The pretty little village of Woolacombe, tucked away in North Devon’s Atlantic corner, has a very different feel in winter, made even more apparent as Lockdown 2.0 continues it’s surreal grip on our worlds.
Gone is the constant stream of tourists, the hustle and the bustle of day-trippers and holiday-goers, the bucket and spade brigade sandwiched in with the surfers and the traffic, all fighting for a space or a place on the beach, the Red Barn terrace or even the next wave.
Now it’s empty.
Our companions on this Sunday November morning are a chilly breeze and watery sunshine, ushering in the beginnings of winter proper.
Woolacombe is now calm. It is Peaceful. This is much better.
We finish our takeaway coffees and head down to the beach with Jess, our gorgeous (and doesn’t she just know it!) Collie. She knows this huge, wide stretch of sand well and with tennis ball fixed firmly in mouth, races off into the shoreline to chase – and never actually catch – a wave, or bird, or both. We aim to walk the beach’s entire six-mile out-and-back length today, nothing compared to the crazy pinball route that Jess will cover as she introduces herself to every unsuspecting dog, seagull, surfer and stranger and frequent visits into the waves.
This windswept beach of winter has a character totally alien to that of its summer twin. It seems bigger, almost endless, as it stretches off into the distance merging with mist and spray and the haze of the sun.
The wind whips up and our collars soon follow suit. With beanies pulled firmly down we head on into the crisp air, feeling energised and alive – and lucky to have this vast bolthole on our doorstep.
Stoic surfers wander down to the waves, gazes fixed firmly on the lines of swell that the winds and tides have brought across unimaginable distances to deposit on this long arc of sand. These are locals, not a “grockle” in sight. They know well the personality of the waves here. They know where the rip tides appear and where the rides last longest. And they don’t call each other dude, ever!
We turn at Putsborough and with the wind at our backs head north along the shoreline with a windswept glow to our cheeks and now-effortless spring in our heels. Coffee got us out into the elements and a hot chocolate will be the reward for our efforts. We pick up our speed as the town comes into view and even Jess seems happy to be heading home.
During unprecedented times like these it seems the simpler things have, rightly, become more important and front of mind. Being stripped of most of our travels and ever-increasing consumerism, a simple stretch of sand on our doorstep has become even more vital to our health, wellbeing and even our sanity. However long these times last, we’re reminded to take another look at our priorities in life, now and in the future.
We have changed, for the better.
We have become more like Jess, finding happiness in being outdoors, together, blasted by wind, sand and sea and loving every moment of it.