Golden sands and blue marbled waters seem the obvious place to turn your gaze, yet author Philip Marsden urges us all to turn 180° to the bedrock of our captivating landscape. Cathedral-like caves, time-weathered rock stacks, and a treasure trove of rare and ultra-rare rock types form some impressive cliffscapes that tell “something of the deep processes that have shaped the planet” and help us “sense for a moment the dizzying age of the Earth”.
Read Philip Marsden’s piece on what to look out for at Watergate Bay, and other fascinating aspects of Cornwall’s geology to find out more.
Low tide treks
For a few days after 20 March (2023’s spring equinox), vast plains of usually unseen sands will open up at low tide, offering even more of Cornwall to discover. Embrace these extreme outward ebbing tides by exploring the coastline by sand. Time it right, and you can set out from our doors, heading south from Watergate, past Whipsiddery Cliffs and all the way to Porth Beach – walking back safely along the clifftop South West Coast Path as the tide marches back in.
Get walking this route on iWalk Cornwall and discover 10 of our favourite walks in Cornwall
Sand is my canvas
“I do it so it disappears,” says sand artist Tony Plant. Armed with his trusty rake, Tony’s fleeting sand spectacles invite beachgoers to stand in awe at his transient creations, before an advancing tide washes them away forever.
To have a go at creative sand art yourself, Tony suggests picking out the natural features in the landscape, like a boulder or a cliff edge… Then “trace the outline shadow of a rock every 15 minutes for a few hours, and you’ll get a really interesting grid pattern”. Why not take advantage of the low tide to create an outline of Zacry’s rock stock at the far south end of Watergate?
See more sand art at Watergate Bay – from the G7 presidents to a giant galloping polo horse – and hear more from Tony Plant
Smugglers’ dens and solitary picnic spots, azure rock pools and skies alive with peregrine falcons. It may feel like one long sandy mile to walk, but a whole world’s waiting to be discovered at Watergate’s lesser-trodden north end. Here you’ll find equinoctial tides pulling back to reveal cavernous caves, coves without a footprint and plump North Atlantic mussel beds ripe for the picking – just a handful of reasons why it happens to be Watergate Bay CEO Will Ashworth’s favourite spot…
Hear Will Ashworth and beach guide Tim Uff sharing some north end memories, from giant balls of fish to a hidden smuggler’s hole
Ebb and flow
While the world’s pace seems to be getting continually faster, the ocean’s rhythmic back and forth remains reassuringly constant. But what causes this steady rise and fall? Surfer and writer Pete Geall gens us up on the highs and lows of Watergate’s tides – from “waiting for the push’’ to tidal clues, and the many moods that our ocean waters pull along with them.
Read Pete Geall's guide to the tides – from beach safety to mermaid’s purses, and how the tides are a “metronome to coastal life”
A clattering in the skies
“The real residents of Watergate Bay” – according to local ecologist and lecturer John Blackburn – look out for our local colony of jackdaws nesting and swooping around the cliffs as you walk along the beach at low tide. The ‘kya’s’ and ‘ca ca cas’ of the jackdaws’ call are as familiar here as the crash of the swell on a windy day. In March and April they start their show-off mating acrobatics, “flying up high in the air and then dropping down and doing a twirl”. And they can even tell human faces apart…
Read our interview with John Blackburn to learn more about these fascinating birds
Treasures on the tide line
Mermaids purses and driftwood may rule supreme when it comes to beachcombing, but a more elusive booty may have passed you by. Ultra-rare ambergris is a much-desired relic of a past time. Known as ‘floating gold’, ambergris’ unusual beginnings – in the digestive system of a sperm whale – makes it an unlikely candidate to end up on the necks and pulse points of high society. Spritzed from expensive perfume bottles, pieces of this waxy, rock-like material, were ground down to add a musky fragrance to perfumes, and 1kg can still sell in the UK for as much as £42k. Best keep your eyes – and noses – peeled.
Finding your rhythm
What rhythms and routines should we follow and which should we challenge? Here’s our guide...
See the Owen Tozer edit
"When the tide was up, it was all we could see." Watch Owen's film and...
Chris Watson, long-time Sir David Attenborough collaborator is on the hunt for one of his...
Watergate Bay’s far north end promises rich rewards for those who make the mile trek.