the breeze, I left Abbo’s Clay Shooting Academy having discovered, learnt and best of all, thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon. With little to distract me by way of mobile signal or wifi connection at Roger’s, it was an amazing escape and just brilliant to concentrate on shooting and conversation. A simply priceless opportunity. Again storing my gun at Ian Hodges on the way back through, I couldn’t have wished for a better afternoon.
Wednesday and Thursday were again filled with simply ambling around, waiting for some surf as the week so far had proven flatter than a sleeping hedgehog on the A30, quite amazing for one of Cornwall’s best known surfing beaches. When I say ambling, I don’t mean wasting, I mean simply delighting in the small pleasures. Philippa loved her Facial and back massage at the Spa and left both dazed and glowing in pure relaxation. We visited the breath taking Trebarwith Strand beach and laid on the rocks, soaking up the heavenly sun then poddled on to fill up on Cream Teas.
By far one of the highlights of the two days was dinner at Surf Side on Polzeath beach. Your choice of starter is Mussels and nothing else, the mains consist of Steak, Lobster or both washed down with amazing cocktails or an excellent wine selection, whilst watching the sun drop below the sea from the panoramic windows. Simple but yet again, amazingly decadent!
Finally on our last full day and just before my needing to consider a larger wet suit or at least some extra panelling, the Surf picked up and I visited Surf’s Up Surf School and the legendary instructor Wayland, to torture him further with my lack of prowess.
Wayland has an exceptional reputation and talent for being able to help almost any would be surfer catch their first wave. I say almost, because he has also taught me. My lack of hands and various other excuses has led me to believe that surfing is never going to be something I excel at. That said, Wayland has never given up and with at least 14 years of trying between him and the others on Surf’s Ups team, they certainly have me believing I can do it, if not now, the soon.
Having this time achieved the wobbling, arms flailing, red eyed, bum out, flying pose of many a sponsored surf professional, I thanked Wayland for his time and headed back, thoroughly loving the experience yet again. I’m in no way a natural surfer, but I’m also terrible at giving up, so next time, I’m pretty sure that the waves are mine, even though the sun blessed, windblown super cool hair and chiselled physique are still defiantly Wayland’s!
Finally and all too quickly, our departing day was on us. Heading home Philippa and I were talking about our week on the North Cornwall coast and what we had done. We had travelled (about 3 hours down the A303), we had met new people (Jeremy and co at The Point, Roger and Susan at Abbo’s Clay Shooting) and some familiar faces (Wayland at Surf’s Up). We had tried new things and indulged in amazing food. We had seen stunning scenery and enjoyed watching romantic sunsets dip over stunning beach locations, we had travelled inland and found astounding places, kept secret by the locals and travellers before us.
It may not have been 12 nights in Phuket but we had enjoyed true luxury and experienced more than we would have at a beach resort. A true 10 year anniversary experience and one we hope to emulate again very soon.