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Bigbury Away Weekend - July 16th-17th

Ian's version...

Last year's away weekend to Bigbury showed us the real potential of the place - stunning scenery, an excellent pub and two sailing venues, all from one car park. The Saturday last year didn't deliver much in the way of wind, but the Sunday provided sufficient wind for comfortable planing with large kit in excellent sunny conditions. Neroli and I decided Bigbury was a place we were going to have to come back to.

Once again, Bigbury made it onto our venue list this year, so Neroli and I made sure we kept the weekend free. We also contacted two of our old university windsurfing friends and persuaded them to come along and join us. Now all we needed was some nice weather and wind…

The club night on Thursday at the Ship was well attended, particularly when you consider a significant potion of our regular attendees flew off to Moon Beach earlier in the day. Unfortunately the weather forecast wasn't looking very windy by this point and not many people were considering heading down.

Our friend Jason came down from Guilford and stayed with us Friday evening so that he didn't have to map read while driving to find Bigbury. Friday evening was spent loading the van up and quaffing beer trying to remember the last time we had windsurfed together. Consequently Saturday morning wasn't quite the early start we had planned, but we still managed to get on the road for around eight o'clock. The journey down to Bigbury is about two hours, despite stopping for petrol and driving very slowly over the Mendips & down Cheddar Gorge so that Jason could admire the scenery.

As we joined the convoy of cars heading down the long single track road to Bigbury, we had to wait briefly as a car coming the other way was working its way round some walkers. When our turn came to pass the walkers, we discovered it was our very own Graham and wife Val. We headed down to the car park and got the kettle on waiting for them to join us in a few minutes.

Car parking is alas now even more expensive than I remember from last year - £5.50 for the day, however the view from the car park alone is exceptional. By this stage the car park was beginning to fill up very fast from the continuous stream of traffic, but we were lucky and still managed to get a spot at the front of the car park with easy access to the van and a great place to relax and people watch as they arrived. There clearly wasn't enough wind to windsurf at the moment but it was a lovely sunny day and over the course of teas and coffees the alternative plan to walk over to Burgh Island was hatched.

When we got to the top of the Island and looked out to sea, there was some wind, enough to get our hopes up. Unfortunately we were standing on the top of a very large cliff, so there was plenty of acceleration effect from the hill. At sea level the wind still didn't seem to be doing too much. Rumour had it that the Saturday was the warm up day for the National power boating championships round the corner at Plymouth, so we were hoping we might catch sight of some of them, but alas no. They picked a good weekend for it though as there was hardly a ripple on the water.


Bigbury BeachBigbury mainland, viewed from the top of Burgh Island

The return trip from Burgh Island was slightly delayed while we had a diversion into the Pilchard Inn. An excellent pub with 6 (expensive) real ales run by a former Bristol landlord. We decided to sample the delights of Rock's Eden and were rewarded with an excellent pint, sitting outside overlooking the beach.

The flags on the beach were still not really doing a great deal. There was sufficient wind for freestyle but the thermal we were all hoping for didn't look as though it was going to happen. Before we got stuck in the pub for the whole day, we made the decision to return back to the vehicles (still in the campsite for Graham & Val) and have some lunch before taking out the boards for a freestyle session.

Jason only owns a small wave board, so despite the offer of the loan of a Techno, he decided it would be better to sleep his beer off on the beach rather than attempt beer assisted freestyle. Neroli and I weren't so wise and rigged up 5.3m and 6.0m sails so that we could do a bit of pottering and some freestyle. Alas pottering was the name of the game as there was significantly less wind than there had been at Croft Farm which meant freestyle was a very good test of balance since there was very little support from the sail.

The afternoon was spent wobbling between swimmers, practicing one and two handed heli-tacks, upwind and downwind sail & sailor 360s and any other move we could think of that was just about possible in zero wind. After we had been out for an hour or so, Graham and Val returned from the campsite. Graham hadn't brought his kit down after all and decided he would rather relax on the beach than run down a few innocent swimmers in the name of freestyle practice.

