Thursday, 7 August 2008

Visiting the Seaside

When I think of visiting the coast I think in terms of visiting somewhere like the Gower estuary where we can park and walk and enjoy the open space, coastal walks, rock pools etc. I don't really think these days of seaside resorts - even when the kids were small we were more likely to be found on the deserted Chesil beach than at a resort. When the need to build a sandcastle was of prime importance we would condescend to drive down into Weymouth for an afternoon.
However we had a phone call from a niece, close family whom we have not seen much this year telling us she was at the seaside with her two children and not coming to stay here most of the summer holiday as usual, so we felt that we could go and spend a day at the seaside with them.
We had only just hit the motorway when she sent a text message and said it is pouring don't come...too late... So we drove all the way there in the pouring rain, we were all dressed in shorts and t shirts on the premise that the less clothes we wore the quicker we would dry out, but we did have a huge umbrella!
We arrived and found a parking space saw that we could walk along the beach to the meeting point, decided that it was currently dry and getting warm so to leave the umbrella in the car and set off to the beach.
Beaches bring up the mental image of miles of golden sand, the odd palm tree, gentle waves lapping gently onto the sand… this reality was more to do with mud than sand, the sea a long way away, a very strong smell of donkey and not a palm tree in sight. The overpowering drive to retreat to the car and drive away as fast as possible had to be overcome…so teeth gritted and grins fixed and we headed onward.
We soon came across the poor old donkeys – pulling traps that were made to look like various Thomas the Tank Engine engines…what’s the point? Why not real little trains for the children and donkeys being donkeys? Very strange! Along the beach were various stalls seeing the obligatory sunhats, bucket, spades beach balls etc., near the meeting point we found one selling coffee – in real mugs! Bonus!!
The weather was glorious and when the tide came in there were probably as many as twenty children playing in the sea and at least two of us grandmas in with them keeping the ones that we were responsible for safe. When they had finished playing in the sea the children were filthy – there really was more mud than sand! I took the four year old I had into slightly deeper water and literally rubbed him down, rinsing the mud off as we went to try to get him clean enough to dress. On the beach it was virtually impossible to build sand castles, the mud did not come out of the buckets in the same way as sand.
We dressed the children and went to get lunch, we sat trying to decide what to do for the afternoon – there really didn’t seem to be much available.
We spent time wandering round the resort, looking for the interesting seaside type of shops, but all there was was the modern malls of normal town shops, nothing interesting or different at all. We eventually decided to walk up the other end of the town and see the funfair. This was a revelation – to me anyway! It was an old steam driven funfair with old caravans, rides, lorries etc. I thought it was really interesting. The kids weren’t too impressed, it did not have all the modern rides that they are used to but as they were spending money and wining prizes they were reasonably content.
Inevitably when there was something to take photos of I did not have my camera with me, but my daughter came to the rescue, she had a little one in her handbag.
I took several photographs of the steam fair, it was the only things that seemed to be worth seeing in the whole place.
It was lovely to see our family and spend a little time with the children, nothing will change that, but, families were there on holiday, presumably many had paid, probably quite a lot of money to be at the seaside with their young children. There was very little there for them. The whole place was sad. The thought of being there for a week or a fortnight is just too horrifying. Is this the best that the British seaside can manage?
For the photos of the steam fair see Flickr

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