Beach in Britain
beach in Britain – British people don’t go to the seaside any more, research suggests. But before cheap foreign deals, the convenience of air travel and higher disposable incomes, beaches in this country were a popular destination for those seeking rest and recreation only a rail journey away.
The British Hospitality Association wants a Seaside Tsar to “create coastal powerhouses” and boost the appeal of towns some survey respondents have described as “run down, expensive, dated, downmarket, tacky, cold, overrun with stag and hen parties, cheesy, and boring”. Which sounds like a big ask – beach in Britain
For a while the seaside, with its health-giving air, was considered an alternative to taking a cure at a spa. Orthodox medicine put a scientific veneer on popular sea-bathing customs and the idea was marketed to the masses who could not afford to take rooms in Bath or Cheltenham.
Bathing machines – popular in the 18th and 19th Centuries – allowed people to change into swimwear and wade into the sea. They had roofs and walls and preserved bathers’ modesty – despite typical swimsuits hardly being risqu.
Victorian matrons would sport black, knee-length, puffed-sleeve wool dresses worn over bloomers.
The growth of seaside resorts on the grand scale began with the railway age, which made access to the coast much quicker and cheaper.
In a reversal of the Victorian ideal, suntans began to be indicative of good health, rather than something to be avoided by people of good breeding.
Hotels were only affordable for the well off, so most families stayed in lodging houses, which folklore tells us were owned by strict unsmiling landladies.
Despite the austerity, seaside holidays flourished. beach in Britain
But gone are the times of childish innocence revelling in buckets, spades and sandcastles. The old-fashioned fun of donkeys, Punch and Judy, and bawdy end-of-the-pier entertainment seems to have lost its allure.
Nowadays, the natural world of starfish, rock-pools and gulls appears to have been eclipsed by the more exotic flora and fauna found on foreign holidays – people who’ve been on a safari are unlikely to be impressed by some bladderwrack.
Litter washing up on British beaches has increased, and kids with shrimping nets are increasingly more likely to pick up plastic bottles than sea anemones.
Family picnics, with potted meat sandwiches gritty with sand, gave way to what we think of as traditional seaside food – an extra draw.
Fish and chips, ice cream, candy-floss, and cockles and whelks – fattening, glutinous and delicious – had the added advantage of being eaten out of the bag while on the move, in defiance of conventional table manners.
And finally – you don’t find bombs on the beach to perch upon any more. Some would argue that’s a good thing.