My name is Alexandra Dahl and I am a 37-year old surfer living in North Devon, on the SW Atlantic coast of England.
I have been here for 10 years now and it truly is the most beautiful place I have ever lived. It is home.
About 5 years ago me and my boyfriend of 6 years separated and I was in desperate need of somewhere to call home. I needed a place that would shelter my broken heart, give me peace and quiet and I wanted to be right by the sea. Where I live the property is insanely expensive and cheap places to rent are rare and you only really get them through word of mouth. I needed to take matters into my own hands.
Between the beaches of Saunton and Croyde, perched above a right-hand point break, was a little old unloved building we call the Old Coastguard Station. It was in need of some TLC. It is tiny, exposed and legend had it that several people/ surfers from the area had tried to rent it, without success.
I tried, too. The owner is a friend of mine and I explained to him that I was the right person to move in as I was a) desperate and b) quiet and responsible and c) needed help to pick myself up. We met up and he dropped the keys into my hands. Just like that. This of course to the disbelief of everyone in the village! Reactions were mixed, a number of people could just not understand how I would live there by myself, alone, without amenities. The majority though were supportive and thought it was cool that a girl should do this!!! I think I had true faith that this was the right thing for me and somehow this is why it worked out.
The little house on the Point didn’t (and still doesn’t) have any electricity, though lines run up to it (I never re-connected the power), only outside running water and no shower or toilet. I bought a camping toilet from the paper, put it into the lean-to and that was that. I also got a sweet little gas cooker from Ebay, that I used to heat water with for flannel washing myself. I lived in it for 2 years minus the winter months as it gets very, very cold and damp!
I believe the building was used as a lookout in WW2 as there are lots of inscriptions on the flat roof from 1943/1944. It was also used by the Coastguard. Over the years a few people have come up to me, telling me that their family used to rent it over the summers when they were kids and it is always really exciting for me to hear all the stories about it. Basically, the little house gave me what I needed — it took me back to basics and gave me time to unearth who I was and where I was going. It gave me the remoteness and solitude that I was craving. It gave me lots of new friends. Heaps of self-respect. Direction. It centred me. And it underlined to me that, just because others don’t/ wouldn’t do something, doesn’t mean I can’t.
Size-wise, without measuring it, I’d say it is tiny- around 3×3 m, not bigger, as my longboard wouldn’t fit in!! It is a stone structure with a flat roof and turrets and a bay window that faces the sea. The bay window is supported by oak beams. This is where I placed my bed. I bought a high bed from the paper (one that has empty space underneath for a play area etc.) and cut off the legs to make it the exact height of the windows (about 1.5 m).Underneath I kept my clothes etc. The cooker sat in the old fireplace (which at that point needed re-lining before use).
Underneath the bay windows is an entrance into a cellar, about 1.3 m in height. All my surfboards and bikes lived in there. Later the landlord rebuilt the porch for me, which had fallen down years before. That was my kitchen, with a lovely window looking out onto some beautiful rights breaking.
Well, there is so much more to tell, but I hope this gives you a first taste of how special this place is. I will attach a folder with some images, all low res, for you to see!