It’s easy to feel immediately calmed by the natural beauty that befalls me as I sit, coffee in hand, on the balcony of the Watergate Bay Hotel, staring out across the Atlantic Ocean from Cornwall’s north western coast. I’m greeted with a sense that this is a special corner of England, as I take some downtime before what will inevitably be a busy weekend.
For starters, I’ve got swimming to do. As part of a group that has come to Cornwall to learn better freestyle technique under the tutelage of swim coach Salim Ahmed, we will undertake three hour-long lessons over two days in the hotel’s low-chlorine, 26m indoor pool, which has a glass front overlooking an outdoor hot tub and the beach below.
Wetsuited black dots speckle the ocean, a favourite surfing spot, as I debate whether I’m brave enough to have a lesson with the hotel’s affiliated Extreme Academy. The alternatives are endless; in addition to the hotel’s cardio room and spa, there is stand-up paddleboarding and kitesurfing nearby, while just up the road are the infamous Bedruthen Steps and its fantastic hiking opportunities. The ‘refuelling opportunities’ are just as varied. Chef Neil Haydock serves up beautifully cooked, seasonal dishes at the hotel restaurant, Zacry’s, while within a radius of about 500 metres lies Jamie Oliver’s 15 and The Beach Hut, serving hearty portions of traditional English dishes including great fish and chips.
Behind all of this enjoyment is a serious commitment to sustainability, says commercial director Chris Hugo. He explains that Watergate Bay has been making major changes since 2008 to ensure they do their best to keep everything as environmentally friendly as possible in the day to day operations. “We shied away from ‘greenwashing’, that is using sustainability as a marketing tool,” he says, explaining why huge declarations are not made to customers about this aspect of the business. “But if you scratch the surface, you can find out all about it and we’ll happily talk to anyone who asks.”
At Watergate Bay, the refuse team clean the beach once a day and collaborate with Surfers against Sewage to keep things on track as well as being part of the Marine Conservation Society. Essentially, there are three main aspects to the sustainability programme: headline projects once in a while, small investments along the way and staff education.
On the first point, the biodigester that was put in place three years ago uses food waste to create hot water that can help run the hotel’s heating system more efficiently. Smaller constant investments include improvements to electrical wiring or the use of more eco-friendly bulbs to light up rooms. And third, focusing the minds of every member of the Watergate Bay workforce so that they understand and appreciate the importance of sustainability can have an enormous impact over time and has helped to increase the recycling rate to 60%, a carbon footprint reduction of 25% and a water usage reduction of 40%.
Combine that with bright and innovative décor, exceptional views, friendly staff and a four-hour train ride from London and we reckon you have the magic formula for a truly awesome British break that nourishes its environment as well its guests’ minds – and stomachs.
For Swim Clinics at Watergate Bay, visit: http://www.watergatebay.co.uk/stay/offers/active-breaks/swim-clinic/