VIDEO AND PICTURES: Put your skills to the test at sandcastle championship
The National Sandcastle Competition takes places at Croyde tomorrow. We sent Martin Hesp to the beach to pick up a few tips on sandcastle creativity.
Sand: loose grains that fall apart. Castle: a building of strength. Conundrum: why is it that people are obsessed by the mad idea of forming the latter out of the former?
No-one knows why the British are so crazy about sandcastles – but we do know that a competition to see who can build the best is one of the most popular annual events to take place on the Westcountry coast.
And tomorrow the National Sandcastle Competition will get under way on Croyde beach, where as many as 10,000 people will gather to admire the weird, wonderful and ephemeral sand creations.
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Staff from North Devon Homes have won the competition not once, but twice, and this year – as well as entering two teams – they've taken over organising the event, which raises funds for the North Devon Hospice.
Here are some successful-sandcastle-secrets...
Secret Weapon No1: take a plant sprayer full of water. Nothing glues sand together like water (unless you're a cheat and use concrete, which is against both the rules and the spirit of the contest.
"A good sandcastle does need wet sand," I was told by Clare Fallow, one of the key pros in the North Devon Homes team. "We do use spray-bottles to keep the sand wet, especially if it's a hot day. The spray really helps with features like eyes and ears and things like that which can dry out and blow away."
Secret Weapon No2: take plenty of tools to help you shape and smooth surfaces of your sandcastle.
"We also bring professional plasterer's floats and other tools to help us with the details we're going to make," said Clare, whose proper job is performance improvement manager with North Devon Homes.
"We've even got a special trowel to make the wrinkles on the elephant we will be doing, for example.
"The secret of success is in the detail – making your sandcastle lifelike," said Clare.
Secret Weapon No3: plan exactly what sort of "sandcastle" you are going to make on a grid.
"You have to go for something that's not too high off the ground that you can do in three hours," Clare advises.
Michelle West is one of the competition organisers and she explained that North Devon Homes had taken over running the event on behalf of the North Devon Hospice, which receives all funds raised.
"It's not too late to enter because we're taking entries on the day – and we are having a junior section so children can sign up and join in the fun as well," she told me as our huge hippo slowly came to life in the sand.