A love letter to the Great British seaside
My earliest seaside memories are of visiting Rhyl on the north Wales coast – complete with erratic summer weather, being mildly petrified of the donkey rides and experiencing at least one sandstorm. Another trip featured a Punch and Judy show with a blue fluffy crocodile which has gone down in family history for terrifying my younger brother.
When I look back, it’s with huge fondness – just being by the seaside was exciting, the adventure of exploring rocks and rockpools, of building sandcastles, of paddling in bracing water. It was the start of a lifelong love affair with the Great British seaside – a love I’m now passing down to my daughter.
Because while I’ve found myself on beaches and clifftops around the British Isles over the years, it’s really since having my daughter that I’ve started to rediscover the coast at home.
Today’s holidays have changed hugely in some ways – stylish beach cafes with a whole array of kids’ entertainment and gourmet chocolate cake in St Ives, quirky boutiques and an oyster festival at Whitstable for example. But the best of my childhood seaside remains.
Eating fish and chips and ice cream by the waves, looking for crabs, cockles and tiny swimming things in the rockpools of Devon, the carousel and funfair at Herne Bay where I went on a helter skelter last weekend for the first time in decades. Wheee!
And are you ever too old to make sandcastles, go beachcombing or paddling in the shallows? I hope not. I’m still misjudging the waves and ending up with wet knees most of the time.
With such variety, I’m certain I’ll never tire of it: the wild rugged coast of Wales and Cornwall, the Caribbean blues of the Isles of Scilly, the piers along the south coast, the endless castles standing proud on windswept headlands, seals, puffins and even the seagulls eyeing up each and every picnic.
There’s nowhere better to let the imagination run wild: one net was all it took to transform the shallows of the Kent coast into a breeding ground for tiny sharks, according to my daughter, who ran screaming in glee from these toothy terrors before catching several to show me. And if they looked very much like seaweed and stones, I wasn’t about to say so.
Or reliving the days of knights and princesses, probably dragons too, in Dover’s imposing fortress, where you can retrace hundreds of years of history in a single spot.
No wonder we all flock there as soon as the sun shines. Besides, who needs blue skies when you’ve got stripy windbreaks, the promise of hot chocolate and a determination to believe you’re simply blowing the cobwebs away.
Beautiful though a palm-fringed crescent of white sand may be, it can never quite match my home coast: the crashing drama of the waves, the simple pleasures of running across the sand or the eternal Englishness of the end of the pier entertainment.
Because all these threads, woven together, have one result – to pull me straight back to childhood once more, to relive the excitement again. I can see the sea!
Disclosure: I’m working with Visit England and BritMums promoting the Oh My Great Britain campaign, celebrating all the wonderful experiences families can have in the UK. Share your experiences using the #OMGBFamily tag and @BritMums. Visit www.Homeofamazing.com and follow Visit England on @VisitEngland to discover family adventures.
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