Olympic rower Helen Glover recalls growing up by the sea in the Cornish town of Penzance, and her childhood playground of Gwithian Towans Beach on St Ives Bay. Interview: Alex Reece
I have been going for walks on Gwithian Towans Beach as long as I can remember. There are photos of me, my brothers and sisters – all five of us – wrapped up from head to toe in the freezing cold winter, being blown about on the sand dunes when we were tiny toddlers. But our big family thing would be to go tobogganing on the sand dunes, because Cornwall doesn’t really get snow.
I grew up with Gwithian being my playground, but then it became my gym, because I'd go running there. You can run for miles and miles and it feels so refreshing and relaxing to be away from any hustle and bustle.
I’ve always felt comfortable in the water. I think that’s largely because, growing up by the sea, everyone was always really conscious of making sure that we could swim well, so we learned real water confidence. And so rowing, for me – because it had that affinity with water – was a natural fit.
My husband Steve (Backshall) and I both have paddle boards. On our honeymoon, we were in Mexico living on a boat and we took our boards out every single day. Over Easter, we did a big charity kayak (125 miles from Devizes to Westminster) as we want to save a chunk of rainforest in Borneo for the World Land Trust (see worldlandtrust.org).
I’ve always loved Seasalt as a brand – their Cornish roots are really obvious in what they do. The bag I’ve designed to raise money for the Fishermen’s Mission is definitely influenced by my childhood. The sun is coming out behind St Michael’s Mount, and we had to put some Cornish gig rowers in, plus my dad’s ice cream shop – Jelberts – the recipes have been in our family for over a hundred years. I’ve put in everything that's sentimental to me. I would love to live by the sea again. There’s nothing like it. You can either walk on the beach, swim in the sea or go surfing – there’s so much opportunity to find adventure.
Seasalt’s charity jute shoppers are priced at £6 – 50p of which goes to the Fishermen’s Mission. Available in Seasalt stores and online at seasaltcornwall.co.uk.