[This walk was completed on the 19th August, 2021]
It’s 10 o’clock in the morning, but feels much earlier. Skegness is still asleep. I stand on the eerily empty promenade and look out over the milky sea, where the wind turbines are barely visible in the morning mist.
Walk past the lifeguard post – with no guards on duty yet – and then start out across the sands.
I walk along the interface, where sandy beach becomes muddy seabed, towards the pier. I’m not sure if the pier was once longer, or if it has always stopped short of the water at low tide. It has an unfinished look.
As I pass underneath the pier, I look up and admire the intricacy of the ironwork. Craftsmen must have worked hard to make the railings look elegant. Now, rust seems to have taken hold.
English seaside resorts always have a melancholy air. Skegness still has plenty of visitors and a thriving centre, even during these Covid times. But there is also a whiff of decay and sadness about the place.
Past the pier, and with the amusements behind me, I walk across empty sands. Ahead, a dumper truck – toy-size in the distance – is trundling up and down. As I get nearer, I can see it’s carrying sand from the top of the beach and piling it in a heap at the bottom.
These beach-maintenance operations are a reminder that nothing on the coast remains the same. Even this huge length of beach, seemingly static and timeless, is at the mercy of sand-shifting tides. .
I would prefer to continue along the shoreline – where the dry sand meets the edge of the wet – but the way ahead is obstructed by breakwaters. So I climb to the top of the beach, where the sand is soft and thick – and, as I soon discover, too tiring to walk on.
Back on the promenade, the sand lies several inches deep, but at least the base is firm under my feet.
Here’s a welcome sight. An England Coast Path signpost! I’ve been really looking forward to joining this National Trail.
After miles of frustrated walking along Lincolnshire’s obstructed sea walls and overgrown footpaths, here, finally, is a properly waymarked coastal footpath. Only 16 miles (as of August 2021), and a mere fraction of what is needed, but at least I should have 16 miles of uninterrupted walking – all the way from Skegness to Mablethorpe.
The official footpath continues along a raised walkway through the line of dunes.
It’s very pretty, with summer flowers lining the banks. Some care must have gone into the planting. I stop and take loads of photographs. Wonder what this flower is called?
And here are some early-ripening blackberries. the first I’ve seen this year. Too small to eat.
I pretty much have the path to myself. Only meet one lone walker with a rucksack coming towards me. He keeps his eyes on the path, and doesn’t return my smile.
The problem with this newly created coastal footpath is obvious. The flowers are lovely, yes. But you can’t actually see the sea. I follow the path until I’ve made it past the troublesome breakwaters, and then head down to the beach through a gap in the dunes.
After walking along the sands for a while, I see the England Coast Path has emerged from the dunes and is now following a concrete promenade. I rejoin the raised footpath, only to discover there is a blockage in the route. Caused, as so often, by a golf course.
At high tide you might have to follow the suggested inland diversion, but it is much easier simply to walk along the beach.
Past the golf course, I rejoin the concrete promenade. The England Coast Path stretches ahead. I’m approaching Seathorne.
Houses line the beach, and the walkway provides great views into their back gardens. I walk past a lawn where a trio of pet rabbits play happily in the grass. Further along, a chalet bungalow has transformed its lawn into a courtyard. Inside the conservatory, a nativity scene and a christmas tree are on display. In the courtyard, “Jesus Christ” is spelt out in letters on a wall.
It’s unusual to see such a display of religiousity in an ordinary garden, or to see a nativity scene in August! I wonder if the chalet bungalow is, in fact, an unorthodox church?
I reach Seathorne, where there is a nice-looking cafe, and people walking on the promenade.
Past the cafe, this large brick building catches my eye. “Derbyshire Miners Convalescent Home” says the sign. Is it still functioning?
I don’t think there are any working coal mines in Derbyshire anymore, but many ex-miners are left with damaged lungs from years spent working with coal dust. I wonder if they continue to come here?
A National Coastwatch centre occupies a great position on the walkway. At first I think someone is keeping watch over the sea… but it turns out to be only a soft toy in the window. The centre is, in fact, empty. A sign on the side asks for volunteers.
I remember first coming across Coastwatch lookout points at the beginning of my coastal walk, and assuming they were part of the Coastguard service. Now I know they are entirely separate – a laudable service provided by volunteers. This is the largest facility I’ve seen.
