Now as I am writing this particular piece coming out the other side of winter and looking forward to a downhill run to summer, I’ll pick up on the subject of beach huts. Rochford doesn’t have beach huts of course because the little piece of flat bank alongside the Roche that I’ve heard referred to as ‘Rochford beach’ is hardly big enough to set up three deckchairs, let alone a beach hut or three, but go to Southend, east of the pier area and it’s a completely different thing. My wife and I were walking that beach not long back and we did take note of the huts that stretch from Southend, along Thorpe Bay frontage and along to Shoebury. There are, I suggest, two main classifications for beach huts. First there is beach or promenade.
On the beach they vary again, depending on the shelving of the beach, between ones whose door opens straight onto the beach and others who seem to be mini-
The second classification is quality of maintenance. Huts vary from the utterly run down (where the owner obviously believes that rustic means dilapidated) to the super-
As this is an article for Silver Surfers it usually has an historical dimension to it and in this case I would suggest that beach huts are one of the few enduring and unchanging features of life in our time. They were here sixty years ago and if you do a Google search and take in ‘bathing machines’ they go back some two hundred and fifty years, so they were certainly here when you and I were children.
Despite what the book says, whether beach huts are a uniquely British thing is questionable. I have managed to find photos of beach huts looking like ours in France, Australia and Sweden, but again a Google search for ‘Beach Huts around the World’ brings up some amazing pictures from Bora Bora, Goa, the Cook Islands and many more, but none of the “15 most beautiful beach huts of the world” look anything like our humble shed on the foreshore.
That’s what we relish, because we like sheds, pure and simple, a shed where we can potter on the beach, where perhaps we can store a couple of deck-
Although you never actually own the land on which they sit, I still wonder if they are part of that mind-
So, we might be tempted to wonder, why even bother to write about them here? The answer has got to be, because they exist and are part of the British psyche and so many people have them. Is my childhood full of them? No, I’ve seen them and taken them for granted. They are a bit like telephone boxes – just there, but unlike telephone boxes they are not going out of fashion, indeed quite the contrary. They may not feature in our own experience but they do in some people’s lives. I said I couldn’t find traditional quotes but here is a comment I came across from an owner of a beach hut:
“It does not even boast the comforts of a caravan. But I love it. I love it for its proximity to the sea, for the multitude of happy memories invested in it, and for its sheer, sturdy, no-
And then from a gem of an article in the Guardian, ‘The joy of beach huts’, by Julie Myerson which conveys infinitely more than I can do:
“Walking along the prom at Southwold now on a hot summer's day, I watch the people who get to play house in those little painted huts. Brewing tea. Reading books. Drying their feet. Standing in a dripping wet swimsuit on a sandy wooden floor and reaching for a sea-
So you may not have one but don’t these two quotes stir something of the great outdoors in you? You don’t own a beach hut? Well how about a garden shed? You’d be surprised at the romanticism that can be conjured up by a properly sited garden shed. Garden sheds are for the older generation, places for pottering and pondering, planning or procrastinating.
Let’s conclude by one final quote from that Guardian article: “maybe that's what the dream of a beach hut most pungently stands for. The possibility – and the implied freedom – of temporariness. The idea that we can escape from our real lives for even the briefest of times – just for a day – and set up camp somewhere else. By the sea. With almost nothing but ourselves and a windbreak and those we love.”
As I said, if you haven’t a beach hut, you can still achieve a lot with a garden shed. It’s never too late to start, and when you fully enter into the experience you’ll add to the definitions of your identity, “and I’m a beach hut owner” or, “and I am a fully experienced shed owner!”