Not perturbed, Neroli and I continued, although the wind had started to noticeably drop. After a while, Jason obviously decided that he ought to have a go at this freestyle stuff and had a go on Neroli's board. Apart from a couple of sessions during a non-windsurfing holiday in Turkey last year, Jason has hardly sailed in the last four years, so not surprisingly he was looking very tense as he tried to balance on the board and attempted tricks he has never done before. Eventually he got the hang of them and started to relax a bit more, but never looked totally at home. This obviously had the right effect on Graham though, because as I came into the shore, Graham took my kit off me and promptly demonstrated his good repertoire of freestyle tricks - lake sailing and holidays in the sun have clearly provide Graham with plenty of practise time in the past.

When the wind dropped to nothing at all, we all headed back to base camp. Graham and Val decided to eat at camp, Jason, Neroli and I decided to hop on the bikes and head up to the Royal Oak. Alas we had barely got out of the campsite when the chain snapped on Jason's bike. Fortunately we had brought down Steve's spare bike for the weekend, so we did a quick bike swap at the van and headed back to the pub. Excellent food and beer meant the return trip to the campsite was bit slower but I don't remember the hills too much. We then enjoyed a very pleasant evening drinking wine and beer with Graham and Val watching the sun going down round Bigbury and talking about life, the universe and everything.

Not sure whether he was winding me up or not, but I got a text from Phil Baker saying that he was at Portland on Saturday, planing with a 6.5m. Mutter, mutter, may be Portland is more likely to get a thermal breeze than Bigbury - still, we had better scenery.

Sunday morning dawned another fantastic day. The picture below was the view I took from inside the van when we opened the curtains on Sunday morning. It is a stunning view to wake up to and one that can't fail to make you feel relaxed. There wasn't even a hint of wind on Sunday morning, so we had a very relaxing start to the day, chatting and drinking coffee in the campsite watching the continuous stream of traffic arrive at Bigbury.

Neroli and I were waiting for another university friend, Adrian to turn up. He was supposed to have come down on Saturday night, but alas didn't make it. None of us were confident he was going to make it on Sunday either, particularly when we couldn't reach him on either his mobile or home phone.

Around mid-day, Graham and Val decided to head off on a walk. Jason, Neroli and I decided to walk down to the beach - Jason and Neroli fancied ice-creams, I fancied beer. We took the foot path from the campsite down to the beach, so avoided having to pay for parking by leaving the van in the campsite. In hindsight this was a wise move because by this time, even the overflow car parks were getting full. On the way down to the beach we finally managed to make contact with Adrian - he was on his way (by motorbike) but had missed the Bigbury turning and ended up in Plymouth. We eventually spotted him walking along the beach in his leathers while everyone around him was in bikinis and trunks; we were enjoying beers at the pub again.


Burgh Island Bigbury / Burgh Island view from the campsite

On Sunday there certainly wasn't sufficient wind for freestyle, so after a few consolation drinks and a bite to eat in the beach café (both highly recommended) we headed back to the campsite to sleep off our beer in the sun. By the time we returned to the campsite about 3, Graham and Val had packed up there tent and headed home - I think we probably only missed them by a couple of minutes. We spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing by the van and headed home about 6 o'clock. All in all, a very pleasant, relaxing weekend but from a windsurfing perspective - a real anti-climax. Bigbury is a really lovely place, hopefully it will remain in the Nomads calendar for a long time to come, and one day we will be rewarded with decent wind.

I have since found out that Dudley also made the trip down on Sunday. Unfortunately there were no other Nomad cars in the car park and with the large number of people on the beach and almost no mobile phone coverage, we never met up, despite been around the beach at the same time - sorry Dudley.

Ian Long.

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Graham's version...

I've never enjoyed a windless windsurfing trip so much. Bigbury is really a lovely part of the country, the sky was clear and the tempt very hot. The wind was so uninviting that my kit never made it out of the campsite, especially as a night's camping at the Mont Folly Farm (£5) is now cheaper than a day's parking at the beach (£5.50).

As this was our first camping trip, and we don't do mornings that well, the early start on Friday worked a treat, picked up Val in Bristol at about 3-30 pm, and were at the campsite not much more than a couple of hours later. After the fun and games of selecting the pitch and then putting the tent together, we decided not to be too ambition and stuck to a cold dinner with plenty of cheap Aussie Red and a couple of decent beers watching the sun go down and relaxing, with additionally entertainment when the flock of sheep were let loose in the field.

