Although I mostly spent my teens and early-twenties at the beaches in Cornwall, I did manage to get to a couple of others. In my mid-twenties I came to Australia and swam at some of the best beaches I could ever have imagined, but I still remember these others as being the first beaches outside England.
Tresco, Isles Of ScillyCopyright: Roantrum. Licensed for reuse under Creative Commons licence.
Okay, it's not actually outside England, though on the long, rough ferry ride from Penzance it felt like it was. I went over to the Scilly Isles three times during the incredibly hot summer of 1976. Twice we stayed on St Marys and had a few swims there, but my favourite time was when we took the short ferry ride over to Tresco. The beaches were wonderful.
At the end of the summer season in Cornwall, I'd sometimes go grape-picking in France, usually around Pauillac. One year, in late September, a group of us decided to spend a week or so at the beach at Montalivet. We camped in the large sand dunes between some pine forests. During the week, the beach was virtually deserted, but on the weekend it became crowded with swimmers and surfers. It was, however, such an incredibly long beach, or series of beaches, that we just moved further along the sands. I remember there was quite a strong longshore current - my first experience of this. The water was quite cold, but, at night, we'd have a bonfire to dry off and warm up after swimming in the darkness.
Taormina Beach, Sicily, Italy
Copyright: . Licensed for reuse under Creative Commons licence.
The beach chairs were nearly all gone, and those that remained were vacant, when I was here in November. A week before I was here, I'd been in snow in Germany and Austria, so Sicily seemed warm. With that in mind, I went for a swim. The water was really warm (compared to Cornwall). My first ever winter swim.