Location: Ayrmer Cove
- Date: Wednesday 5th April
- OSGrid: SX640445 (E264081, N045542)
- Travel: 45 minute drive, 10 minute hike
- Style: Tent & bivi
Ayrmer Cove (pronounced ‘aimer cove’) is one of 33 beaches that lie within the boundaries of the South Devon AONB – a 337 square kilometre area designated in 1960 as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. Although not a National Park itself, the area is afforded similar protection from development to other areas designated by the Act, and its beauty draws vast numbers of tourists and visitors from across the country during the summer months.
It is worth noting that physical landscape encompassed in the South Devon AONB is not owned by a central body, but rather divided between many private landowners and organisations, and thus permission for activities varies across the region. Detailed information about each of the 33 beaches is available on the South Devon AONB website, here http://www.southdevonaonb.org.uk/explore/beaches/
Having had a bit of slog last week up at Walkhampton (read the report here if you missed it!), Paul and I were keen to enjoy ourselves on this week’s WON, so an evening in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty sounded like a top idea…
The Aquarium had been quiet all day. Bad news for the charity’s budget, but a sure sign that WON13 was going to go a lot better than WON12 (glorious sunshine meant everyone was out looking for starfish on the beach rather than in our exhibits). After saying goodbye to the last of the visitors, Paul closed down the building, whilst I checked the contents of a very special delivery – The Grill Sergeant portable BBQ. If the camp was going to live up to our hopes, this special delivery would play a vital role in the coming adventure!
Although not the furthest we’ve travelled for a Wild One Nighter, the twisting country lanes and infrequent passing places meant we were approaching our upper limits on travel time by the time we arrived at the National Trust car park just on the edge of Ringmore; the nearest village to the cove. There is a £2 suggested donation for parking in the car park, which seems more than fair, given the far higher charges enforced at some of the other nearby beaches. From here it was a relatively short walk down to the beach, and we made it well before the sun set. Could summer really be on it’s way?
Once we arrived, on the beach, we quickly laid out our priorities. First call, a little light exploring – the tide was quite low and the rockpools on the Eastern edge of the cove proved hard to resist for two marine science educators. I’ve been re-evaluating my vegetarianism in recent months, and whilst I won’t go into the details here, may try to introduce a few changes in the future. One of the things I’m curious about is catching my own food, and I remembered seeing Ray Mears prepare limpets on a beach fire whilst rockpooling. A quick chat with Paul about the technique and I decided perhaps I wouldn’t rush to abandon my Quorn snacks just yet!
By this point hunger was kicking in, so we set to work building the Grill Sergeant, stoking him up with driftwood and a few coals, before setting off to try our hands (and feet) at scaling the cliffs.
Paul had been carrying my kayaking helmet since leaving the car and I had refused to explain what I hoped we could use it for until now – neither Paul nor I are particularly fond of heights, so I thought it best not to reveal that part of the itinerary until the time was upon us. The cliffs aren’t quite vertical or sheer faced at Ayrmer, so look very climbable from a distance, but are deceptively challenging as there’s a lot of loose shale. After several concerted efforts and mixed success we eventually decided that was enough fun / adrenalin / fear for one night and went to check on the coals.
Close, but not quite there – we needed a bigger-hotter base but it didn’t take long to whip up a gourmet veggie banquet.
The rest of the night was spent sprawled out next to the glowing embers, as a breathaking sunset slowly gave way to a perfect, cloud-free sky full of the late winter stars. Although we’d not seen many people on the beach since we arrived, we decided not to pitch camp until just before going to bed, as we wanted to keep as low a profile as possible. Just as well, as we were briefly joined on the beach by a couple of dogs and their owner enjoying a final pre-bed walk around 10pm but they gave us a wide berth.
The next morning we were up bright and earl; just in time to see the Westerly cliff tops catch the first rays of sunshine, and the advancing tide begin its march up the shore towards our camp. Packing down took almost no time at all thanks to our simple fair-weather shelters, and all too soon we reluctantly turned our backs on what was promising to be another glorious day in one of South Devon’s natural beauty spots.
Stu. It’s not often I wake up actively not wanting to go to work – but Thursday the 6th of April 2017 was one of those days! This is one for the top 10. For sure.
Paul. This camp really showcased why WON is special. An incredible evening at an unbelievable site- all on a weekday evening. A little determination can lead to some pretty special moments and this is certainly one!
Top tips from the trip
If you’re a regular BBQer, a portable BBQ is both cheaper and environmentally more sound than using displosable BBQs every time
You can pitch a tent on a sandy beach by using rocks to secure the pegs
Check the moon state before pitching your camp if on a sloping beach – full moon and or new (no) moon means big tides, so be careful!
Going early in the year will often give you prime spots to yourself!