South Landing beach is the perfect place to sit and stare out to sea. Pondering about the Vikings and the Second World War – you’ll spot the old gun turrets around the cliff head – helped me gain some perspective after weeks of lockdown and the restrictions paving our unsteady way back to a kind of normality.
Here’s a massive chance, I thought, for the Yorkshire coast to really come into its own. How many millions of people will now find the idea of taking a plane for a foreign holiday frightening, even abhorrent? Yet how many of these will take what’s on their doorstep seriously?
An afternoon in nearby Bridlington helped answer some of my questions. I was pleased to see that the long-promised work to improve the seafront was going on. This ambitious project is a good example of local and national government and other agencies working together.
The circa £3.8m scheme is part-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and £2m from the Government’s Local Growth Fund, awarded by York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership.
Public realm and improved infrastructure are important. However, this is only part of the picture. Less impressive were the empty shops, the sad boarded-up hotels and the general sense that the aftermath of the pandemic would only make certain things worse.
I’d like to see much more partnership between public and private enterprise. Developers should be given the green light to capitalise on the opportunities to create apartments and small hotels.
I’m not remotely snobbish about the seaside. I’ve loved it since I was young enough to run into the sea fully-clothed at Scarborough. And it’s precisely because I love it that I’m so passionate about its direction at this crucial juncture in its evolution.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. What works in Staithes, for instance, wouldn’t work in Brid. Each town, village and hamlet has its own character. We need a careful and clever marketing campaign to bring these nuances alive.
I want to see every one of the 45 or so miles of coastline we’re blessed with used to its full advantage. Tourism agencies, including Welcome to Yorkshire, need to throw all the clichés off a cliff and drill down into the demographics.
It’s not just about visitor numbers, although footfall always helps. It’s about attracting a diverse mix of visitors and yes, investors and second-home owners, who will underpin the economy year-round.
Take Whitby. Now, I know that it has its issues – traffic and noise for example – but over the years I’ve watched Whitby transform from smoky harbour town to fashionable hang-out. I can remember when cottages in Sandsend cost £40,000. Now you could be doubling that figure and adding a nought.
Whitby caught the first wave of the Great British Seaside zeitgeist, because of its outstanding natural beauty, ancient buildings and picturesque harbour. When people caught on, independent shops, restaurateurs and fancy coffee sellers followed.
Granted, it would be very reductive to judge a coastal location only by the quality of its cappuccino. However, these days that feeling of connection between urban and coastal values is vital for any seaside town to prosper.
I’m pleased to say that we’ve already booked to return to Thornwick Bay at October half-term. I’m really looking forward to it.
On the other hand, when I think about our planned family trip to Croatia at the end of August – still hanging in the balance – it’s with a mixture of trepidation and grim determination to see it through so I can report from the other side.
How I wish we were staying at home. I mean really at home, not Devon or Cornwall or Norfolk. The Yorkshire coast is not only beautiful, but less than two hours’ drive from our house.
We are so lucky in Yorkshire. So many miles of beautiful coastline within easy striking distance. Yet how many of us truly appreciate it? If we want our seaside to truly become the jewel in our crown, we all have to play our part. These places won’t regenerate themselves.
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