Family memories of Cornwall
16:18 20 January 2014
Sheena Grant and her family rediscover the joys of the south west
Over the years I’ve had many holidays in Cornwall. My husband and I even spent our honeymoon here, ten years ago in the seaside town of St Ives.
So when we were decide to return, albeit to a different part of the county and this time with our seven-year-old son in tow, I can’t wait for him to discover everything Cornwall has to offer.
After all, what could be better than ensuring this glorious county, with its amazing beaches, wildlife and dramatic coastline, forms part of his bank of holiday memories, just as it does of ours?
Yes, the journey is long and at times arduous but it’s worth it to sample even just a bit of the magic of Cornwall, from the austere bleakness of Bodmin, where Daphne du Maurier set arguably her greatest novel, Jamaica Inn, to the beach coves, fishing villages and abandoned tin mines further south.
Our destination this week is Trevella Holiday Park, just a stone’s throw from Newquay.
We are keen to spend a few days relaxing on the beach and sampling the programme of ranger activities the park has set up to help families enjoy new experiences in the great outdoors.
It is August and the weather is glorious. I cannot help but think my son’s holiday memory bank has got off to a good start as the first day of our vacation dawns.
It’s a beautiful morning and after a 15-minute ramble through fields a vista of wide golden sands with a silvery trail of water running to the sea in the distance stretches before us.
This is the Gannel Estuary. At low tide you can walk down the sandy riverbed to Crantock beach, where the waves roll incessantly in off the Atlantic, or cross on foot from the beach to Pentire Head, on the edge of Newquay. You don’t even need to worry about getting stranded on the wrong side of the river when the tide comes back in, thanks to a foot ferry that criss-crosses the Gannel throughout the day.
But today we’re not interested in any of that. There’s too much going on right here, on the sandy shores of the river.
Coming from Suffolk we’re veterans of many a day’s crabbing on the footbridge at Walberswick.
But this is crabbing on the Gannel - and, you could say, it’s a completely different kettle of fish.
The water is clear and we can see the crabs skitting across the riverbed right in front of us. As the baited line is thrown into the water it seems the crabs are queuing up to get their claws into it.
And not just crabs. There are shrimps too, little translucent crustaceans that are almost invisible unless you look for them really carefully.
My son is soon squealing with delight as he hauls his crab-laden line in time and again and trawls through the water with a bucket, attempting to catch tiny fish fry sheltering among rocks in the lee of the tide.
We’re part of a group of holidaymakers who’ve trekked down to this spot from Trevella, where we’re staying in a luxury static caravan. Our guide is a nature ranger called Wayne, a man whose enthusiasm for the natural world is only surpassed by his knowledge of it.
Wayne has brought crablines, buckets and nets so none of us has to and is on hand to offer any expert assistance that’s necessary.
This is one of a series of ranger activities we take part in during our stay at the park, all led by Wayne.
Later in the week we also spend a morning pond-dipping in one of the park’s beautiful fishing lakes.
As dragonflies and damselflies skit across the water the children net a diverse array of pondlife in the weedy shallows before releasing them into trays of water for closer study.
One girl finds an enormous freshwater mussel while another bags a young gudgeon fish. There are also several prehistoric-looking aquatic stick insects - one of which devours a hapless waterboatman before our very eyes. This is nature in the raw and Wayne is on hand, as ever, to enlighten us as to the identities and lifecycles of any creatures we were unfamiliar with.
This summer is the first the park has run these ranger activities, Wayne tells us. The idea is to get families to try something new that they can perhaps continue when they get back home.
After a quick lunch back at the caravan, we head off for another activity, this time building minibeast homes in a stack of wooden pallets in a field on the edge of the park. The children run around the field, collecting hay, pine cones and plastic tubing to assemble their bug hotel. An hour or so later the hotel is complete.
“It’s five-star,” declares my son, with delight.
In the evening we’re in for another treat - and for once, it doesn’t involve Wayne.
This time it’s a storytelling walk courtesy of the wonderfully hirsute Travelling Talesman, who tells us the enchanting tale of Sally in Silverland. The story has been specially written to take in the woodland, lakes and other landscape features of Trevella and it isn’t long before we’re all following the Talesman, Pied Piper like, to various locations where Sally’s story unfolds.
It’s a magical evening that ends (of course) with good triumphing over evil and a few more tales in a storytelling tipi on the edge of the park.
But as far as my son is concerned the highlight of the holiday comes at the end of the week - an introduction to fishing. He catches roach, tench and finally reels in the big one - an extremely slippery, wriggly eel. Thank heavens for Wayne, who certainly earns his money that day, hot-footing it around the lake from child to child as the catches come in thick and fast.
Alongside its wonderful ranger adventures the park also has plenty of other attractions to keep families entertained. There’s a crazy golf course, two playgrounds, a games room, pets corner, nature trail and open air swimming pool, not to mention great facilities including a shop, cafe (with limited opening hours) and laundry. The staff in reception are ever helpful too.
But you can’t journey all this way and not explore the surrounding area just a little bit. We spent many a carefree day bodyboarding in the surf on Crantock beach, visited the nearby Lappa Valley Steam Railway and Leisure Park and, on our one rain-sodden day, headed for the brilliant National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, stopping nearby for lunch in Rick Stein’s fish and chip restaurant, a thoroughly delicious and value-for-money experience I would wholeheartedly recommend.
Of course, it’s Cornwall in August so there are bound to be queues at many of these tourist attractions. But if it all gets too much you can always retreat to the peace of Trevella. You won’t be short of things to do. And you never know, they may just stay in the banks of your memory, sustaining you through the the winter to come and perhaps beyond.
Adventures in Cornwall
To inspire families before their visit, Trevella Park has launched its own guide to 50 Great Adventures in Cornwall, available at www.trevella.co.uk/50-holiday-activities-cornwall/.
The list features daring activities for tots which include playing in the rain, going on a barefoot walk, spotting a shooting star and hunting for crabs. Family adventures cover everything from beach barbecues to horse-riding along the Gannel River, while ideas for couples include food and river festivals, coastal and countryside walks, sea kayaking, coasteering and sea fishing.
Barry Templeman, Trevella Park general manager, says: “Simple pleasures fill a family holiday with happy memories - a first bike ride, flipping rocks in search of crabs, flying through the air on a rope-swing – so we created the role of park ranger and our 50 adventures guide to help our visitors get back in touch with nature.”
Trevella Park is a five-star camping and caravan park on the north Cornwall coast, close to Crantock and Newquay. The park is open from April 1 to October 31 each year and has a mixture of mobile homes, pre-erected tents and touring pitches, plus a small number of privately-owned holiday homes.
Trevella has been awarded the GOLD David Bellamy Conservation Award 14 years running and has been named as one of ‘Britain’s Best Parks’ by the AA, ‘Top Site of the Year’ by Caravan Magazine and one of the ‘Top 100 Family Parks’ in Practical Caravan.
School summer holidays at Trevella start from £469 for a safari tent and from £557 for a static caravan, both based on a seven-night stay for up to six people in August.
To find out more visit www.trevella.co.uk or call 01637 830 308.