Why it’s time for Yorkshire’s seaside towns to start welcoming careful visitors - Andrew Vine

THE stretch of clifftop between North Landing and Flamborough Lighthouse is one of my favourites anywhere along our coastline. Judging by the numbers walking it at the end of last week, it holds a special place in the hearts of a lot of other people too.

Andrew Vine believes there is no reason for visitors to stay away from Yorkshire coast destinations like Filey.

That’s hardly surprising, especially at this time of year, when the chalk cliffs of the coves are alive with the colonies of seabirds that have come ashore to breed, and the air is filled with the sounds of puffins, guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes.

But should I, or any of the other people have been there at all, given that the country is still in lockdown and disquiet has been expressed about visitors by those who live at the coast?

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The answer is yes. There is no reason for visitors to stay away from the coastline so many of us love any longer, and our seaside towns should welcome us back as friends who will be at pains to enjoy them safely and sensibly. That was plain to see all along that clifftop path, in the car parks at either end, and at the ice-cream stalls open for business.

A man takes a selfie on the famous Whitby Abbery steps. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe 30th May 2020.

Social distancing was being scrupulously observed, with walkers stepping aside from the path to let others pass with at least two metres’ clearance, and it was the same picture on the beaches at North Landing and Selwicks Bay, below the lighthouse.

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A few miles south, in Bridlington, the families on the sands were making sure they were well apart from others, and children venturing into the sea were keeping their distance.

Even on the harbourside, where the fish and chip stalls and cafes were open and busy, their customers followed the rules.

And the people running those stalls were glad to see the visitors back. One café owner I’ve known for years told me that every day she has remained shut pushed her closer to never being able to reopen.

If visitor numbers pick up from now on, she’ll just about manage, but money is still going to be worryingly tight. There are many more small businesses dependent on tourism in the same position. With Easter and the weeks afterwards already lost to them, hopefully there will be enough trade during the summer and autumn for traders to survive this awful year.

Reservations expressed by civic leaders and residents of the seaside about those of us who live inland heading for the coast are perfectly understandable.

Of course they don’t want an influx of people potentially spreading coronavirus, and the points that have been made about some of our resorts becoming overcrowded are valid.

All of us who know Whitby, and how packed narrow Church Street becomes in summer, can see what they’re worried about.

But the seaside cannot make a living without tourism. It has to trust people’s common sense on this.

None of the visitors want either to catch or potentially spread the virus, and they will self-regulate, just as they were doing on the clifftop path and on Bridlington’s beaches.

We’ve all got into the habit of doing this already in supermarkets and queues.

As of this week and the further easing of restrictions, we’ll get used to doing it at the school gates and in increasing numbers of reopening shops.

Taking a trip to the coast won’t be any different.

Nobody is going to want to expose themselves to risk just because they’re at the seaside, any more than they do when getting the week’s shopping. Families won’t take any persuading to distance themselves from others on the beaches, and after all there is plenty of space to be found – miles of sands at Filey, Bridlington and Whitby.

And these places need those families back. Our seaside towns tend to be less affluent than their inland counterparts anyway, and the economic hit the whole country will take because of the pandemic is likely to be disproportionately hard at the coast.

Tourism is likely to face losses of £37bn this year according to Visit Britain, and the tragedy for the Yorkshire coast could be that any number of small businesses are destroyed by a lack of trade.

Nor must the threat from foreign competition be underestimated, especially if the likes of Spain, Portugal and Italy offer knockdown prices to tempt tourists back.

I’ll be going back to our coastline as often as possible this summer, and hopefully massive numbers of others will do so too.

The people of the coast shouldn’t worry about that.

We’ll be careful, and follow the rules.

And in enjoying ourselves, we’ll help the seaside towns that are so dear to us.

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

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James Mitchinson