Malibu? The Australian Gold Coast? Juan les Pins? Marbella? No my friends, if you want the real seaside you must travel to the jewel of the Lincolnshire coast, to the very mouth of the River Humber, to Cleethorpes. This is what South Yorkshire coal miners and Sheffield steelworkers did with their wives and families from the back end of the nineteenth century and that's what I did yesterday.
I caught a train from Sheffield - all the way to the seafront at Cleethorpes - one hour and forty minutes. I had never been there before though once long ago I was nearby when I watched Hull City beat Grimsby Town at Blundell Park. Grimsby and Cleethorpes are twin towns rather like Minneapolis and St Paul but at the edge of England. They are the sort of northern places that suffer unmerited jibes from ill-informed southerners. The same prejudicial humour that might surround Barnsley or Wigan, Darlington or Accrington.
I emerged from the railway station into bright sunshine. The tide was out and when the tide is out at Cleethorpes it goes out so far you would think that the oceans were running dry. A huge expanse of beach stretching out towards the lighthouse at Spurn which is on the East Yorkshire side of the entrance to the Humber Estuary.
|View to Halle Sand Fort - erected during World War One|
My planned walk took me down the coast to Humberston and then inland along Buck Beck where I turned north to Old Clee - the Saxon settlement that predated Victorian urban expansion and the growth of Grimsby's industrial fishing industry by several centuries.
At the coast it was clear that we are in the schools half term holiday period as there were quite a lot of children around. I saw the Cleethorpes Light railway in operation, and families rowing on the boating lake but The Pleasure Island amusement park was already shut up for the winter. After eight miles of plodding, I got back to the seafront where I sat in Browns' Cafe with the seaside meal I had promised myself on the formica table in front of me - a jumbo haddock in golden batter with chips, mushy peas, a big mug of tea and a slice of bread and butter. A meal too good for a king.
And then I tried my hand in the "King Pin" amusement arcade, feeding 2p coins into one of those tipping point machines where coins push others from shelves but most seem to end up in the bowels of the machine for the owners' to later take to their bank in countless wheelbarrows.
By five fifteen it was already dark and I mounted the train back to Sheffield. At Grimsby Town station two men from East Timor sat close to me and I talked to one of them. As a refugee he had arrived in Portugal where after a few years he became a Portugese citizen and was issued with a Portugese passport. Of course this now entitled him to live and work in England. Humph! No comment on that but now some more coastal pictures from Cleethorpes where all your holiday dreams can come true...