The traditional seaside



Punch and Judy at Southwold, 2002 The traditional British seaside holiday is alive and well. These youngsters watching Punch and Judy (left) are at Southwold, in 2002. Punch and Judy was performed at Southwold several times a day. At the end of the performance, a box was passed round in the traditional way for "Mr Punch's wages". Little has changed since Tony Hancock's melancholy "Punch and Judy man" was pronounced a dying breed in the 1962 film.

Southwold is very much a traditional family resort. As well as Punch and Judy, there is a pier. It is not, however, a traditional pier. The original pier was destroyed some years ago and it has been rebuilt. The entertainment on the pier is very much in the spirit of piers of long ago. There is a selection of traditional slot machines - as well as the noisy modern ones. The "under the pier show" provides the weird and wonderful. There is a machine that pretends to go under the pier. There is a mechanical "Doctor" and a machine with rubber arms that does an "auto frisk". The main attraction on the pier, though, is the water clock. It is a crude metal sculpture featuring two men wearing metal trousers. On the hour and half hour, they perform by dropping their trousers and watering the tulips below. This attracts quite a crowd in anticipation!

Southwold's other famous attraction is the beach huts. These have been featured in Sunday newspapers and now cost a small fortune. Like houses on a suburban street, they have names as well as numbers. On this picture (above left) you can see "Here's hoping" and "Idleours".

Southwold, for now, has the balance right. It's not too commercial - and not too upmarket. Let's hope it stays that way.

Ice cream stall at Hayling Island, 1995 The traditional seaside can be found in many other resorts up and down the country. On the Dorset Coast Weymouth still retains much of this atmosphere. It is busier than Southwold, but it is still a family resort. There is a clock on the front that celebrates the Queen's Jubilee (Queen Victoria's that is!). The beach has golden sands and is perfect for bathing.

Hayling Island, on the South Coast, is reached via a bridge. You can see the remains of on older bridge long departed in the form of a few black stalks sticking up from the sea as you drive past. Hayling is a quiet resort. It has a beach, a fun fair and numerous small hotels and B&Bs along the shore line. It's even quieter out of season. The ice cream stall, pictured right, was photographed in 1995.

Blackpool still has its slot machines, tower and trams. The Pleasure Beach, as ever, moves with the times. In the Summer, take a ride on an open top tram to the Pleasure Beach. The illuminations in October are still well worth seeing.

Another favourite resort of mine is Morthoe on the North Devon Coast. A ship was wrecked off Rockham Bay in 1912 and as a boy, I found the rusting iron work fascinating. I even kept a rivet as a souvenir. A visit a few years ago showed that it was still there and little had changed after twenty years. I would also recommend the sandy beach at nearby Woolacombe. It's quite crowded in the Summer, but not too bad. In 1995, the Devon Beach Hotel at Woolacombe had a fantastic 'sixties bar - all black vinyl and buttons - is it still there I wonder?

Torquay and the surrounding area retains most of its original character - at least from what I remember from the 'seventies. The seafront is noisy - but a few minutes walk takes you to the calm and quiet of Cockington. This is a charming village - yes it's very touristy - but that's the charm!

Much of the British seaside is, as it was in the heyday of the British Summer holiday. Some has changed - some for better - the beaches are cleaner - some for worse - increasing commercialism and change for change's sake. If you are going on holiday in the UK buy an old guide book - they are plenty available in most second-hand bookshops and see for yourself.
 
 

Seaside history

The British seaside holiday