14Jan2012

A Beach. England. January. Are We Mad?

Salt Marshes

There is something extremely English about a trip to the beach in winter. Our beaches, like our weather, our teeth and vast swathes of our national cuisine, are an international laughing stock. Which is not, entirely, fair.

Sun shining through pine trees behind Holkham Beach, Norfolk.

This January morning, we walked from Holkham Beach on the Norfolk coast to Wells, a couple of miles further up. We started in pine woodland, with trees to climb and pinecones to hurl.

There were no nudists on the beach, although in summer it’s naturist heaven. There are dog walkers aplenty, most in green wellies, and these guys, with their dogs in coats.

Birdwatcher with camouflaged camera on Holkham Beach.

There are “twitchers”, or bird watchers, with binoculars and camouflaged lenses, scrying the salt marshes, the dunes and the sea.

Beach huts at Wells, norfolk.

At the Wells end of the beach, there are beach huts, a very English idea, which evolved from the bathing huts which rolled into the sea to preserve Victorian ladies’ modesty.

Flounder 154 sign on a beach hut in Wells, Norfolk.

You can’t live in these beach huts — in Mudeford, Dorset, beach huts are such coveted waterside properties that one sold for £170,000, even though the new owners could only sleep in it between March and October.

But you can store stuff, play boardgames when the weather’s bad and, all-importantly, brew a nice cup of tea. Even today folk pay hundreds of pounds a month for these small privileges, and personalise their paintwork to match.

Beach Hut Detail from Wells, Norfolk. Picture of a kite on a red background.

It’s a funny thing, the English seaside in winter. Rather like our day at the races, it’s like travelling back in time for about 50 years.

All in all, I’m pretty glad we did it. There’s more to beaches than tropical idylls, after all.

25 Comments

  1. Tracy says:

    Wait … you guys know that we make fun of you English for all those things? Well that’s just no fun is it!

    If you’re mad for hanging out on beaches in winter than so are we. Love the beach huts with their tea making facilities!

    • Theodora says:

      Yes, although no one who has ever been to Newcastle (or to any pub on a Friday night) could continue to believe that the English are reserved.

      I find the tea making thing so comical. But wonderfully so at the same time…

  2. Dean says:

    Hi. I’ve been following your blog for some time now…. I love the beaches here in England! I find them beautiful, especially when they come with ragged clifftops and the sunsets here are amazing too! Though I’ve lived here in England for the past 3 years, I refuse to swim in the ocean. It’s just too cold… even in the summer I still find the water too cold. You see, I’m from the Philippines =)

    • Theodora says:

      Thanks, Dean! Some are very, very beautiful. But I share your feelings about the sea. I’ve swum in Cornwall in the summer (and my grandparents were in Bournemouth, so I’ve swum there too) — but I can see why you wouldn’t want to coming from the Philippines.

      I think British beaches have a bad reputation largely because of Brighton beach. I remember being absolutely horror-struck with disappointment by that when I was a child. It’s the combination of pebbles and seaweed that makes it so icky.

  3. I’m not a beach guy, mostly because of the heat and the crowds. Looks like winter is the way to go! Great pics…

    • Theodora says:

      It’s a little slice of English country life. Being in the country for a while makes me realise why folk see us as so traditional and reserved. Though I guess in most countries the rural is different from the urban.

  4. lovely!! at least it never freezes, there… i love the colorful houses.

  5. I have to say, the little cabins and houses, if I didn’t know it was England, I’d almost pass it off for Belize.

    I love going to the beach when there’s no one there. I hate swimming in the ocean even if it’s warm, so the cold doesn’t bother me :)

    • Theodora says:

      Trust me, you wouldn’t want to swim in the English winter (although people do). Fascinating the cabins look like Belize — I guess it was a British colony for donkeys’ years…

  6. This sounds like a perfect winter adventure. I love a beach on a cold day!

  7. I’ve never been to the English seaside. It looks simply charming!

    • Theodora says:

      England does have some very beautiful beaches — and very good surfing beaches in Cornwall. The problem is the weather…

  8. cheryl says:

    Lovely photos. And a visit to the beach is something I’d totally do at this time of year too just to experience something different!

  9. Love the beach huts — I’ve seen similar ones in South Africa.

    • Theodora says:

      Yes! They have them in Durban, I think. Interesting how the colonial influence spreads the architecture to climates where it’s arguably more appropriate…

  10. I quite like going to the beach in winter. You can’t really swim but other then that the photos can be great!

  11. Explura says:

    Nice Article..
    Have you been to Malaysia or India before?
    I love your Blog

  12. Great photos! I love the beach in winter. I went once because I was in the area (not in England, though) and didn’t understand how come I hadn’t done it before.

  13. Lee says:

    England in general is a great place to be in January. The whole of the country holds a natural beauty especially in the countryside

    • Theodora says:

      I don’t know. It’s too dark for me to be there long. It’s not the weather, just the shortness of the days at that time of year…

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