Jayne Dowle: Oh, we do like to be beside the seaside, even in winter

Enjoying a winter bike ride on Scarborough's South Bay.
Enjoying a winter bike ride on Scarborough's South Bay.
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NOTHING beats the great British seaside in winter. That’s right. If you want to blow the cobwebs away, a day by the sea is the best way to go about it.

This year we ventured across the Pennines to Blackpool. A very bracing walk along the front, followed by an afternoon in the Tower watching the circus pantomime beats slumping in front of the television hoovering up the remains of the celebrations any day of the Christmas holidays.

It doesn’t matter where you go, as long as you can feel the sea breeze (make that a minor force hurricane) in your face and gaze out over the horizon. There’s something quite philosophical about the scene, especially as the wintry sun begins to slip down the sky. It reminds us that we are an island race.

I always return from a winter seaside trip feeling more at peace with myself, somehow. And the children do, too. In fact, my daughter Lizzie is already planning a return seaside visit for late January. If she can find a promenade to ride her bike or scooter along, she’s happy. And my son Jack? At 14, he’s developing a strong interest in photography. Can there be anywhere more inspiring than sky, sea and sand, seagulls swooping down over the pier?

If you haven’t visited the seaside in winter, I suggest giving it a go. Not only does it freshen your mind and spirit, but it brings a sense of perspective and history. There is no finer sight for this than the view from the cliffs in Scarborough looking out towards the harbour. If you squint your eyes towards the castle, it’s really not impossible to imagine a Viking long-boat heading across the sea through the mist.

I know I’m romantic. The sea does that to me. Beneath the fantasy, however, there are some hard facts to take on board. As the admirable campaigns run by Welcome to Yorkshire illustrate, our own seaside towns and resorts in Yorkshire have much to offer all-year-round. And the money invested in promoting them is paying off.

Last year, a report from Visit England showed that Scarborough was the most popular spot for tourists outside of London. The wider borough – which takes in Whitby and Filey – saw at least 1.4 million visitors between 2013 and 2015. Crucially, these visitors spent around £294m in total. And a further £35m was brought into the region by people coming here on business trips.

I’d argue that 2017 is the year to build on this. If your Christmas holidays simply mean the opportunity to crank the central heating up to full all day long, you might not get this, but I’d like to see our seaside resorts promoted as year-round attractions.

The Yorkshire Coast is doing much towards this. The opening of the new leisure facilities at the North Bay, which includes Alpamare, a £14m water park, has introduced the resort to a whole new demographic of visitors. I hear that it’s open 365 days a year, until 10 o’clock at night. If that is not trying hard to reinvent the British seaside for the 21st century, I don’t know what is.

We’re also seeing a massive upgrade of accommodation. Having stayed in some proper fleapits over the years, I know from personal experience that this is well overdue. From seriously chic holiday cottages in Whitby to clean and family-friendly guesthouses up and down the coast, proprietors are finally beginning to meet the exacting demands of the modern holidaymaker.

And this is bringing its own economic rewards. A recent report from Leeds auctioneers Christie & Co showed a massive surge in sales of guesthouses and holiday accommodation along the Yorkshire Coast. The number of businesses changing hands saw double-digit growth year on year, with Christie & Co reporting that many people are actively seeking a lifestyle change by relocating to the coast. It’s a tempting thought, isn’t it?

However, there is still much work to do. Too many areas of our seaside towns are still in need of serious regeneration, and there isn’t the Government money forthcoming that there once was. It’s also true to say that much recent improvement has been funded at least in part by the European Union; how our proposed withdrawal from this will impact on future investment remains to be seen.

And, as anyone who has tried to reach the Yorkshire coast on a busy day will know, the major road network needs serious improvement. There’s no point investing in attractions, hospitality and accommodation if no one can get there. The A64, especially from York towards the coast, is frankly a nightmare when thousands of motorists are all trying to reach the same spot at the same time.

