In praise of the great British seaside

Perhaps we don’t need to save up to fly off to foreign lands for our summer when we have something pretty special on our doorstep, says Nicole Lampert.

Amid the coronavirus, I’m pleased to see that many of my friends are beginning to fall for the British seaside…

While my dream holiday normally requires a pool, some sunshine and copious bottles of local wine, I have long learned that for my pale-skinned and ridiculously active children nothing could be more heinous.

They hate the heat, as does my husband. Are bored of the pool after 20 minutes. Moan so furiously about being dragged around hot cities and museums that we all end up hating each other. And they spent our last two summer holidays mainly shut up in villas box-setting Netflix. My joy at being in the sun by the pool drinking wine is therefore tempered with the opposite of all that is fun; the dreaded parental guilt.

Their favourite holidays have always been based around the British coast. It is something they get misty-eyed about and when they list their favourite holidays the seaside beats Tuscany, Paris and even Disneyland. They love eating fish and chips on pebbly beaches. They could spend hours (and lots of money) in amusement arcades. But most of all they adore crabbing.

We discovered the joy of crabbing by accident one Easter when I booked a few days in Cromer in Norfolk on a whim. At the time I’d never heard of Cromer crab. Within hours of our arrival we had quickly learned that crabs like bacon and not the revolting bait shops sell to crabbing novices. You need a good rock to weigh your net down and hey presto – hours of fun.

That Easter there was rain and bitter wind and often we were the only people on the pier. But we still crabbed. We learned to spot the different types of crabs we were catching. How to send them to sleep so they don’t pincer you (lie them on their backs) and even how to tell if they are a male or female (if the underside has a beehive shape it’s a girl, while a point triangle denotes boy). It wasn’t the only highlight of our trip – if you go to Norfolk you must go and see the seals in Blakeney and it is full of stunning villages – but it was the main one.

The following Easter we went to Fowey in Cornwall on the basis that it was one of the best places to crab. It came as a welcome surprise that it was also a beautiful place with ancient windy streets and a gorgeous beach. And we’ve just returned from our second trip there. Once again my boys, who I was beginning to think had X box controllers super glued to their hands, were thrilled to spend hours crabbing.

There is something gloriously innocent and perhaps primevally ‘hunter’ about catching the crabs in a net, sticking then in a bucket of seawater for a few hours so you can look at them and then letting them go. Vegans, please don’t shoot me. No crabs were harmed.

With the rest of the world gradually being closed off – either because they don’t want us or stringent quarantines – I’m pleased to see that many of my friends are also beginning to fall for the British seaside.

Outside of some the biggest resorts like Bournemouth and Brighton there are miles and miles of beautiful and quiet sandy spots to soak up the sun. There are stunning seaside villages all happy to welcome us. There is never a language problem, you don’t have to exchange money, and while when you are abroad you are normally stuck eating one particular cuisine for your entire trip (last summer in France duck dominated every menu, I haven’t been able to eat it since), there is normally Indian, Chinese, Italian as well as British food at your fingertips.

There is also so much to see and explore. In Cornwall, we visited the stunning Lost Gardens of Heligan, took a bike ride around the Clay Trails to the stunning port of Mevagissy, picking wild blackberries on the way home, went kayaking in the Fowey estuary and took a sealife safari in Falmouth during which we were greeted by a pod of dolphins for a few memorable and genuinely awe-inspiring minutes.

I’m thrilled to see my Instagram feed, normally filled with perfect images of exotic places at this time of year, is now full of images of friends at the great British seaside; be it in Wales, Scotland, Northumberland, Norfolk, Kent, Sussex, or Cornwall.

We live in a genuinely beautiful country. I think if the pandemic has taught us anything it is to be grateful for what we have. Things will be different once all this is over and many of the budget airlines will have gone. Perhaps we don’t need to save up to fly off to foreign lands for our summer when we have something pretty special on our doorstep. And you don’t even have to be into crabbing to love it.

Photo credit: Fowey Harbour

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Nicole Lampert

Nicole Lampert is a freelance journalist. A former showbusiness editor of the Daily Mail, she is also a best selling ghost writer, and now specialises in entertainment and opinion pieces. You can see her work in the Daily Mail, Drama Quarterly, Haaretz, The Spectator, The Independent, The Jewish Chronicle and Glamour.

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