I write this sitting at my desk at BBC Countryfile Magazine Towers. The sun is streaming in through the window and it’s hard not to wish myself outdoors.
Working 9-5 can be tough on the soul, especially in summer, but I’ve got a failsafe survival strategy – hightailing it to the coast for a dip in the ocean as soon as the last bell goes.
For me, surfing is the most satisfying of microadventures. All you need is a board and a wetsuit and you can go from office to sea swell in no time. Surfing clears your head, takes you to incredible open spaces and it’s fantastic fun, too.
I can leave work in Bristol at five and be in the sea at seven, with hours of sunshine left and nothing to do but catch a wave or two. And there’s nowhere more glorious to head to than Swansea Bay for an evening surf and then a sleep under canvas next to the Celtic Sea.
Arriving in Swansea Bay always feels like escaping from real life – cross the Severn and fly past the belching steel works at Port Talbot and suddenly you’re in chilled-out Mumbles, where cosy cottages and pastel ice-cream shops sit gazing out at the sea.
I love to surf at Caswell Bay – it’s a friendly, safe beach for beginners and it’s incredibly beautiful, too, sheltered between cliffs that glow gold with gorse flowers in late spring.
The first step on to the soft, silvery sand makes me instantly forget the working day. There’s no better sight than watching the sun turn the sand a rich umber and other surfers become silhouettes as they make their way towards the water with boards tucked under their arms.
Don’t have your own board? No problem. Surf GSD are based at Caswell all year round and can be rung up any time to come and kit you up with a board and a wetsuit for £20 for an hour. They also offer lessons – I first learned to surf with their easygoing instructors and I was instantly hooked on trying (and usually failing) to ride the Welsh waves.
After the sheltered beauty of Caswell, head west along the coast to wilder Rhossili – it can throng with surfers in the summer but the beach is an incredible four miles of perfect sand, so there’s room for everyone. Above the bay is the village of Llangennith – a scattering of houses perched on moorland grazed by wild ponies. There’s only one pub, but luckily it’s the fabulous King’s Head – the perfect place to watch the sun set over the cliffs.
As night falls it’s time to bed down in a tent. This corner of Wales is full of friendly campsites, all mercifully peaceful on a weeknight. Bank Farm is great for families, while Three Cliffs Bay will reward you with incredible panoramic views come morning.
It’s hard not to sleep well after a salty surf session, and I can’t think of a better ritual than drinking in the sight of the sea over a cup of tea from the warmth of a sleeping bag in the early morning before heading back to real life. You can’t help but feeling smug (if a little rumpled) when back at your desk at 9am after your surf adventure.
The King’s Head
A 17th-century coaching inn smack in the middle of Llangennith, the King’s Head has a little garden from which to soak up views of the bay in summer. On a balmy evening, sit outside and satisfy your ravenous post-surf hunger with a hearty portion of the pub’s delicious grub and a pint of real ale from their own brewery – their Gower Gold is worth the trip to Wales alone.