Ask anybody who swims in the sea regularly if it’s good for you, and they’ll undoubtedly tell you that it is. Open water swimming, sea swimming and cold-water swimming have exploded in popularity in recent years, however this is no fad – Doctors were prescribing swimming in the sea and visiting the coast to “take the sea air” as far back as 200 years ago, and the treatment is known as thalassotherapy.

What’s So Good About Sea Swimming?

Recently the growth in tri-sports and adventure racing has seen many swimmers take to the open water, and the reported benefits for both physical and mental health have also introduced people to its benefits. Swimming in the sea or in cold water on a regular basis is said to soothe and improve skin conditions thanks to seawater’s higher mineral content, and immersion in salt water has also been said to alleviate respiratory ailments such as hay-fever and sinusitis because saline water is thought to reduce inflammation. Swimming in cold water releases endorphins, adrenaline and cortisol, helping to lift mood, whilst the effect of regularly placing your body under mild stress by immersing yourself in cold water has been shown to increase the body’s white blood cell count, improving immunity and the body’s reaction to stress.

wild swimming with cornish rock tors

Sea Swimming in Cornwall

The sea here in Cornwall isn’t that cold over the summer months though; in fact, for those of us who enjoy the sea all year round the summer months when sea temperatures can reach 15-18 degrees Celsius are positively warm! Regularly submersing in the sea and settling into a nice rhythm to swim along a beautiful stretch of coastline is without doubt, in our opinion, the most enjoyable and beneficial exercise that one can undertake. The breathing patterns of swimming stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, and an A-to-B swim can be an almost meditative experience when you are totally absorbed in your timing and technique.

swimming into port isaac on a wild swimming session

And then there’s the view. On a calm and sunny day the view looking back at the stunning stretch of coast along which we are lucky enough to run our sessions is second to none. Wading into the water at Port Gaverne and swimming the one mile stretch to Port Isaac pausing to enjoy the view en-route, before swimming into one of Cornwall’s most picturesque villages through the harbour walls is an incredible experience. For swimmers wanting to cover some distance we can extend the route or swim the return leg, whilst others may be content do swim a mile and walk back along the cliff path, enjoying the view from the other direction.

swimming between the harbour walls at port isaac

This year, The Big Swim Cornwall is taking a break; in past summers this event has always been a highlight as hundreds of enthusiasts swim the one-mile route that we are so familiar with and raise money for charity. The last two events have been unlucky with the weather and this year the organisers are taking a year off to “let the grass grow back” to use a favourite Glastonbury phrase, and to re-evaluate their routes and plans for inclement conditions to minimize stress should they be unlucky again in the future. The great news though, is that you can still swim the route of The Big Swim, but on any day that you choose and without lots of other swimmers. Whilst running over the finish line in Port Isaac is a great feeling, getting splashed or kicked during the mass-start (particularly if you’ve entered one of the more competitive categories) isn’t a great feeling. We can take you out solo or in a small group with one of our instructors paddling a sea kayak alongside you for support, encouragement and to stop you from veering off course.

open water swimmer with support paddler on Cornish Rock Tors guided wild swimming training session in Cornwall

Whether you are a seasoned sea swimmer, are new to adventure events and looking for a supported training session, or you want to see whether sea swimming could help lift your mood or ease an ailment, we can tailor sessions to suit your needs. Our guided wild swimming sessions run at 8am, so you’ll see the best of the day, and cost £40 per person.

Click to find out more about our Guided Wild Swimming sessions.


