Growing up in the Midlands I rarely got to see the sea, day trips to Blackpool and Southend always started with excited cries of ‘I can see the sea’. Now in my fifties I am lucky enough to see the sea every day in the beautiful bay of the village where I live, Combe Martin. No matter what time of the year it is it always brings me pleasure, the changing colours, the calm of the gentler days and the crashing of the windblown waves. Sometimes I just drive past and glance at it and other times I’ll stop, breathe in the freshness that the sea air brings and listen to the music it makes.
As beautiful as I think the sea is, I was a land observer for many years, proclaiming I had seen Jaws too many times as a kiddie to contemplate going out there on a kayak! Bobbing around on a small piece of plastic somehow didn’t appeal but to many of my friends it did and one of them offered me theirs to try. Not wanting to appear foolish with a fear that was purely based on a rather poorly filmed 1970’s movie I manned up and accepted their offer. So, in my hired wet suit, borrowed life jacket and paddle in hand I followed them down to the beach hoping my bravado wouldn’t be my undoing.
Well, what a fool I had been, waiting all those years to try something that was so relaxing and refreshing. Being on the water feels like being in a world of my own, don’t get me wrong, I never go out on my own but once you’re past the weir post that marks the entrance to the bay, you can really feel like you are. Seeing Combe Martin from out to sea gave me a whole new perspective of its beauty with its lush green hills rolling up and away from the bay creating a magnificent back drop to the centre of the village.
Once you’re out of the sheltered area of Combe Martin Bay you get to witness the wildlife that make the impressive cliffs and deeper waters their home. Porpoise and dolphins can often be seen warily observing these humans who choose to sit on the waves rather than splash through them. Birds swoop and dive overhead letting out warning cries to their friends if a kayaker gets to close to the cliffs.
Either side of Combe Martin, just a short paddle away are two beautiful beaches that are both best accessed from the water. Broadsands to the left, which was listed in Britain’s top 10 beaches in the country in 2020 and Wild Pear to the right, which can only be accessed by a rope from land. But you don’t have to stop there, carry on a little further and you can explore caves and indents of the coastline that you would never get to experience without venturing out on a kayak. A favourite trip for me is along the coastline to Ilfracombe, paddling past Watermouth Cove and Hele Bay, around the headland where you get your first glimpse of Verity and then into the harbour navigating around the bigger boats that are moored there. Once there we always feel obliged to sample the fish and chips on offer, rude not too, and then it’s back on the water to head home to the welcoming sight of Combe Martin Bay.
Since that first brave day I have ventured out many times, purchasing my own boat and kit and even becoming secretary of the local kayak club. I have spent many a summers eve on gentle undulating waves watching a glorious sunset and been battered and beaten by relentless waves on New Year’s Day, but every time on the water has brought me joy. Whether it be a relaxing calm paddle or an exhilarating battle I am always glad I overcame my fear of the star of that classic movie.