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Coasteering in Cornwall

Posted by Richard Hammond at 10:40 on Saturday 29 April 2006

Coasteering in PembrokeshireCoasteering in PembrokeshireIt was billed as an eco adventure, but getting closer to nature wasn't exactly on my mind as I peered over the 30ft cliff edge and stared at the cold, clear water below. "It's not as far as it looks," shouted my instructor "three, two, one . . . go!" I leapt through the fresh April air and as I hit the water, I turned a full somersault and emerged bobbing like a buoy with a grin as wide as Fistral beach.

I was being introduced to "eco-steering" - a new spin on the coasteering craze - offered this summer at the Lusty Glaze Adventure Centre in Newquay. In addition to the heady mix of cliff jumping, scrambling and swimming, you're given an insight into the marine life that lives among the sea caves, blow holes and rocks along a stretch of spectacular Cornish coastline.

"It's combining something thrilling with learning about nature from a perspective that you don't usually get to see," said Rachel Hill from the adventure centre.

Once we'd hauled ourselves over the barnacle-covered rocks and caught our breath, we were shown an assortment of slimy molluscs, helped to identify the seabirds that perched in the steep cliffs, and told about the seals, dolphins and basking sharks that visit the south-west's waters. And as if on cue, as we swam over a gushing whirlpool towards an old tea smugglers' cave, two huge snorting seals appeared out of the shallow water to watch us scramble in our wetsuits and helmets through the cave's passages.

The addition of an eco element to Lusty Glaze's adventure sports programme is indicative of a growing environmental awareness throughout Cornwall's tourism industry. Some 300 local tourism businesses have joined CoaST, the Cornwall Sustainable Tourism Project (cstn.org.uk), which organises various initiatives linking tourism with the local environment.

I stayed at Pendoric, an eco-friendly B&B 10 minutes' drive from Lusty Glaze in the quiet village of St Mawgan, where you can have an organic cooked breakfast sourced from the village farm shop and where the bill includes a contribution towards cleaning the local beaches. There is also a discount for guests who have offset the carbon emissions created by travelling there.  

According to the owner, Eugenie Harper, Pendoric is increasingly popular with surfers and kite-surfers looking for a comfortable alternative to camping and other more traditional places to stay. "The decor in other B&Bs can be a bit chintzy," she said. "We're a modern, affordable, chilled-out place where surfers can feel at home."

To help guests unwind after a day spent tumbling in the Cornish surf, "Ashtanga-inspired" yoga lessons and massage treatments are provided in Pendoric's candle-lit living room by local teacher Mara Blackburn. I had a back massage, and as my aching limbs recovered by the warmth of a wood stove, it was easy to see why so many are drawn to Cornwall's very local charm.

Buy tickets for trains to Cornwall

Pendoric (01637 860031, pendoric.co.uk) costs from £25pp a night B&B, massage treatments from £17.50, yoga class £25. A full day's eco-steering at the Lusty Glaze Adventure Centre costs £75 (01637 872444/878718, "lustyglaze.co.uk").

This article, by Richard Hammond, was first published in the Guardian.

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