Why don’t we go to the beach in Britain any more? – BBC News

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British people don’t go to the seaside any more, research suggests. But before cheap foreign deals, the convenience of air travel and higher disposable incomes, beaches in this country were a popular destination for those seeking rest and recreation only a rail journey away.

The British Hospitality Association wants a Seaside Tsar to “create coastal powerhouses” and boost the appeal of towns some survey respondents have described as “run down, expensive, dated, downmarket, tacky, cold, overrun with stag and hen parties, cheesy, and boring”. Which sounds like a big ask.

For a while the seaside, with its health-giving air, was considered an alternative to taking a cure at a spa. Orthodox medicine put a scientific veneer on popular sea-bathing customs and the idea was marketed to the masses who could not afford to take rooms in Bath or Cheltenham.

<figure class=”media-landscape” has-caption full-width”> Image copyright Getty Images

Image caption Black-clad Victorians enjoy the sea air while sitting on the stony Southsea beach in 1895

Bathing machines – popular in the 18th and 19th Centuries – allowed people to change into swimwear and wade into the sea. They had roofs and walls and preserved bathers’ modesty – despite typical swimsuits hardly being risqu.

Victorian matrons would sport black, knee-length, puffed-sleeve wool dresses worn over bloomers.

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Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bathing machines were the only dignified way to take to the water
Image copyright F. J. Mortimer
Image caption Victorian ladies enjoy staring at Eastbourne pier

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Image caption Holidaymakers on the beach at Hythe, in Kent, in 1905

The growth of seaside resorts on the grand scale began with the railway age, which made access to the coast much quicker and cheaper.

In a reversal of the Victorian ideal, suntans began to be indicative of good health, rather than something to be avoided by people of good breeding.

<figure class=”media-landscape” has-caption full-width”> Image copyright Fox Photos

Image caption Modern health and safety rules about overcrowding and life jackets would rule out such closely-packed rides on pleasure boats such as the Eastbourne Belle

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Image caption In 1956, a trip to the seaside involved eating oysters and wearing a suit

Hotels were only affordable for the well off, so most families stayed in lodging houses, which folklore tells us were owned by strict unsmiling landladies.

Despite the austerity, seaside holidays flourished.

But gone are the times of childish innocence revelling in buckets, spades and sandcastles. The old-fashioned fun of donkeys, Punch and Judy, and bawdy end-of-the-pier entertainment seems to have lost its allure.

<figure class=”media-landscape” has-caption full-width”> Image copyright Getty Images

Image caption The first beach donkey rides were originally on working draught animals in the cockle industries around the coast
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ponies are also popular for organised rides on beaches

Nowadays, the natural world of starfish, rock-pools and gulls appears to have been eclipsed by the more exotic flora and fauna found on foreign holidays – people who’ve been on a safari are unlikely to be impressed by some bladderwrack.

Litter washing up on British beaches has increased, and kids with shrimping nets are increasingly more likely to pick up plastic bottles than sea anemones.

Image caption Chilly and stony, shoes are often needed on a British beach
Image caption “Hey kids! I’ve found some sand!”
Image caption This is not the correct way to sit on a Chopper
Image caption “That’s the way to do it!” Political correctness was not Mr Punch’s forte

Family picnics, with potted meat sandwiches gritty with sand, gave way to what we think of as traditional seaside food – an extra draw.

Fish and chips, ice cream, candy-floss, and cockles and whelks – fattening, glutinous and delicious – had the added advantage of being eaten out of the bag while on the move, in defiance of conventional table manners.

Image caption Iced confectionaries and burned shoulders were all part of the beach fun
Image caption Traditional seaside food appealed – fattening, glutinous and eaten straight from the takeaway
Image copyright PA
Image caption If there was no beach to be found, a deckchair in a concrete car park would do just as well

And finally – you don’t find bombs on the beach to perch upon any more. Some would argue that’s a good thing.

Image copyright Fox Photos
Image caption Evacuee Barrie Peacop enjoys an ice cream as he sits on a mine washed up on the beach at Deal in Kent in 1940

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-36764929

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