Beyond Bantham... Surfing South Devon with the National Trust

Published : Fri 6th Jul Author : Tom Allan, Countryside Intern

It may not always feel like it, but here in South Devon we have some excellent surfing beaches. Some of the rangers here (including me) are passionate surfers too, so we felt it was about time we highlighted just some of the surfing possibilities on offer…

Although the National Trust may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about surfing, our connections with the coast are strong. The National Trust is Britain’s largest coastal landowner, with an incredible 760 miles of coastline, and more than 300 miles in the South West alone. Fortunately for us surfers, this includes top surf spots like Godrevy, Chapel Porth,Holywell Bay, Crantock, Sandymouth, Woolacombe and our very own Wembury. Sitting on your board in the lineup at one of these spots, it’s easy to forget you’re looking at beautiful coastline cared for by the National Trust.

To help us spread our surfing message, the National Trust supports ten surfing ambassadors, including UK pro Alan ‘Stokesy’ Stokes. These ambassadors act as champions for the Trust among the surfing community, promoting greater awareness of the work that goes into keeping our surfing beaches beautiful. Here’s what the National Trust means to Stokesy :

To this end, last year, the National Trust was a sponsor at the London Surf Film Festival, taking our conservation message to a national audience of surfers and surf industry folk in the capital. After some initial curious glances, our surfing beer mats went down a storm along with the pint… And this year we are working with the British Longboard Union (BLU) as an Environmental Partner, with two of the BLU events being held at National Trust beaches at Woolacombe and Crantock. As our Watersports Coordinator, Rob Joules, puts it: ‘The British Longboard Championship Series has a natural affinity with the National Trust as it’s open and inclusive to everyone, of all ages and ability.’ So if you’ve ever been surf competition curious… now’s your chance!

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Our Wembury Beer Mat from the London Surf Film Festival

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And Break information on the back.

So…surfing beaches in South Devon…The best and most consistent of the National Trust beaches here is undoubtedly Wembury, which has a left breaking off Blackstone Rocks and a beach break in the bay. Parking is in the National Trust car park at the back of the beach, and like all of our car parks, is free to National Trust members. One of our rangers, Marc Hoskins, a keen surfer, remembers an epic day at Wembury last year: ‘I was travelling back from a weekend in north Cornwall and had my board with me, but the surf wasn’t great up there.

On the drive back I stopped by Wembury for a look, just in case. As I pulled in to the car park I saw perfect overhead waves peeling in to the bay. I’ve never suited up so fast! It just shows that the north coast isn’t always better than the south…’

Elsewhere in South Devon, when the conditions are right it’s possible to surf at Seacombe Sands, Ayrmer Cove and even Soar Mill Cove. All National Trust beaches, they do require something of a walk in. These coves are mostly south west facing and need a solid long period swell and favourable winds to really work. They can also offer some protection from big storm swells, usually providing a bit more shape than the more exposed spots.

Better still, with the short walk in, you’re unlikely to encounter many crowds, so why not go and explore when the lineups at nearby Bantham and Challaborough are packed out on those busier days…

It may well surprise you just how much protecting our coastline and these valuable surf spots costs. We rely on our car park charges and memberships to fund much of our conservation work. From beach cleans to footpath repair, the South Devon ranger team and countless volunteers invest thousands of hours each year into ensuring that beaches like Wembury are maintained to the highest possible standard.

So the next time you’re pulling in to a nice little left at Wembury spare a thought for the work that goes in to keeping the beach beautiful, or better still have a look at our website and get involved.


This blog was written by Tom Allan, a Countryside Intern with the ranger team at South Devon Countryside, working across more than 8000 acres of land between Wembury and Dartmouth. Read more about the team on the South Devon Countryside blog.