Sunday, May 13, 2012


Call it Skeg, Skeggy or Skegvegas, Skegness is Skegness the Blackpool of the east coast, witness to recent misfortune during 2007-08 when it lost three of it's seafront attractions to fires it was the original home of the first ever Butlins in 1936 and still is to this day one of Butlins most popular holiday camps.

But Skegness has always had difficulty shaking it's reputation of being the holiday destination of the working people of the industrial midlands who came in their droves before the package holiday and the promise of cheap sun as opposed to soggy sand filled egg sandwiches hiding behind a windbreak on a deserted beach. It was easy to see why it drew them away in the 80's and 90's to warmer and in some ways cheaper climes. Skegness was hit hard and I preferred to keep my happy memories of holidays there just that, memories, rather than have it spoiled by seeing the Skegness I remembered bought to it's knees through poor development, lack of holidaymakers and tat.

So pulling into the deserted north end car park on Friday I wondered what I would find. Well, after a short stroll todays Skegness began to unfold. Yes there is the arcades and shops selling dubious tourist tat but that is only to be expected, just under the fake glitz is a real seaside town. I would even go as far as to say an iconic seaside town and it looks like many agree. In 2005 it was voted the best retirement place in the UK, even the Lonely Planet guide lists it as 'everything you could want' in a seaside resort.

The main thing for me is the strong hold it still has on the past. It's iconic public funded Diamond Jubilee clock tower from 1899 is still there and still chiming, a warming sight to see, standing proud at the end of Lumley Road.

Natureland Seal Sanctuary opened it's doors in 1965, a popular Skegness destination that attracts 1000's of visitors each year with it's seal conservation program saving washed up baby seals and returning them to the sea. Inside you will find not only the seals but penguins, aquariums and the unusual butterfly garden, a walk through experience allowing a multitude of dramatically coloured butterflies to fly around you unhindered. I had visited it many a time during my childhood but today for some reason it all seemed so magical again. The seals waved 'hello' the goats were gruff, snatching your paper bag of food with abandon and the tropical house seemed so inviting. I was charmed again instantly.

Just behind the main seafront road is this, a perfectly manicured park with a multitude of again perfect bowling greens. Even as I passed civic pride was in evidence with the assorted chalets in this picture receiving a nice new lick of paint ready for the new season. Not a sign of any litter too, very impressive and certainly not what I would have expected. I sat for a while to take it all in and read a review of Skegness from ten years ago, "Tasteless, tacky and tawdry!" it exclaimed, well I would like to amend that from my vantage position to "Tasteful, genteel and trim" and yes, I never thought I would say those words about Skegness either.

The beach retains its blue flag status for 2011/12 and with new sea defences it looks like it will stay that way too. I was impressed, again no litter and in places freshly raked too. Whilst the view is not exactly stunning with the wind farms dotted on the horizon I can still agree with the sentiment "Skegness is so bracing", the wind from the north sea is just that and adds a fine freshness to a stroll along it. Perfect for blowing away all those cobwebs.

One unusual attraction and unfortunately not working when I visited was the small ferry boat ride. It's just a little winding canal that transports you a few minutes up the seafront and back again in little boats. The thrill of this was immense in the 70's, imagine taking a real boat to travel 1/10 of a mile, how decadent! As you can imagine, thrills in the 70's came cheaply. Pity, I would have loved it even more today.

I remember with more than a little bit of venom hating the poor crazy golf that Skegness offered, it used to be so poor and one of the low lights of any holiday. Hitting a small ball through such 'craziness' as a windmill and angled corners over a damp and strangely smelling green plastic coating acting as grass. My hatred hit a peak when after a particularly gruelling session in the rain I hit the final ball with relief on the last hole only to hit the special bell, a bell that signified I had won a prize, another free round. Never have I hit a ball so hard and fast in such a public arena, it's a wonder I didn't take some other small child out.

Anyway, look at it now! It's gone and gone all piratey full of swashbuckling bridges for mock fights with the clubs, semi real grass and imaginatively created holes. I was sold, five minutes later I was back swinging my club so to speak. I would throughly recommend it, doubly so if drunk.

My trip to Skegness wouldn't be complete without a visit here. Looks like a picture from a different place doesn't it? It's actually on the edge of Skegness in a southerly direction, it's called Gibraltar Point but feels a lot like Norfolk. indeed, get to the point and look roughly south and across the wash you will indeed see Norfolk fourteen miles away. You also pass some impressive houses on the way here too further signifying that Skegness is anything but tacky. So a delightful day in a very surprisingly litter free seaside town, admittedly I couldn't spend a week here but then again I don't have children so entertainment for a couple in their mid forties is a little limiting unless of course you have a crushing desire to pick up a dabber and bingo yourself to death.

That probably sounded wrong didn't it but make of it what you will.

No trip to the seaside would be complete without a bit of sea fare though. This repast advertised cockles, whelks, prawns and lobster tails, or in Skegness speak cockles from a jar, a crab stick that had only just whafted past anything fishy and a mock lobster tail made out of moulded crab stick, even the whelks tasted like rubber.

Oh, Skegness you little rascal you just can't stop it can you?


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