Just months ago Malton and Thirsk MP Keith Hollinrake called for urgent action to improve the carriageway and roundabouts, as the jams of cars, lorries and caravans heading to the coast are harming the area’s economic potential. However, this is not a problem you’re likely to encounter at this time of year. What’s stopping you then? This year we ventured across the Pennines to Blackpool. A very bracing walk along the front, followed by an afternoon in the Tower watching the circus pantomime beats slumping in front of the television hoovering up the remains of the celebrations any day of the Christmas holidays.

It doesn’t matter where you go, as long as you can feel the sea breeze (make that a minor force hurricane) in your face and gaze out over the horizon. There’s something quite philosophical about the scene, especially as the wintry sun begins to slip down the sky. It reminds us that we are an island race.

I always return from a winter seaside trip feeling more at peace with myself, somehow. And the children do, too. In fact, my daughter Lizzie is already planning a return seaside visit for late January. If she can find a promenade to ride her bike or scooter along, she’s happy. And my son Jack? At 14, he’s developing a strong interest in photography. Can there be anywhere more inspiring than sky, sea and sand, seagulls swooping down over the pier?

If you haven’t visited the seaside in winter, I suggest giving it a go. Not only does it freshen your mind and spirit, but it brings a sense of perspective and history. There is no finer sight for this than the view from the cliffs in Scarborough looking out towards the harbour. If you squint your eyes towards the castle, it’s really not impossible to imagine a Viking long-boat heading across the sea through the mist.

I know I’m romantic. The sea does that to me. Beneath the fantasy, however, there are some hard facts to take on board. As the admirable campaigns run by Welcome to Yorkshire illustrate, our own seaside towns and resorts in Yorkshire have much to offer all-year-round. And the money invested in promoting them is paying off.

Last year, a report from Visit England showed that Scarborough was the most popular spot for tourists outside of London. The wider borough – which takes in Whitby and Filey – saw at least 1.4 million visitors between 2013 and 2015. Crucially, these visitors spent around £294m in total. And a further £35m was brought into the region by people coming here on business trips.

I’d argue that 2017 is the year to build on this. If your Christmas holidays simply mean the opportunity to crank the central heating up to full all day long, you might not get this, but I’d like to see our seaside resorts promoted as year-round attractions.

The Yorkshire Coast is doing much towards this. The opening of the new leisure facilities at the North Bay, which includes Alpamare, a £14m water park, has introduced the resort to a whole new demographic of visitors. I hear that it’s open 365 days a year, until 10 o’clock at night. If that is not trying hard to reinvent the British seaside for the 21st century, I don’t know what is.

We’re also seeing a massive upgrade of accommodation. Having stayed in some proper fleapits over the years, I know from personal experience that this is well overdue. From seriously chic holiday cottages in Whitby to clean and family-friendly guesthouses up and down the coast, proprietors are finally beginning to meet the exacting demands of the modern holidaymaker.

And this is bringing its own economic rewards. A recent report from Leeds auctioneers Christie & Co showed a massive surge in sales of guesthouses and holiday accommodation along the Yorkshire Coast. The number of businesses changing hands saw double-digit growth year on year, with Christie & Co reporting that many people are actively seeking a lifestyle change by relocating to the coast. It’s a tempting thought, isn’t it?

However, there is still much work to do. Too many areas of our seaside towns are still in need of serious regeneration, and there isn’t the Government money forthcoming that there once was. It’s also true to say that much recent improvement has been funded at least in part by the European Union; how our proposed withdrawal from this will impact on future investment remains to be seen.

And, as anyone who has tried to reach the Yorkshire coast on a busy day will know, the major road network needs serious improvement. There’s no point investing in attractions, hospitality and accommodation if no one can get there. The A64, especially from York towards the coast, is frankly a nightmare when thousands of motorists are all trying to reach the same spot at the same time.

Just months ago Malton and Thirsk MP Keith Hollinrake called for urgent action to improve the carriageway and roundabouts, as the jams of cars, lorries and caravans heading to the coast are harming the area’s economic potential. However, this is not a problem you’re likely to encounter at this time of year. What’s stopping you then?