Recent times have catapulted the British seaside back to the top of the wish list for our family holidays. We’ve all had a valid reminder of just how much a good old day at the seafront has to offer. Regardless of our generation, British beach holidays have played a huge part in building our childhood memories.
British holidays have even earned themselves a fancy new name and we’re all busy booking our ‘staycations’.
The coastline has always stubbornly refused to commit itself to good weather for us, but there are some things we can depend on the UK break for: fresh sea air, sandy sandwiches and sassy seagulls all come as standard when you holiday at home.
It sometimes feels like the stunningly scenic British coast has been forgotten – almost downgraded – following the 60’s fashion of sun-drenched Spanish holidays and the following years when travelling abroad becoming the norm.
Before the sun-seekers amongst us started to hop on a plane for our summer breaks, Northerners were flocking to open-air dancing at Blackpool Pier for wakes week when the factories closed, or looking forward to a chip butty and a comedy show at Scarborough.
Further south, families were heading to Barry Island to spend all their money at the Pleasure Park and Brummies were flocking down to cross the Tamar Bridge and holiday along the Cornish coast – you’d always spot someone from school! Train tickets to Skegness, Brighton and Whitby were all at the ready for our summer breaks.
We’ve been reminiscing about sunny days the old-school way, and realised that not all that much has really changed! The donkeys don’t join us as often as they used to and the bathing suits have certainly changed (remember those knitted ones, all soggy and sandy and hanging down to your knees) but some things remain predictable. Here’s a little reminder of what British Seaside holidays always have to offer:
That Seaside Feeling
That magical moment of contentment and a sense of humility. You’re sat on an imperfectly flattened and sand-dappled towel with your bare toes scrunching the sand. You tilt your head back a little, close your eyes, and breathe in the salty sea air. All is well with the world – that’s never changed.
Us Brit’s love an excuse for a packed lunch – we just do – and a day at the beach is exactly that.
Sandy hands and seafront breezes mean no sandwich escapes the inevitable gritty crunch of some rouge grains of sand. Just eat up!
Lovingly prepared in advance and crammed with treats the wicker picnic basket (or slightly less glamourous zip-up freezer bag) is lusted over by everyone for the first couple of hours of any beach visit, until Mum okays that we can make a start on lunch.
Fish & Chips
Remember scooping up your feet in a panic and anxiously shooing away a seagull the size of your sister? We’d argue that if you haven’t battled a bird over a dropped chip then you haven’t experienced a British seaside holiday.
The seafront offers up plenty of seafood treats like cockles and crabsticks, but there’s a firm favourite in the tried and tested combination of deep-fried cod and oversized greasy chips. Served in greaseproof paper sheets with a minuscule two-pronged wooden fork: ‘Fish ‘n’ Chips’ remains a staple seaside meal and a non-negotiable for most!
It doesn’t matter if every shopfront looks exactly the same, we still factor in a stroll along the prom and pop into each and every souvenir shop along the way. It has to be done.
Browsing the pocket money options amongst the seafront trinket shops still holds its place high on the seaside activity list. We compare magnets, buckets and spades, crab fishing sets, sticks of rock and cheeky postcards. It’s agreed though, we will only buy something on the way back after all spending options have been explored!
Before our shoes come off and we start to paddle or play, first we must ‘get settled’. Getting set-up for the day is overseen by the boss of the family – whoever that may be – and executed in true military fashion:
First of all the beach is subtly (or not so subtly) surveyed with a panoramic scan and the best possible spot of sand is expertly selected. We don’t want to be too far from the café, not too close to the main walkways, and not near that noisy lot over there! There is a process for a British beach holiday, and we like to stick to it.
Whatever the weather and however long we’re visiting for, there’s a system: tent to the rear, big towels and deckchairs to the front, and rainbow-striped windbreak expertly unrolled to the side where it’s hammered in with a stone, or a rubber mallet if dad’s got all the kit!
The primary function may be to shield us from the sea breeze – but if we’re honest – we just love to claim our own little patch of sand. The windbreak is the seafront equivalent of a nice Privet hedge: this bit’s ours today, thank you very much.
Still available for hire by the day or by the hour, deckchairs remain the throne of the British holidaymaker. If we’re going to stay for the day then we’re going to be comfortable, are we right?
The kids will inevitably steal a moment to perch on the deckchair of any adult who dares to abandon their seat for a moment, so beware of your return to a soggy and sandy spot!
Amusement Arcades & Fairgrounds
“Can we go in?” The alluring sounds of the arcade are an undeniably timeless temptation. Nobody can resist the crescendo of coins from the change machine, the music of different machines battling to be heard over each other, or the delighted screams of the most recent winners. Can you still hear those recognisable tones that tell us another attempt of the grabber machine has failed?
Some of the games have changed a little, but the buzz, the energy, and arguably the décor, haven’t changed a bit.
Ice Cream Treats
Those 99ers: you can expect to spend at least a couple of pounds on one now. They’re still the seaside dessert you can enjoy guilt-free at any time of the day.
Whipped ice cream in a wafer cone adorned with half a Cadbury’s flake and dripping messily with strawberry sauce – almost a childhood right of passage, would you say? Every family album has a shot of little noses tipped with blobs of ice cream peeking out from underneath sun hats.
Testing The Water
When we’re abroad we commit to dipping our toes in the sea. We dress for the beach in no uncertain terms and head on in, we’re confident that the temperature will be kind.
When holidaying in Britain though, we like to test the water first! Trousers – even three-piece suits at one time – are hitched up and you can always spot a few ‘crikey that’s cold’ hops along the water’s edge.
Elaborately designed castles complete with sloppy moats and seashell décor still litter the summer sands.
A timeless parenting tactic: mums and dads enthusiastically send off the kids to fetch more buckets of water for the moat, grabbing themselves a few more precious moments of quiet time.
All the family are together, nan and aunty Peggy have tagged along too, and mum will insist that the squabble over the big spade pauses for two seconds whilst we take ‘a nice family photo for once’.
We may have seen cameras reduce in size and then in numbers making way for mobile phones, but those family photos are still not up for debate. We’re not guaranteeing everyone will smile though – some of us are getting a bit overtired.
Families are flooding back to the British seaside to make the most of their spare time and summer holidays. Perhaps we’ve had an overdue and necessary reminder of the beautiful scenery we have here on our doorstep, and that kids really don’t care if the sea’s a bit cold!
This beautiful and varied coastline never fails to please as somewhere to unwind, enjoy the simple things in life, and cherish the company of our nearest and dearest.
Take yourself back to the sights and sounds of the British promenade with our DVD ‘The Way We Were At The Seaside’.