If you’re after an active holiday and want to make the most of Cornwall’s varied landscapes, then our Pedal and Paddle Offer will be just what you’re looking for. As a National Trust ambassador business, we’ve teamed up with the team at the Lanhydrock Cycle Hub to offer our customers 20% off activities with each other. If you join us for a guided sea kayaking or stand-up paddleboard session, or hire equipment with us, then you can claim 20% off cycle hire or guided mountain biking sessions at Lanydrock and make the most of the incredible woodland trails. Likewise, if you’ve hired bikes from the Cycle Hub at Lanhydrock then they’ll give you a voucher for 20% off paddle activities and hire with us here at Port Gaverne.

sea kayaking in port isaac bay with cornish rock tors

Lanhydrock is one of the National Trust’s flagship properties in Cornwall; it is a beautiful country house and estate with parkland and extensive woodland just outside Bodmin, about half an hour from Cornish Rock Tors. Three years ago part of the estate was redeveloped and a cafe and cycle centre were built, and a network of cycle trails developed through some of the estate’s woodland. The well-maintained trails range from wide family friendly routes through to exciting downhill tracks for more experienced mountain bikers, so there’s something for everyone there. Cycling at Lanhydrock is a great day or half day out, and provides a good excuse to see a different part of Cornwall.

mountain biking the trails at Lanhydrock with the National Trust

The Pedal and Paddle Offer is only available outside of peak holiday seasons, within two weeks of a voucher being issued, and sessions or hire are subject to availability. You’ll also need to book your session or hire in advance. We’ll be offering vouchers to everyone who comes out paddling with us, and hope that as many of you as possible will be keen to have an active visit to Cornwall with us and The National Trust.

Find out more about Lanhydrock Cycle Hub here.

By visiting a National Trust property, joining the Trust, or supporting ambassador businesses such as Cornish Rock Tors, you are supporting their work and helping the National Trust to look after special places for ever, for everyone.

*The National Trust is a registered charity, number 205846

On the last Saturday of the Easter Holidays this year, our sea kayaking and coasteering guide Hugo organised a Big Spring Beach Clean event at Polzeath for marine environment charity Surfers Against Sewage.  Hugo is SAS’s regional representative for Polzeath and our local stretch of coast, volunteering his spare time and energy to raise awareness of their important campaigns, organising events such as this one and looking after the local SAS Beach Clean Box.  The Big Spring Beach Clean series (and its cousin the Big Autumn Beach Clean series) mobilises volunteers around the country to give a little back to their local beach; this year over 35,000 volunteers took part in 571 clean-up events at beaches, lakes and inland waterways.  Together they removed 63 tonnes of litter from the environment.  What an incredible effort.

six bags of litter collected from the beach during the spring 2018 polzeath beach clean

Polzeath’s beach clean was organised by Hugo and was also supported by Bird Sunglasses, Ann’s Cottage surf shop and The Tubestation (who hosted and refreshed volunteers), and was well attended with 52 people helping clear litter from the beach.  Together, they collected six full black sacks of litter and removed an old lobster pot from the high tide line.  Somewhat frustratingly, strong southerly winds in the days leading up to the clean meant that some plastic litter that could otherwise have been removed was blown offshore; that lot will have to wait for another day.

1930 medal found at surfers against sewage spring beach clean event in 2018

Beach cleans often turn up some interesting finds, amidst the usual suspects of single use plastic bottles, straws, cotton bud sticks and bits of fishing net.  On this occasion, a commemorative medal from 1930, celebrating the third jubilee of the founder of the Sunday School movement, Robert Raikes, was found.  One key element of these beach cleans is to record the types and amounts of different litter collected, which will be used to inform an upcoming report by the treasury into a proposed tax on single use plastic items.

surfers against sewage polzeath rep hugo brown during the 2018 big spring beach clean

We’re really proud of the work that Hugo does for Surfers Against Sewage.  The welfare of our oceans and coastlines is incredibly important to us – it’s our office and our playground and we love showing off our beautiful back yard to visitors to the area.  The marine plastic pollution issue is real, but thankfully it’s a problem that we can all do something about.

This summer Hugo is taking part in SAS Does Strictly, putting himself outside of his comfort zone as he learns to dance to raise funds for Surfers Against Sewage.  You can follow his progress and donate via his Just Giving Page.

