The experts guide to building sandcastles.

April 15, 2016 by becca.lazar No Comments

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Last weekend, for the first time in a long long time, we decided to make a sandcastle. Now, it’s not like we, as a family, don’t make sandcastles when we go to the beach, but this time the children wanted to build a ‘real’ sandcastle: the kind that uses a french château as a blueprint and is adorned with buttresses and spires.

So, tooled up with two brightly coloured spades and neon pink and blue buckets – one optimistically castle shaped – my two little helpers and I set forth to build our sand sculpture.

Needless to say, it didn’t go well. With all the will in the world, the sands of Swanpool Beach were never going to transform themselves into a Disney Palace. Not with two pairs of tiny hands and spades the size of dessert spoons. What we built looked more like a slag heap than a castle.

But it did get the Cornish Holiday Cottages team thinking about sandcastles and the amazing sculptures we’ve seen from time to time on Cornwall’s beaches. Exactly how can we go from our sand mound to constructing something do impressive, that it won’t be crushed by the Godzilla like stamping of the next young boy that comes? So I did some research.

Turns out you need to be a little bit more prepared than your average trip to the beach, but you already know the basic ingredients: sand and water. Lots of water.

To start with, you need to take the right tools. Two buckets are recommended by champion sandcastle builders – one for gathering water and a second, with the bottom cut out, for creating towers. Instead of those small plastic shovels that come with a children’s bucket and spade set, bring a more robust spade for hauling and flattening your fortress. Finally, if you’re really going for it, bring a selection of scraping devices for finer detailing. The sort of thing found in the back of kitchen draws and utility rooms – old spatulas, butter knives, plastic rulers.

Location is everything. The beach beneath your castle should consist of fine grains and, as a guide, be firm enough to cycle on. The same consistency can be made by dousing the sand with water. If the children are still up for building a sandcastle and not begging to get back to the holiday cottage after getting enough water to create the base then you’re onto a winner.

Create your base by piling up sand, pouring water over it and then stamping it down with your feet.  The larger the base area and the more compact the sand, the easier it will be to sculpt your castle.

Somewhere near your castle you will want to have a water supply. The best bet is to dig a nice big sandy hole until you reach water – this will be your mixer. Grab large handfuls of the watery sand and place them on your foundations. While it’s still malleable, mould the sand into whichever shape you’re going for and compress it firmly. As you build higher you’ll spend less time compacting sand and more time jiggling it into shape.

That bottomless bucket is for gaining altitude. Lay it on your foundations, fill it full of sand and let little feet compact it down. You’ll be surprised how quickly your castle shoots up.

Walls are a slightly trickier proposition though. After scooping up a big handful of sloppy, wet sand begin forming it into bricks using the flats of your palms. With a little jiggling you should be able to get a nice compact brick of sand in place between your towers. Don’t be afraid of building walls two, even three bricks high.

Lastly, there’s the carving and shaping. The key is to always work from the top downwards, brushing away loose sand as it builds up. As someone whose hands get shakier the finer the detail I’m working on, the trick is to keep it conservative. Sand comes off easier than it goes on.

And there you have it: a sand castle to be proud of. This is all hypothetical of course – we’re yet to put any of this into action. But as soon as we do, you can guarantee there will be pictures. We’re imagining sand spires and sand turrets with arches and little windows. But to be honest, it will probably still look more like a slag heap than a château.

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