One of the best things about living somewhere as rural and varied as Devon is being able to make the most of weekends and easily get out exploring new, wild places. So one February Saturday, my greyhound Rosie and I did just that, packing up a picnic and driving to Saunton Sands in North Devon.
Three-and-a-half miles of sand, ending in the Taw Estuary to the west and cliffs to the east, backed by a huge system of dunes and stretching at low tide a long way down to the sea, Saunton Sands is an epic sight.
During the summer I am sure the beach is buzzing with holidaymakers, but on this winter’s day, bar a few surfers and dog walkers, it was busy only at the car park end. Seeking solitude, Rosie and I quickly headed west down the beach and found a spot tucked under a towering dune to eat our lunch.
Refuelled, we continued our walk. What struck me most was the space – a rare thing in Devon. The hills on the far side of the estuary were barely visible in the haze and with the sun glaring off the film of water on the sand, I felt like I was walking across a salt flat in Bolivia, not a beach in Devon. Other walkers and surfers lugging their boards appeared on the horizon like nomads in the Sahara.
Rosie and I walked slowly, inspecting shells and seaweed, larking around. When we wanted to rest and soak up the sun, we sat on the soft sand at the foot of a dune and had tea from a flask (me) and biscuits (both of us).
We stayed until the heat started to go from the day – being February this was all to early in the afternoon. During the drive home, there was a spectacular sunset, the sun a ball of orange lighting up the sky. With spring on the way, I’m looking forward to some evenings when it’s warm enough to sit on the beach at Saunton Sands and watch the sun disappear below that vast horizon.