For the last 5 years I have spent the winter months escaping by kayaking down rivers on Exmoor, North Wales and the Lake District.
Many a time when I get off the river shivering and unable to change due to the fact my fingers have frozen into claw like shapes I have asked myself why I want to suffer yet I continue to put my self through it.
This summer I had the opportunity to go Sea kayaking in forecasted glorious sunshine but I was strangely nervous and apprehensive about going. Did I think a mutant fish was going to leap out and eat me? No, but the butterflies were there.
The unknown always causes apprehension and the sea has always terrified me slightly with its ability to seem so dangerous to a novice such as myself. Therefore it was with trepidation that I set off on the drive with friends; the sea kayaks were loaded onto the roof and our supplies packed.
I work in North Devon but we rarely get the chance to explore other National Trust properties, we planned to kayak from Lee (near Ilfracombe) to Woolacombe this meant that I would get to explore the coastline owned by the National Trust from an entirely new angle.
As we arrived at Lee I looked out on a perfectly flat sea glistening in the sunshine. My nerves were abated until I saw Darren packing flares and a VHF radio. I immediately imagined he knew something I did not but in fact I was just being paranoid and Darren was being sensible.
As we carried the boats down to the beach and launched ourselves into the water I started to settle into familiar paddle strokes. The sea was crystal clear allowing itself to reveal the hidden world on the sea bed that is so often hidden from the human eye.
The sun blazed down onto the water and the beautiful North Devon coast came into view I knew I had made right decision that day.
As we silently moved through the water we saw two peregrines flying close to the rock face gracefully hunting. Raptors have always held such wonder in my mind due to their precision and speed that has enthralled me since being a young child. We continued our progress along the coast and we spotted something bobbing in the water and then disappear with silence beneath the surface. To my utter joy we then noticed we were being followed by two seals, as they lifted their heads and watched us pass by I felt as if we were being scrutinised.
We headed along the coast to Morte Point where we came across a group of 10 seals basking on the rocks as we passed. One by one they heaved themselves into the sea, watching our every move. They were always behind us as if observing us by stealth. I felt as if they were willing us on annoyed at having had their midday rest disturbed.
|Spot the Seal|
We reached Woolacombe in time for our Lunch with a small 1ft wave propelling us towards the beach. The beach was busy with people enjoying the heat wave and who were seemingly amused at people arriving in rather unusual looking boats.
We waited for the tide to turn to help us ease the journey back to Lee and feeling refuelled we set off on the journey back. As we reached Morte point the incoming tide had caused a change in our route back across, the rocks that reach down into the sea from the point had become submerged causing strange currents to appear. Morte point is known for its treacherous nature having caused many a ship to ground out as they were lured into land by wreckers who patrolled the coast in years gone by. Although on the calm seas we were travelling that day they caused nothing more than the need for a few determined paddle strokes.
I got to return to Morte point only a few weeks later due to the fact the North Devon Team run an annual Smugglers and Wreckers walk and this year we were asked to take part. I took the part of the lead female Elizabeth Berry a well know wreckers from the mid 1850’s. This time however looking out into the sea I could understand just how dangerous the point could be. The seas were rough and the waves were crashing into the rocks below causing a wonderful atmospheric setting but I was rather glad that I was safely on the land on that visit.
Dressed as Miss Berry
Continuing on our sea kayak trip we travelled back along the coast line hugging the rocks as we went, we weaved our way through rocks being pushed onward by the rising tide. We stopped at an isolated beach not far from Lee to cool ourselves down from our exertion.
I stepped into the water I marvelled at the world beneath me and putting on a snorkelling mask I could see for the first time the flurry of activity that was happening below the tide line. We swan and dived into the refreshing sea embracing the beauty of that moment in time.
We climbed back into our boats and made our way around Bull Point and headed towards Lee bay where we were met with the sight and sound of families jumping off rocks and relaxing on the small beach.
My arms and back ached with a vengeance but sitting in the pub garden enjoying a drink. I was truly astonished that day that I had never explored this bit of coast before and felt completely at wonder with the landscape and wildlife around us.
After my experience I would advise everyone to step a little outside of their comfort zone and try a new way of exploring our beautiful countryside.