Newquay evokes a lifestyle of sun, sea, surf and good times

PUBLISHED: 15:06 19 August 2013 | UPDATED: 11:02 20 August 2013

Fistral Beach, Newquay from the Headland

Fistral Beach, Newquay from the Headland

Ewen MacDonald

The first thing to strike anyone visiting Newquay is the amount it has grown – as more and more people choose to live in striking distance of one of Cornwall’s best - and arguably most famous – beaches.

The first thing to strike anyone visiting Newquay is the amount it has grown – as more and more people choose to live in striking distance of one 
of Cornwall’s best - and arguably most famous – beaches.

And who can blame them. It’s impossible to think of Newquay without mentioning Fistral Beach – this stunning beach has been a mecca for surfers for a quarter of a century, humbly beginning with a beach shop selling deck chairs and windbreakers. Today it is the British home of surfing where national water sporting events dominate.

Sarah Gaskin, is a porter at the world-famous Headland Hotel which proudly sits above Fistral Beach. She moved to Cornwall from Hampshire with her partner Diana in September 2011 to start a new life after the death of her mother.

“I wanted something good to come out of something so bad,” she says. “We had been to Cornwall on holiday about eight times and stayed at the Headland when we came. Then we bought a static caravan, but we decided to move here.” Formerly a detention officer, Sarah applied for the job having had no hospitality experience – and admits she loves it. “I am still showing people to their rooms, but here they get to keep their shoes on!”

Since moving here, Sarah has taken up gig rowing – that most Cornish of sports – and joined a new team at the family-owned Headland. “When we came down here I said, ‘when I move here, I will have a go at that’. I love my life here, it’s a slower lifestyle, it’s safer, there’s cleaner air, and the people are lovely. I love walking and love the beaches – I would never go back. We have completely changed our life.”

Head into the town to Newquay’s equally stunning harbour, where fishing boats sit side by side with pleasure crafts which can take you out to see the incredible marine life on the coast - dolphins and basking sharks among them. There are also plenty of surf shops to browse in and other beaches to explore.

The town is equally famous for Newquay Zoo. John Meek, animal collections manager at Newquay Zoo, reckons he probably has the best job in the world. Responsible for the zoo’s 1,200 animals, he has worked here for almost 13 years and spends a lot of time working with zoos all over the world – he had just returned from Belize when we met in July.

“We are about education, conservation and entertainment,” he says of the zoo, which opened in 1969 – and is one of the town’s biggest employers. Alongside more than 50 permanent staff, they have as many volunteers. They also have staff working in Vietnam and Singapore in conservation centres. As a conservation charity – they rely on the funds brought in by the 170,000 visitors they get each year, as well as animal adoptions - the meerkats are among the most popular - and ‘zookeeper for the day’ events and the opportunity to feed the ever-popular penguins.

All the animals are captively-bred as part of breeding programmes designed to help safeguard the species: the fossa – a species made famous by the Madagasca film franchise – is one of only 2,000 left in the world, while John names the moment they were able to return a pair of civets - cat-like mammals - to their native Vietnam as the best moment in his 30-year career.

Animals are often found living with other species that they would meet in the wild, something that has to be carefully thought out and researched, but the zoo has had great results. John’s current favourite resident is Lazar, a 10-year-old black wildebeest who came from the Czech Republic with a female. The pair have just had Poppy, who at two-and-a-half weeks old is being bottle-fed. “We had to work out – what kind of milk do you feed a wildebeest? But she is doing really well.

“I love my job. It is the best job in the world, it’s fantastic – how many jobs are there where people will pay to do what you do?” n

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