Do you fancy a day at the English seaside? No matter where you live in England, you’re never more than 70 or 80 miles from the coast (a village in Derbyshire lays claim to be the furthest point from the sea). If you live in the Midlands, you likely want to at least make a weekend of it to avoid too much driving. But unlike some countries, the seaside is never far away!
That’s a good thing, because the coast has many benefits. In his book Blue Mind, Wallace J Nichols writes that the horizon is one of the few remaining places where you can literally ‘gaze into nothing’ (even parks have building views behind). Years ago, people would ‘take to the coast’ for a respite holiday to recover from TB, due to the negative ions. There is no doubt that a walk by the seashore can often make anyone feel better, even if you have no intention of going for a swim. People who take Wainwright’s Coast-to-Coast walk start in Cheshire, then end when they paddle their feet in Robin Hood’s Bay on the Yorkshire Coast.
You can sign up at Surfers Against Sewage to get all the tools you need to recruit volunteers, and start your own beach clean. This kit includes safety tools to pick up everything from cigarette litter to discarded tampons and condoms, to help beautify your area.
The coast of England, Wales and Scotland stretches for over 11,000 miles, plus of course there are also many islands and coves. It’s bordered by four seas: the English Channel looks over to France, the North Sea looks out to The Netherlands (or Scandinavia further north) and the west coast faces the Irish Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
The Way to the Sea is by Caroline Crampton, who was raised on the banks of the River Thames. An avid sailor, she sets out to the discover the course from the river’s source in a small Gloucestershire village, through London and out to the North Sea. She seeks out stories behind the unique landmarks like Victorian pumping stations to the marshy ground on eerie relics of past invasions. And shipwrecks still inhabited by the ghosts of the drowned.
Check check tide times, avoid sinking mud and be careful on windy days as the sea is powerful, and a ‘gentle wave’ could easily knock both you and a dog off your feet (dogs are not always good swimmers, and could get cramp). Dogs can also get heatstroke, so find a shady area.
One thing to be aware of is dog beach bans. Many beaches have now them now (sometimes seasonal). You don’t want to walk or drive to a beach, only to find that dogs are not allowed. Another thing to be wary of is seaweed. Dogs often like to play with the fronds. But once seaweed dries in the stomach, it expands and can cause a medical emergency.
How much do you know about these three common finds at the sea? We sometimes take things for granted, when we see them everyday. So let’s get to know the three most common items we can find at the beach.
Whether a beach is sandy or pebbly, usually depends on the local landscape. Sandy beaches are usually found in bays, where the waves have less energy, and the water is shallower. The colour of the sand depends on what it’s made from. In England, our sand is nearly always brown, due to iron oxide from broken down rocks. In Caribbean, the sand is pink due to coral or white in California, due to mineral quartz.
Children love to build sandcastles, and it remains on of the few joys of life for the younger generation, that the ‘press it, buy a battery for it and let it lose your imagination’ toy industry has not managed to get hold of and ruin. The best sandcastles are built with wet sand on cool days, as dry sand will just fall apart. Go for 50/50 water and sand for the best castles. Unlike clothing, plastic buckets and spades are unlikely to leach microplastics, but it’s still good to use alternatives if found. Plan Toys Sand Play Set offers a CE-certified set (12 months plus with supervision) that’s made with planwood (formed from compressing sawdust under heat). It uses up offcuts from the factory and looks like stone, but is a nice plastic-free alternative. The set include a bucket and different spades.
Pebbly beaches are often found near cliffs, which have higher-wave energies. The ocean water gradually erodes rough rock to make them smooth (a bit like old pirate bottles that are smoothed over time to make seaglass, often used for jewellery). You should never take pebbles from the beach, because they form natural sea defences, to break the form of big waves. If too many are removed, this could cause coastal floods. In Italy, it’s illegal to take home pebbles from the beach.
The Book of Pebbles is a beautiful introduction to the pebbles that surround us, but sometimes give little thought to. Whether your nearest beach is sandy or pebbly depends on eons of history and whether there are cliffs or rocks to erod the pebbles into sand, or the rising tides. Why do we pick pebbles on the beach? It’s not a good thing to do, as it negatively effects the ecosystem. What is it that we see in them.?
Socks, Sandals & Handkerchiefs!
Only in England would a man wear a handkerchief on his head, put on a pair of socks and then slip into a pair of sandals! And why not? If it’s comfy and keeps your head from getting sunburned, all for the good. Pull up a deckchair and discover nice beach sandals, to go with your socks. Above are Freerangers open sandals.
But as this is England, Naturally – no animals are harmed. All of these sandals are made from vegan-friendly materials (and not plastic either – as that would not be very beach-friendly, would it?) All of these brands are made from partly-biodegradable Microfiber, which lets your feet breathe, whilst avoiding leather.
These shoes are also very easy to clean with a damp cloth, and should last you years. Quality vegan shoes are mostly sold online, so get your feet measured at shoe shop, to avoid the hassle of returns. They are all made from kind and sustainable materials. It’s good to let shoes dry out on alternate days so they last longer, so invest in two pairs, and they should last a long time.
Many people believe the leather industry is a by-product from the meat industry, but this is not usually the case. The leather tanning process is not just cruel but also mostly very polluting to the planet, and for the tanners. And most brand name shoes are made in the Far East, which has very little animal welfare (or human rights) laws.
Freerangers (Newcastle) offer 21 colour choices for their vegan sandals. There are traditional open sandals with adjustable straps and roller buckles for easy adjustment, handmade to order. Or for women, choose from various styles and your colours of choice, all with padded insoles and shock-absorbing flexible soles. They even make shoes for odd-sized feet!
Vegetarian Shoes (Brighton) offers a nice range of ethically-made summer sandals in bright colours. These are mostly ‘Birkenstock-style’ sandals, some with toe posts. Lightweight and comfy due to the contoured footbed, these are easily adjustable to quickly slip on and off, with an added comfort foam layer, cork and rubber midsoles and a cushioned grippy outsole.
PLAYA organic cotton beach shirts are just the right item to keep men cool at the beach. Organic cotton is much better for the planet and wildlife, it lasts longer (as fibres are not damaged by chemicals) and also biodegrades safely at end of life. And although warmer in winter, it’s also far cooler in summer, so more comfortable if you’re taking a stroll or sipping a glass of wine, while gazing over the ocean on a warm night.
A lot of these designs are influenced by traditional building patterns by the Greece beaches. We may not be in Greece, but you can buy this for your man, so he can look like a Greek God! The shirts are made with Turkish peshtemal cotton, which is a flat woven cotton that dates back 600 years. It has a towel-like absorbency and super-soft texture, uniquely crafted to reflect the climate and culture of a beach location. Everything is sent in plastic-free packaging, with profits helping to clean up our oceans.
The range is inspired by various locations from England to Spain to Greek diamond Santorini architecture and even the Maldives. Others are inspired by the Spanish tiles and groves of Spain’s southern hills.
This Soul Beach Poncho is just the thing for relaxing, after a surf or swim. Made from a blend of organic cotton and bamboo, it’s big enough to pull over a wetsuit, with cosy kind fabrics and a warm, twin-layer colour-contrasting hood with a high collar and pull cord, threaded through metal eyelets. The large front pocket offers plenty of space for carrying your bits and bobs, and is also good for warming your hands on chilly beach days. You can also use it as a ‘mobile changing room’. Also sold in a children’s size.