Ruined by Popularity

Twelve years ago, we made the hair-raising drive out to Tumbledown Bay, on the recommendation of a colleague.

We fell in love. The remote bay with its sandy beach, kid-friendly waves, stunning scenery, and fabulous wildlife was exactly what we wanted in a beach. We began going there regularly.

For a few years, we could count on sharing the beach with, at most, half a dozen other people–that was on busy days. It was an intimate, private sort of experience, and those who found themselves together at Tumbledown Bay often struck up conversations (or, as we did on one of our very first visits, lasting friendships). It was a certain kind of person who went to Tumbledown, and everyone respected the desire for a crowd-free beach experience.

But word got about. Partly our fault–we praised the beach and encouraged our friends to visit it. Last week, when we arrived at Tumbledown Bay, there were already a dozen cars there, and more kept pouring in as the day wore on. The narrow footpath over the dunes had been replaced by a wide, driveable lane, and there was even a car on the beach. A rubbish bin overflowed at the end of the lane. Beach tents, boom boxes, people harassing the seals, dogs leaving ‘gifts’ along the waterline…it was no longer our Tumbledown Bay.

By any Northern Hemisphere standards, the beach was sparsely populated. But Tumbledown Bay isn’t equipped to handle crowds. It has no facilities, and the road to and from the bay is steep, narrow, and in poor shape. It’s not a road on which you want to meet oncoming traffic, but last weekend there was no way to avoid it.

It was possibly the last time we will visit Tumbledown Bay. A shame, really. It was a magical spot.