All photos by and copyright of Christina Jones.


stand up paddleboarding across crystal clear water in cornwall with cornish rock tors

Get on the water and try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding or sea kayaking this Easter under the guidance of our experienced instructors.

We’re running a Paddle-Sport Taster Morning on Saturday April 7th (the middle weekend for most of the school Easter holidays), so if you’ve ever fancied having a go at paddling a sea kayak or stand-up paddleboard but have been unsure about committing to a full-length session or guided trip with us, then this one-off event will be perfect for you.  For just £5 we’ll get you into a wetsuit and introduce you to the basics of paddling (either sitting down or standing up!) within the sheltered waters of Port Gaverne cove, giving you the chance to have a go in the shallows or test the water with your family.

 

sea kayaking in the shallows of port gaverne cove in north cornwall

Sessions will run at 9am, 10am and 11am and cost £5 per person.

Booking is essential for this event, so please call us on 07791 534884 to reserve your space.

 


 

aerial view of tipis and lake at cornish tipi holidays

Our all-weather inland lake adventure activity venue at nearby Cornish Tipi Holidays (where we run activities when the weather and sea conditions at Port Gaverne are unfavourable), has a fascinating history.

stand up paddling on a lake in north cornwall with cornish rock tors

 

Despite being less than four miles away from our coastal base (under 10 minutes by car), the lake at Tregildrans Quarry feels a world away from the rugged north coast. Surrounded by trees on all sides and set in a wooded valley, it is a green and tranquil setting that is enjoyed exclusively by ‘glampers’ staying in Cornish Tipi Holidays’ incredible canvas accommodations (that are sited in several clearings around the site) and wedding parties who enjoy unique celebrations here.
The quarry was developed by the Tom family who have farmed and worked this land for eleven generations and who now run Cornish Tipi Holidays. It was worked from the 1920s until 1964, producing blue elvan (also known as greenstone), which is a particularly hard igneous rock. It is believed that much of the rock quarried here was used as aggregate in the redevelopment of the harbour walls at Port Isaac in the 1920s. Following that construction project the quarry continued to be worked and its stone, which was crushed on site to be used as aggregate or ballast, was transported by rail with the quarry being served by a dedicated siding (known as ‘Betty & Tom’s Siding’) off the North Cornwall Railway line which ran through the site. The Port Isaac Road railway station (which was neither in Port Isaac, or particularly close to the road!) which was built to serve Port Isaac (having goods sheds built to store fish and shellfish being sent from Port Isaac to Billingsgate Market in London) is just south of Cornish Tipi Holidays, and aerial images of the site and Tregildrans Lake show the route of the old railway line as a gentle green curve through the North Cornwall countryside. As you drive through the site to get to the lake you will cross an avenue of trees, which is the old railway line that closed in 1966.

old port isaac road railway station

Following the closure of Tregildrans Quarry it was filled in and flooded to create a 200 metre long lake of the same name. The lake is up to 15 meters deep in places with rock walls rising from the water which are great for coasteering around several sections, and with other sections of bank that are lower and tree-lined making for a really pleasant environment. Because the railway line closed and the quarry was flooded around half a century ago, nature has had a chance to reclaim this area and the natural vegetation is well established. In spring and summer it is lush and green with wildflowers lining the lane and path down to the lake, and in autumn the colours of the changing leaves surrounding the lake are beautiful. For us, it is perfect as we can offer multi-activity sessions that include kayaking, stand-up paddling and some coasteering-style climbing, traversing and jumping in a private setting. Tregildrans Quarry feels a world away from the nearby tourist trails – much like our activity routes out of Port Gaverne, offering an opportunity to escape even if the weather is wild on the coast.

kayaking in early spring at cornish tipi holidays lake with cornish rock tors

 

Aerial view of tipi campsite and Tregildrans Quarry lake courtesy of Cornish Tipi Holidays.