Past a large encampment of static homes, and I reach another built-up area of the promenade. The Lookout Pub dominates, followed by a selection of kiosks, tourist shops, and amusements.
It’s all rather tacky. And, rather sadly given this must be the height of the tourist season, all rather empty. Most of the kiosks and amusements are shut. Maybe the place livens up in the evening?
Leaving Seathorne behind, I continue along the walkway. Memorial flowers are tied to the railings. Looking towards the sea, I can see the beach is slowly disappearing under the greening influence of dune plants. Near the water, a couple of diggers are busy at work, presumably reclaiming the sand from the waves.
There’s an icecream van ahead. And more people. Where am I? I pull my map out for a quick check…
… ah, yes. I’m approaching the entrance to Butlins.
And here it is. Not a very pleasing entrance. Actually, more like the gateway to a prison camp, complete with a security guard on duty.
We came here on a family holiday once, maybe 30 years ago. I believe Butlins had changed its name, temporarily, to something else, but everybody still called it Butlins (I may be misremembering). Some friends had said the accommodation had been upgraded and it was a great place for kids.
Through the bars, I can see some of the upgraded accommodation. Along with a sign asking for help to “Keep our beach safe and clean.”
Unfortunately, the chalet we booked was not an upgraded version, but a dank series of brown rooms in a motel-type building that stank of stale smoke. No sea views to distract you. We looked out the windows onto a narrow, litter-strewn road of parked cars.
My single bed had a mattress only an inch or so thick, and the TV was black and white (I still find this hard to believe) and perched on top of a cupboad so you got neckstrain watching it. I’ve never been so uncomfortable on that thin mattress. Or so bored in the evening with young children asleep and nothing to do, and the lights in the chalet too dim to even read by.
Further along, I peer through the bars at some of the cheaper accomodation on offer. It looks like some of the blocks haven’t changed much.
Of course, the amusements and the entertainment were all free, but you had to queue at the crack of dawn to have any chance of getting tickets to any of the shows. By 10am, queues of bored-looking children were lined up – obviously the poor mites had drawn the short straw in a family lotto – with the unlucky task of queuing for hours to secure their family’s entertainment for the evening.
It was a truly awful experience. Needless to say, our children thought it was wonderful.
The highlight of the week was managing to find this one exit gate to the beach (not clearly marked, because Butlins wanted to keep you in-house, I think) and meeting my mother and father-in-law for an afternoon on the beach.
It must have been this beach. Back then, there were no wind turbines, the beach was sandier, and… and there was less litter.
In fact, perhaps the most shocking thing about this section of my walk today is the sheer volume of litter on the beach. Horrible.
Leaving Butlins behind, I walk past cafes towards somewhere called Ingoldmells Point.
Butlins is only one of a whole series of holiday camps and amusements along this stretch of the coast. A paradise for children, I’m sure – but my idea of hell.
Dominating the horizon, the metal skeletons of a fun park rise above fields of metal boxes.
Ingoldmells point. Somebody has painted “NO LITTER” in yellow letters on the sea wall. I’m not sure if this is an official notice, or whether somebody simply got angry and fed up with the mess.
I’ve walked past notices asking for litter-pickers with a phone number to ring. You can get paid, apparently.
The promenade at Ingoldmells is quiet. Plenty of amusements, shacks and kiosks, but not many are open and not much is happening.
The walkway is fairly busy with strollers. Here is a guy collecting litter and he’s nearly filled his black bag. I’m not sure if he is being paid, or is doing it officially or voluntarily.
I leave the concrete walkway, and make my way across the sand and down towards the sea. The beach is very wide at this point and there is litter everywhere. I guess the sea rarely reaches this far, and so the only way to clean the sand is to do it manually.
At least down by the water the beach is cleaner. And there are fewer people around. Ahead is Vickers Point and then, in the distance, is Chapel St Leonards.
I cheer up. This is better. I should have stuck closer to the water, and then I wouldn’t have got so irate about litter and the general tackiness of the area. But, I did want to see Butlins.
[To be continued…]
Post walk note: The Derbyshire Miners Convalescence Home has, indeed closed. A controversial and sad event. https://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/news/local-news/holiday-retreat-home-derbyshire-miners-2065394
Route so far: