Sunday, June 25, 2006

Race For Life

OK, this is not strictly in the remit of my blog as it's not technically something touristy, but it is something which features quite prominently in the collective conciousness of North Devon women. It's the Cancer Research charity run undertaken by women all over the country and it's becoming more and more of an event in this corner of England. This year the race was so popular that, for the first time, they had to run two, one at 11.00 and one at 2.30. And for weeks before the race everywhere you look there are women out running the streets in training. It's a 5km run (or walk) and supporters line the whole route, clapping and cheering you on.

This is the third year I've done it, with my oldest daugher. I walked it in 42 mins and she ran it in 33 mins. I think she could have done it faster but she went with a friend and they walked the last k. The photo above is of women at the start of the race, I would have included one of me finishing but my husband was so busy photographing other women he neglected to take any photos of me whatsoever!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Gold Coast Oceanfest

Oceanfest is the center piece in the crown of the North Devon Festival. This year it was being held at Croyde over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. These photos are just a snap shot of what goes on. We went in on Friday night, Saturday daytime and Sunday evening. There was loads that we didn't see. For me, the best bit was sitting watching the bands with the sun on my face and a beer in my hand. Excellent! There are bands on stage almost constantly until late into the night.

The children enjoyed having a go at everything: climbing, trampolining, bouncy castle. On the beach you can try your hand at surfing with lessons for beginners, or just sit and enjoy the football, volleyball or other exhibition sports on show. There was an Aquathon, although I wasn't quite sure whether that was something you could join in with or just enjoy watching. And an event which involved paddling your surfboard from Croyde round to Saunton, the beach next door.

Friday is schools day with events laid on especially for the schools. It is also FREE! Of course it's free on the beach anyway, but Saturday and Sunday you have to pay to get into the field where the stage, the bike displays and the skateboards are. My advice would be to purchase your tickets online and go and pick them up on Friday. This will saving queuing as on Saturday you can then walk straight in - very satisfying and almost VIP-like to walk past all those people (and there were a lot of them) who hadn't pre-bought tickets!

Also inside the grounds are various stalls from skate and surf shops like Animal and Billabong, jewellery stalls, tents full of skateboards, canoes, etc. Then there is every kind of food van you could possibly imagine from your standard fish and chips, to pasta, mexican food, crepes, and cappucinos. Its also quite safe to let older ones go wandering. My eldest daughter founds some friends on Saturday and we didn't see her for hours, although she did throw the usual teenage strop when we made her come back so that we could go to the beach together.

A lot of the nearby fields were filled with campers, and some of these were locals (the aforementioned teenage daughters friends). Next year I think we might do the same. Then I can spend longer in front of the music stage, with my beer, and not have to worry about getting home!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

North Devon Leisure Centre

North Devon Leisure Center is located in Barnstaple across the bridge from the main town centre by the river bank. It has changed hands a lot in recent years and has come in for a bit of stick in the local press about cleanliness but it seemed OK yesterday when we went for daughter number two's birthday party. However, we did have an inordinate amount of trouble booking the party. First it couldn't be done because the only person who knew how to use the computer was on holiday, then there was a big argument about the price. I don't think I'll bother with a birthday party there again, but it's OK if you are a keen swimmer, or want to use any of the other facilities - sports hall, gym, dojo, etc.

We hired the inflatable for the party, great fun, but I think they may have it out for Joe Public to use at other times. Insider Tip: Use Lidl's car park across the road, it's free - although the public car park at the back of the centre doesn't actually cost that much.

Friday, June 09, 2006


The house, just visible in the top left hand corner, is National Trust property and has a shop and a lovely tea room and gardens. To reach it you need to park in the car park at the top of the valley and follow a path through the woods down to the river. It is the only building for miles around and is an excellent starting point for many walks. Watersmeet is so called as it is the place where the East Lyn and Hore Oak Water meet. From here you can follow either river back up stream or take one of several paths downstream.

Yesterday I came here with 59 school children who were all very well behaved and didn't disturb the beautiful peace of the countryside (too much!). We walked downstream into the town of Lynmouth. It should have been a beautiful stroll on a sunny day through leafy woodland following the path of the river. A word of warning at this point. When you come to a fork in the path and the right is signposted Lynmouth, the left takes you across a footbridge and has no signpost, and you map shows you a non-existant path straight ahead - go left! If you follow the signs to Lynmouth, as I did (logically, as that was our destination) you end up going on a two mile route march through some VERY steep terrain and along a narrow path with an almost sheer drop to your left as you look down on the river from a great hieght!

Still, we did have a good day. More about what to do in Lynmouth in another post.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Bideford Park

Bideford has THE best park in North Devon. It has loads in it. There are two main playing areas for children with swings, slides and climbing frames - much better than the two park playareas in Barnstaple. There is also this paddling pool. I remember (a long time ago) this was originally intended to be a boating lake - like that was ever going to happen! This is a much better idea. It's walled in and has plenty of grass all around for people to sit on. The kids love it.

As well as all that there is a playing field, lots of grassy areas to sit on, the Burton Art Gallery in one corner of the park, and my favourite as a child, the castle! It's not as grand as it sounds - more like a raised concrete roundabout with fortifications around it, but it is also surrounded by real cannons, some of which were used against the Spanish Armada. It's great for playing in, or just having fun sitting on and climbing over the cannons.

And then, just outside the gates, there is my old favourite - the Hockings Ice Cream van. Don't they just get everywhere? Yum!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Croyde Beach

This is Croyde beach, situated about 8 miles outside Barnstaple. It's a popular destination for surfers and if any of you are so inclined there are plenty of surf-cam's and websites ready to report on the weather conditions. Today the surf was quite flat but there were still surfers in abundence on the water. We ventured in up to our ankles and then decided it was far too cold to go any further. Only our littlest one ran in and out with no regard for the temperature.

The sands were plesantly warm and a cool breeze kept everyone from overheating. It also disguised the strength of the sun. One of my children is now delightfully refering to me as a peach. Lobster would be a more accurate assessment!

The beach is accessed from either side of the village of Croyde. We parked in the car park just past Saunton, pricy at £3, but that's about the going rate wherever you go. The alternative is to drive through Croyde and park on the other side, or walk from the village, but this can be a hike. On the far side of the beach from where we were there are Life Guards but the red and yellow flags are so close together people are crammed in like sardines. Much better to have your own space and watch your own children. Especially when they're more interested in building sandcastles than freezing in the sea. We build a whopper today.