15 Sep Porthgain
This was a weekend with a difference. It is not a racing regatta. It’s a social row for 7.5miles from Whitesand Beach and around Ramsey Island. It was billed to take in the sights of seal pups and the craggy rock passages known as The Bitches. It didn’t quite pan out as billed but what transpired will go down in history for Clifton!
There were 8 adults (Terrey, Debs, Rob, Bryan, Luke, Cath, Nina, Steve) and 2 children (Darwin and Bryher) that travelled all the way to West Wales. We were staying near Porthgain on East Farm owned by Tom Sutton – famed for his beautiful gigs and wood supplies for the gigging world. Accommodation was varied from camping, campervan and driving down just for the day!
Camping; quite frankly, never to be done again!
Terrey (and children) were the first to arrive in the driving rain just as the sun was setting. With the darkness clearly confusing, Terrey chose what appeared to be a protected corner of the field. By the time Steve and Luke arrived Terrey had the ground sheet laid. We witnessed Ben Sutton holding the king pole in the near horizontal deluge, Darwin and Bryher also holding supporting poles. Ben had taken his waterproof coat off to loan to Darwin and without any complaint he stood there as long as he had to. Such generous help; amazing. Car engines were left to run whilst their lights allowed us to get stuck into tent erecting. We quickly realised that the protected corner of this field was in fact the cows’ entrance to the field. Cow pats were everywhere and where there wasn’t a cow pat there were large thistles. Two hours later Terrey’s tent was up and Steve and Luke had somehow managed to get their tents up too. Steve’s tent was in fact mostly done by Terrey! Then and only when all tents were up; the rain stopped. Nina and Cath popped out of their Land Rover like bluebells in Spring. In the darkest part of the deluge they had tried to erect their tents, failed and when the cowpat problem became clear they retired to the car for gin & tonics, car heater and heated seats. Who could blame them? They had a night in the back of the Discovery ahead of them instead. A few more G&Ts around Terrey’s Mansion Tent, some amazing olives from Nina and all sorts of nibbles from Luke and we retired for a well-earned sleep. Steve couldn’t face the tent as it was surrounded by 8 large cowpats (yes, I did count them) and was soaking inside, so a night in the Jeep beckoned.
The Jeep isn’t quite 5ft 10inches and so a crumpled Steve emerged about 6 hours later. Nina and Cath were not happy bunnies. They declared immediately that they are soooo not spending another night like that! Rob and Debs emerged from their 5 star camper van quite oblivious to the nights hardships. I think they may have even had too much sleep. With a 6.45am departure for our rowing adventure we hitched up Avona and set off. The wind transpired to be too strong and the sea too big to launch safely so we moved to plan B which was to launch from the slipway in Porthgain. As we arrived, Bryan emerged from his car having set off at 4am to come rowing. We were finally a full crew. A quaint village, beautiful sunshine and easy, protected launch allowed us to row into the full extent of the West Wales Atlantic. The swell was huge and the chop on top tricky but great rowing experience. A scenic row down the coastline allowed us to view the Red Bull cliff diving venue (85ft dive) at the blue pool in Aberiddy. After various stops and swapping rowing the wave’s motion got the better of a few in the boat. Nina had a dose of proper sea sickness and the children started feeling dodgy too. We decided to head back after about an hour. As soon as the sea sick crew stepped onto terra firma they felt better; that was good. So, boat prepped again for towing back and we headed back to Tom’s farm.
Nina and Cath headed home despite the draw of the evening barn dance in Toms barns. Bryan drove back to Bristol to get the tail end of the Tour of England cycling.
What to do for the afternoon? Tempting to catch up on some sleep. Tempting for the rest of us to drive home too. Very tempting to go to the pub. But Darwin and Bryher had other ideas. They insisted on going to Toms swimming pool. So, we all had to go. What we didn’t realise was that there was also a Jacuzzi at the back of the pool. An amazing pool, in a proper stone barn with fabulous wood pillars and roof features. Swings setup from the roof, a wooden slide fixed with rope and tensioned with a winch. It is an amazing pool. We spent all afternoon there and amazingly were the only people using it. The Jacuzzi was a fabulous place for Debs, Terrey, Luke and Steve to see off a couple of bottles of champagne. Darwin and Bryher just loved the pool. Rob had a sleep in the 5 star camper! Perhaps the best part, we got a proper shower which made us feel lots better and up for the evening. All was well in the world again.
A quick dash to nearby St Davids, some quick food and back to Toms for the barn dance. What a barn dance. People came from far and wide. A proper live band, a caller, table football, table tennis a well-stocked bar and an amazing setting. Clifton got stuck in almost straight away. My only recollection was that we laughed for hours, had a really fabulous time and were without question a force to be reckoned with on the dance floor. We even taught the caller a few improvised Cossack steps for next time. The table football was the most competitive thing all night. Rob was a whiz on this – probably because of all the sleep he had!
An evening under canvas ahead then. Luke relocated Steve’s tent away from cowpat corner. This time, there wasn’t any rain. What was a relief. The next morning the sun rose, rain came in and the sun came out again. Apparently this is perfectly normal in West Wales. Tents down and packed and a huge drive back to the West Country. Everyone absolutely shattered but everyone full of amazing memories of a fabulous weekend full of adversity, challenges, camaraderie, laughs and more laughs, a little bit of rowing and just great friends having yet another fantastic weekend away.