When asked; ‘What is your favourite place on Earth?’ I could easily answer the Galápagos’ Islands, Hungary or any other location I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to. But I’d be lying if I said that.
What connects you to a location is the memories you hold there; whether they are happy, sad, or both. Which is why, although these places are dear to me, they do not captivate me. For me that place is my local beach, Harlyn.
Harlyn Bay is located in North Cornwall, UK. It is known for its expansive sandy beach and rockpools that reveal themselves at low tide.
For many in the summer months it’s the perfect family getaway; whilst in the winter it is desolate and barren, quiet except for dogwalkers and surfers.
For me it is a place woven with memories whatever the season – they are stitched into the very fabric of the place; into each grain of sand and every ripple of water.
It is winter now, the wind is howling and whipping hair in my face. I walk the shoreline bundled up in a thick coat and wellies, watching the waves pound the rocks relentlessly, roaring like a raging beast. The salt spray tingles on my skin; I can taste it on my lips and smell it in the air.
I huddle deeper into my coat as the coldness gnaws at me.
As I walk, I recall warmer days and memories I have of growing up with this beach as my playground. As a child, the summers seemed to stretch on endlessly and everyday possible was spent at Harlyn. The skies were as blue and vibrant as the sea and the sand sparkled beneath the sun.
I pause in my stroll and look out to the ocean.
It was here where my father taught me how to bodyboard. I remember clutching onto the board whilst he ran ahead, pulling me along with the leash. As the wave broke, he’d let go and I’d ride the wave into shore, giggling with glee.
To my right is the small cove where the rockpools lie.
It was there where I went looking for sea creatures, where my fascination for marine life began. One day my childhood crush was also there, we spent hours searching and I taught him all the names of the animals we discovered.
This memory is somewhat bittersweet; at school the next day he barely acknowledged me. I smile a little sadly.
Summers were the time of ice creams, a sweet treat after a day of becoming coated in sand from building sandcastles. Sand found itself everywhere, tickling between your toes and dusting your hair; it was the sea’s very own glitter.
Yet my fondest memories of summer was, and still is, the swimming.
As a child, I’d run in with little hesitation; the iciness of the water did not bother me. Now I linger at the waters edge, mesmerised by the light glimmering on the surface, the sea enticing me. I wade out, the water steadily creeping up from my toes to my chest. I start to shiver.
Then, I’d immersive myself beneath the waves.
The sea would engulf me, wrapping me in it’s cold embrace. Briefly I’d open my eyes to a blue shimmering blur, with golden sand swirling beneath me. I’d surface with a gasp.
Swimming became addictive and I feel that pull towards the sea even on winter days, when the air is warm and the sun is beaming.
Before long, leaves begin to turn and fall from their branches. Winter arrives slowly and a serene stillness falls upon the bay as the crowds disperse. Summer fades into a hazy memory.
Winter at Harlyn has its own charms. The sea turns violent, unapologetic in its anger as it smashes the cliffs. The gulls cry and wheel overhead wildly. Dangerous yet beautiful, the storms here are captivating to witness.
When the winter tides roll in, the ocean offers up treasures to be discovered by those with keen eyes. My mother and I would spend hours beachcombing, a pastime that still gives me great joy.
Look closely and you’ll discover glistening pieces of sea glass and shells shining with iridescence. Driftwood and patterned stones lay hidden amongst the sand, waiting to be found. Yet as the tide comes back in, the sea reclaims its treasures to be found another day.
The wind has eased off as I begin to walk back to the car; my pockets lined with shells. I glance over my shoulder – the view is indescribable.
It is important to travel; to fall in love with new places, learn its history and make memories. However, I feel you’ll find the greatest of stories and memories are often found at home. Which, for me, is Harlyn.