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London to Devon
By Justin Barnwell
29 July 2010

Having proposed the idea of a surf trip to Gary the previous day he didn’t mess around in organization and we were up at the crack of dawn packing our gear in the large family station wagon we had hired to take us to the coast of Devon. In what Google maps proposed to be a 4.5 hour drive, after driving in London for 45 minutes and somehow looping to be back into Shoreditch and past his apartment, we both wished we had taken the satellite navigation add on to help us guide the way.

An hour and a half later we had reached greater London and comfortably cruising along the M5 in the destination of Brixton. Continuing on from Brixton would take you into Wales which also offers a variety of surf options, but this trip was all about England. We veered left and headed the coastal route onto Devon and in particular Croyd our first stop some 6 or so hours later. Driving through cute coastal towns with narrow one way streets led us into the town where we refueled at a bakery for lunch and stocked up on wax and some local knowledge on where was best to surf today.

Croyd beach is known as one of the best surfing beaches in the country and although quite an overcast day with slight onshore winds I could really see the potential of the place. We parked in a local carpark at the northern end of the day for the day rate of £4, suited up not knowing how cold the water was going to be with a full steamer and booties. The walk down to the beach through the sharp, jagged rocky out crops led us to the lowering tide and eventually the break. Weedy murky water engulfed us as we paddled out and the water wasn’t too bad at, I’m guessing the 17 degree mark – similar to Sydney winter waters. The beach was packed with summer holiday makers enjoying the very little sun and un-beach like conditions to my surprise. One wave down and despite the conditions I was having a ball, not lasting long though with only a 30 minute surf.

Not having booked any accommodation we took a scenic drive to nearby towns to see what was on offer. Ending up in a very picturesque village called Woolacombe where the rolling hills meet the swell of the Atlantic. After visiting the local pub for a pint we got directions to a host of B&B’s on offer taking us to Greycliffe B&B run by Carol a lovely English lady that moved to the area in the 60’s and fell in love with the coastal living. Her two story house overlooking the bay had the most beautiful garden full of flowers in bloom and the view from my room was breathtaking looking down to the ocean or sea as the English would say. After dumping our gear we suited up for surf number two. This time the sun was out, although quite late at 6pm still high in the sky. It was a memorable surf with fun three footers peeling into the bay, the sun on my face slowly setting into the golden Atlantic. I was amazed at the water in Woolocombe being blue and clear opposed to the murky waters of Croyd yet only a few bays south.

Carol recommended the electric bar and restaurant to satisfy our surf hunger and we were quite surprised by the atmosphere of this cute coastal hangout. With a craving for carbs the meatball pasta was the only option for me washed down with a well deserved pint of Grolsh. We finished our meal and walked through the town to see what else was on offer past the art deco amusement hall, the local Mexican restaurant and the ever so grand Woolocombe bay hotel. We ended up at a place called the Jolly Roger for a few night caps and a taste of the local scene. It was an interesting place a little rough and pirate themed all situated around a large beer garden with weekend visitors making the most of the summer evening conditions. Ahoy Maties...

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