The idea of caravanning your way to watch world championship surfing conjures images of Airstreams and the California coast. But this month we managed to get our feet wet as spectators by hitching our long-term Bailey Pegasus Ancona to our now recently-departed but much-loved VW Passat Estate and heading down to Newquay in Cornwall.
Every summer the town plays host to Boardmasters festival – a mix of music and surfing with a few BMXs and skateboards sprinkled on top in case there’s not enough outdoorsy action. I’ve always thought caravanning was more fun with stuff to do within a few paces of the rig (hence my various festival visits in recent years), so the idea of more to see than ‘just’ bands playing in a field was appealing.
We rolled out of London on the Thursday afternoon aware of the joy that the A303 and A30 can bring to lovers of traffic jams, so we decided to break the trip a few miles north of Bournemouth. We stopped at the very welcoming St Leonard’s Farm Park in Ferndown, conveniently adjacent to the A31 and beautifully kept. With three of us along for the ride the Bailey was perfectly laid out for a rapid overnight rest – we each took a single bed at the rear of the van leaving the lounge area free for socialising.
And it was over a few drinks in the front of the Pegasus that one of us spotted social media abuzz with stories of the Perseid meteor shower. Once we’d worked out what exactly that was, we decamped from the Bailey’s comfy lounge to lie flat on a rug for half an hour staring at the stars – an amusing distraction that played directly into the hands of the hippy festival-goer stereotype, but well worth the effort given the clear Dorset sky.
Next morning we hitched up and pointed ourselves towards Newquay. Boardmasters is set high on grassy fields above Watergate Bay and the stewards directed us to park just a few minutes’ walk from festival central. The short stroll took us through a couple of canvas-filled (and beer-can-strewn) fields and down onto a delightful selection of bars and tents surrounding the main stage, positioned perfectly for seaside sunsets – although upbeat disco and electronic sounds meant that nightfall marked the beginning of the evening more so than the end.
Saturday morning was not an early start. Around lunchtime we took a bus ride to nearby Fistral Beach where Boardmasters had its second, more sporting home. Here we found a beach full of surf fans given the chance not only to watch qualifying sessions for the World Surf League but also to grab a board and attack the waves themselves. There was also a half-pipe for skateboarding and BMX tricks and, perhaps a little more suited to our idea of beachside activity, a conveniently located Rick Stein restaurant serving fish and chips to rival the very best seaside outlets.
By the time we got to the final evening we decided to miss the music and make use of the Bailey’s cooking facilities for something other than the morning bacon, which in our world meant a boxed pizza that hardly challenged the on-board gas oven. This, as it turned out, was a metaphor for the weekend’s use of the Pegasus Ancona – a fuss-free and comfortable place to lay heads for a few hours before (and after) sunrise.
On Monday we decided to let the crowds do their thing and leave after a late brunch. This turned out to have no effect whatsoever other than dim the effects of an early-start hangover. Still we queued to leave the site and still we fought the A30 all the way to A303, only to find that little section that curves around Stonehenge waiting to grind us to a halt again.
But none of that diminished the achievement of watching a sun-drenched UK beach play host to Baywatch-style surfboards and volleyball activity. Boardmasters is not exactly Cornwall at its quietest, but if you tack on a few days either side to wind down your steadies and put up your feet, you’ll have time to enjoy a little slice of California without leaving these shores. Even if those roads can make you feel like you’ve travelled the world…
It was a fuss-free and comfortable place to lay heads for a few hours before (and after) sunrise