The Great British Coast
The Great British coast line is a most unusual and interesting place.
It is long; 11,073 miles, with a “wiggliness” factor, more properly known as the Hausdorff Dimension of 1.25. This is wiggly indeed, and by comparison, the Australian coast measures 1.17, and the South African coastline a baby-smooth 1.02.
I am not sure who spends their life calculating the relative wiggliness of coastlines, but some do, and we are grateful for their efforts.
It is a coast that offers power stations, towering cliffs, retirement homes, smuggler’s inns, jagged rocks, smooth sand and genteel hotels; it offer walkers a variety of paths for everyone from the fittest to those in self-propelled chairs, and above all, offers a glimpse into the very soul of British Life.
Islands are different, and although it is easy to forget that the United Kingdom is an island (or collection of islands), when stuck in London, or on the Motorway driving to The North, it is a fact that nowhere in the kingdom is more than 70 miles from the sea, and most places are considerably closer than that; sea air is in the lungs of the country, and a day-at-the-coast an inalienable right.
The towns that dot the south coast, which is pretty well one conurbation from Dover to Southampton, where towns vary in prosperity, upkeep, beach quality, accommodation and access to London. They vary wildly in the amenities offered to passing travellers, and the crowds in the various cafes and bars along the coast well exemplify the very precise market from which they draw their admirers.
And it is a timeless land; one in which bathing huts (or Chalets) are rented for generations, and within their twenty square feet have seen hundreds of family gatherings, events and picnics; they are decorated, some spectacularly, some diligently; some have a split level door at the front in the manner of a stable, with often their two senior residents sitting, warmly dressed, gazing out over the sea for hours at a time.
British people really do play on the beach in fouls weather; their patch slightly protected by a wind -break, their heads protected by knotted handkerchiefs, and a determination to enjoy their day-at-the-seaside despite all that the elements can throw at them. In sunny weather crowds flock to the coastal towns and wander, swim, gaze, fall in love and eat Fresh Fish; they visit strange museums, collections of lifeboats, shops of the 1950s, fishermen, shipwrecks and flower makers abound along the length of the coast as each small town tries to find its defining key, and one that will unlock the wondrous wealth of the Tourist Trade.
Accommodation, ranging from small bed & breakfasts, (“Well young Julie left for university, so we bought a new wardrobe for her room, and you can get a lovely view of the sea if you hang out of the window, just at the right angle….. no, not like that, dear …”) to a myriad of Guesthouses, principally bed & breakfasts in much larger homes, and hotels of every star and stripe.
The fine hotels of Bournemouth, Brighton and other such upmarket towns jostle with the small one-star properties, those of wire coat-hangers, tea stains, and electrically charged nylon bed covers, for space in the accommodation guides, and while there is always an element of “Buyer Beware” at any level of the accommodation spectrum, there will be somewhere to suit every taste.
The British coast is quite lovely, and my recent glimpse of it at Gravesend and Hastings has made me want to explore more.
I will head to visit the starkly beautiful north-east with their hard fishing towns and deeply rooted communities who face the North Sea in all of its moods; I will visit the Cornish and Devon coastline, and find a lovely snug hotel for a base to take some walks along the unique westerly cliffs and beaches; I shall head to the west of Wales, and explore some of the remote villages of the remote Llyn Peninsular, and of course, the wild and dramatic Scottish coastlines of the west north and east.
I can’t wait to get started!