Historic photograph of Port Isaac Road railway station reproduced from St Teath History website.


looking across port isaac bay from lobber point to varley head

The coastline of Port Isaac Bay, which we are lucky enough to call our “office”, is stunning whichever way you choose to enjoy it. At this time of year, getting out on the water isn’t always possible or everyone’s first choice for fun thanks to it being pretty cold and sometimes a bit rough and windy. Luckily though, the South West Coast Path offers the chance to enjoy this stretch of coast from a different perspective – although be warned that this section is nicknamed “The Rollercoaster” by many due to the steep ups and downs!

This 5 mile walk sets off from the beach outside our base at Port Gaverne, following the coast path to Port Quin before looping back to Port Isaac inland. The first part of the walk follows the route that many of our guided sea kayaking trips take, past Port Isaac to the east side of Varley Head; this therefore is the sea kayakers version of walking the course.

looking across port isaac bay towards the rumps and mouls island

Looking west towards The Rumps and Mouls Island

From the beach at Port Gaverne, walk up the hill towards Port Isaac. At the top of the hill keep the hedge on your right and walk along the lower level of the public car park to join the coast path. This path meets the top of Fore Street, which you need to follow down hill to the harbour and the old centre of Port Isaac. The road up Roscarrock hill on the other side of the harbour is behind the fish cellars (the Port Isaac Pottery and public toilets will be signposted). Walk up here (past the cottage that features as the surgery in the TV series Doc Martin) and join the coast path at the top.   This leads in front of three large houses and up to the top of Lobber, offering a great view back over Port Isaac.

steps on the south west coast path near port isaac cornwall

The Pine Haven steps

Follow the coast path around Lobber Point and down into a rocky cove called Pine Haven. There is then a long and very steep flight of steps up the other side before the path continues on towards Varley Head.

nesting fulmars seen from the south west coast path near port isaac

Nesting Fulmars

Half way between Varley Head and the next headland, named Kellan Head the path becomes more challenging, with lots of steps and uneven sections. Upon rounding Kellan Head you will have a great view across towards The Rumps and Mouls Island, before Doyden Point and the small folly castle that marks the entrance to the narrow inlet at Port Quin. Follow the path into the hamlet of Port Quin.

national trust cottages in port quin, cornwall

National Trust cottages in Port Quin

From Port Quin there are several options for making this a circular walk back to Port Isaac and Port Gaverne; if it has been raining lots then walking up the lane (heading back up the valley) to just past the Longcross Hotel and taking the footpath across the fields to pick up the lane that drops down Church Hill into Port Isaac harbour will be a less muddy option! The alternative route, that requires less walking on tarmac, is the footpath that leaves the road behind Varley Cottage at the back of Port Quin. This path follows the hedgeline through several fields before cutting slightly across one to a stile in the opposite hedge. Keeping the boundary hedge on your right, follow the path through more fields as it slowly bends around to the right towards historic Roscarrock Farm. Here, the path turns left and goes over another stile before crossing a small valley.  The path climbs the hill; the post on top of the hill is the Breeches Buoy Post that was originally sited on The Main at Port Gaverne and used for coastguard rescue training (more on that in a later article!). Follow the hedge down into Port Isaac, and then retrace your steps back up Fore Street, around the coast path to the car park, and back down the hill to Port Gaverne.

 

 


New Year’s resolutions: Most people make them, everybody asks about them, but few follow through with them. If you want to make 2018 the year that you boost your self-confidence or face a fear and overcome it, then we’re here to help.jumping into the sea with cornish rock tors

Every day during our main season at least one of the Cornish Rock Tors team will help somebody to step outside of their comfort zone and achieve something that they never thought they’d be able to do. We’re so proud of the way in which our guides do this discretely and with great empathy for clients to whom leaping from the rocks into the sea, or swimming into a cave, is a so far removed from their day-to-day lives. It is a huge thing for many people.

