Skegness, Lincolnshire

Beyond low-lying potato fields and isolated farms down dog-leg fenland lanes, Skegness sits safe on its mild rise above the sea. The churned-up sand shows buff through the choppy waves and an offshore windfarm wades across the grey horizon. Below soft sandbanks and patches of marram grass the beach stretches far away for miles in each direction, curving imperceptibly to far-distant dunes.

SkegnessThe town has no pretensions, no claim to fame through royal visits, on which so many other English resorts have hung their hats in the past. It is a happy-go-lucky sort of place and was designed to be just that. Its parades and promenades along the shoreline sport the usual seaside attractions of funfair, fish-and-chip shops, amusement park, crazy golf, slot-machine arcades and gay displays of bedding plants – but Skegness was well thoughtout in the first place and has a comfortable style of its own.

The Danes, who came here in the nineteenth century, left only the name. The small fishing village which lingered on was swallowed up when the new resort was laid out, all of a piece, in the mid nineteenth century by the local landowner, Lord Scarborough. He created an airy garden town whose broad, grass-verged avenues and boulevards leading down to the sea-front crossed tree-lined streets, forming a grid pattern.

There are well loved public gardens with bandstands and waterfalls, handsome Victorian houses, churches at focal points, classy villas with showy front gardens and a broad central street of red-brick shops with a fine celebratory clock tower at the end of it. It’s the scale of Skegness that’s so good.

Most of the Victorian pier was lost in the storm of 1978 – what is left just reaches the high-tide sea. A mile up the beach and hunkered down behind the dunes at Ingoldmells, the inspired entrepreneur Billy Butlin built his very first holiday camp in 1935, and introduced the famous Redcoats to the world. The camp, which slept a thousand, brought a wider fame to Skegness. The following year its capacity doubled, and today it can accommodate eight thousand people. If you walk south along the beach, as Tennyson did when he visited Skegness, you reach Gibraltar Point at the head of the Wash, where the seaward sands are treacherous and Brent geese migrate from Siberia in their thousands in winter.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / David Pickersgill

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