The view from the campsite, is little short of stunning, if you select your pitch well in field away from the road. The trip was worth it for that alone. Quite Frankly I think this campsite is one of the best bargains I've come across in the UK. For the record for you £5 per tent/van per night you get half a portacabin in the paddock with 3 loos and 2 wash-hand basins. Plus they have at least 3 stand-pipes for fresh water around the site, and as many chairs as you can carry to your pitch. There is another Portacabin with potential for improved loos/shower facilities, but as yet its not plumbed in. Its about 15 mins walk either by the road, or I'd recommend the footpath, down the hill to the beach area/car-park.

By coincidence on Sat morning, after breakfast we were walking down to the beach for a wind check, just as Ian and co were driving down the road. I'd already pretty much decided the kit was staying where it was, and the slow walk round the Island was well worth it, especially the stunning cliffs at the back of the Island and the Eden in the Pilchard. Although my sandals have not recovered from the paddle back.

We returned to the campsite for lunch from where I watch Ian and Neroli start to impress the crowds with their free style, which made up my mind the kit was going no where near a crowded beach. When went back to the beach for a closer look, and to join to grockles in topping up the sun tan.

It seemed Jason also seem to share my enthusiasm for this free-style stuff.... However Ian and Neroli being the kind and enthusiastic folk they are, finally convinced both of us to give it a go, and loaned us their Technos, hope Cyrano could not see from the campsite, I don't want him getting jealous. So there I was in amongst all the swimmers wearing swim shoes and without my glasses tied on (remember Axbridge last year ) doing sort of freestyle! A few wobbly Heli-tacks and a rig and body 360 were followed by a failed attempt at a rig 360 (it was then I realised just how big a sail Ian had rigged as I could reach no where near the end of the boom).

At this point I notice how the board seem to have an attraction for the rocks near the beach. So I went for a little sail out across the bay, where there was a little (not a lot) more wind. However then I remember Axbridge and decided I could not afford a new set of glasses and so returned for the end of the weekends windsurfing. I must admit to enjoying it more than I expected.

On Saturday night Val and I decided to complete the camping experience by cooking dinner. This went remarkably well, and by the time Ian and co had their bikes ready for the ride up to the Royal Oak, we were already tucking in. This was followed by another night of looking at the view and watching the sun go down, with the odd drink or two, especially when the others returned.

Sunday morning was total relaxation, and I'm not sure any of us could really work up the energy, except Ian who sneaked in some Work

We eventually headed of for a wonder down to the beach then North West along the coastal path at some time past 11. At the beach all the car-parks were full, including the overflow, so it was just as well we were not expecting to sail. The one bit of the area that is not so nice is the next bay along, Challaborough. There is a large caravan park which seems to unload its occupants straight onto the beach in a large crush of Brits on holiday. Quickly through this we continue a long the path up the cliffs and more stunning views and scenery, past Toby's Point and to Ayrmer Bay. This was a nice little bay with only a few people as its 3/4 mile at least to the nearest car.

By this time it was just before one and time for a beer. So we took the last path to Ringmore, a pretty village 3/4 mile inland with some interesting thatched cottages, and found the Journey's end pub. We spent a pleasant half an hour in their beer garden. Their real ale is from the barrel, although I think their Journey's End ale had seen better days, but with the drive back to think of it was the time to try something else.

We followed the footpath back to the campsite, which can be described as at the least challenging. I would not have liked to try it at night, as we had considered at one stage. The contours on the map are right, and it doesn't look like the path is used that much. With the thistles and stingers, it was a real challenge in my swimming shorts.

By this time the others were off so we had a late lunch and then dismantled the tent and packed the car, which with windsurfing kit, camping stuff and 2 people is a bit of a challenge. It was interesting that the field Mount Folly used for parking was full by that time as well, although there was still plenty of room for the campsite. It was about 3-30 when we left, and the scenic journey home to Wiltshire via Cheddar/Bath which took about 3 hours.

So all in all a great weekend, good company and it did wonders for the suntan but not much for the windsurfing. In hindsight, it seems that Bigbury and surrounding area was always going to be busy at this time of year, especially if the weather was hot. I guess it would be less popular if it was not so hot, but I'd hate to try it in in a week or so when holidays are in full flow. It could be worth considering a little earlier in the year.

Graham Utteridge

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