Inspired by this No Matter What video featuring Olympic gold medal diver Chris Mears helping a number of everyday folks to overcome their fears and jump from a 10-meter Olympic diving board, we are aiming to offer bespoke sessions in 2018 to people looking to face a fear, and overcome it. Until now, all of the people who hesitate at the edge of a jump and require some coaching and encouragement to make that leap have not been so anxious that it prevented them from seeking us out and signing up to a session. There are people though for whom fear and anxiety is a very real barrier, and who wouldn’t even consider coming coasteering; we want to speak with those people and offer a bespoke small group session tailored to their needs. If you have a family member or close friend who’s said to you “I can’t believe you did that – I would never, I’d be so terrified” or who you know harbours anxieties and could do with the sort of confidence boost that comes from doing something they’d never think themselves capable of, then please suggest coasteering with Cornish Rock Tors to them. We require a group size of four people to run a bespoke session, and can help work through anything from going in the sea or putting your head underwater right up to doing a ten metre jump just like the people in the No Matter What clip.

“Anything that you set your mind to, you can achieve.”

Call or e-mail us to talk through what we can offer. Resolutions are there to be smashed, and we hope that if you have a fear that you’d like to put behind you then 2018 will be your year.


paddling away from the beach in winter during a cornish rock tors sea kayaking trip

Cornwall is a beautiful place to kayak in the winter, and with lots of coastline and various inland options it is easier than you might think to get out on the water over the colder months. Whilst the warm days of summer hold obvious appeal, kayaking along the Cornish coast on a clear, crisp winter’s day or exploring one of our inland waterways or lakes can be incredibly rewarding. It’s quiet, the scenery is beautiful, and it makes a warming drink next to the fire that evening feel very well deserved. There’s a real sense of achievement that comes from having got out on the sea on a winter’s day, and we’re here to help facilitate that.

cornish rock tors sea kayaking group in port gaverne

North Cornwall

If the weather and sea conditions allow, then we’ll guide you on a paddle from our base at Port Gaverne along the coast of Port Isaac Bay, and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Last winter we had a group book a sea kayaking trip during “Inbetween-mas” whilst they were on holiday over Christmas and New Years, and we enjoyed a paddle on a beautiful still day to a secret and otherwise inaccessible low-tide beach where they played a game of rounders with a spare paddle! If you’re able to be flexible on days, then we’ll do our best to pick the best window to get you out there.

cornish rock tors kayaking guide paddling under an overhanging tree at their inland lake venue

Inland

Just a few miles inland from our base at Port Gaverne is the sheltered woodland lake of Tregildran’s Quarry, which we have exclusive access to paddle on. Surrounded by nature and tucked out of the wind, it’s a great option if you’d like to get on the water and try kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding in the same session. We can also take groups on guided kayaking trips on the Camel Estuary near Wadebridge, which offers great paddling and the chance to see a wide range of birdlife.

cornish rock tors guide ben spicer sea kayaking in cornwall in winter

“Will I get cold?”

We’ll give you a thick winter wetsuit, over-shorts and wetsuit boots, as well as a buoyancy aid which is nice and thick (so helps to insulate you against the cold and wind) and a helmet, which you can wear a thin beanie under if you like. If you have neoprene wetsuit gloves then you may want to wear them. Because we don’t run mid-winter sessions in the wind, it may be cold but you won’t get very wet from spray and splashing (and we’ll try to ensure that you don’t tip yourself in!) and the wind-chill factor will be low. We recommend that you have warm clothes to change into after the session and a wooly hat or beanie – and the pub opposite our office will be open so you can run over and get a hot chocolate! It’s colder than summer certainly, but we get in the sea all through the winter for work and play, and there are plenty of people around the country who will do a sea swim in just their trunks or swimsuit on Boxing Day!

If you’re interested in sea kayaking in Cornwall this winter then please call us on 07791 534884 and let us know the dates that you are available. If you’re visiting for a few days and can be relatively flexible with when you’d like to go kayaking then we’ll have the greatest chance of finding a day with suitable weather for you.