I have been thinking a lot about the reasons I have chosen my target beaches from the past and pondering what the “rules” should be for choosing my new sections of coastline. From the outset all those years ago I think a key theme was to discover what makes those places special for me and what was it that caught me about them from the start.
Clearly some places are embedded in my history: the section from Leigh to Southend was my childhood-to-teens local coastline. My Nanna lived with my Uncle Ted in his house overlooking the estuary at Leigh and my Auntie Lil lived in Southend. It was an easy bus or train ride to either from my childhood home in Pitsea. In my teens, Southend was a good place to meet girls and hang out with friends. It would be difficult not to include it.
Marazion is cemented in my memory from two childhood holidays spent in a Camping Coach right on the sea wall. Those few weeks were at a time when I was perhaps at my most impressionable: learning and seeing with wonder.
The beaches of Pembrokeshire were a different thing. I first discovered them on a geography field trip to Dale Fort when I was doing my A Levels. These were beaches that I chose to love. Yes they forced themselves into my senses with their beauty and the knowledge of their geology delighted my intellect, but I picked these out as special and cherished them in my heart.
Llanfairfechan and Brighton were the haunts of friends and were frequently visited, so their familiarity was probably a key factor in my affair with them, but Holkham and the Jurassic coast were just holiday discoveries, and I am keen to look at why Holkham I favoured above Sheringham, say, or the West Bay beat Porlock.
Shingle Street is, I sense, something different. When I lived in the Sudbury to Colchester area, I looked upon Shingle Street as a local haunt, even though it took time was difficult to get to really. Why is it so much more special to me than Dunwich just up the coast? Why did Aldeburgh never get near the top ten? Mersea or Walton or Frinton were just down the and probably more familiar, at least more often visited, yet they didn’t have the same quality.
So in choosing my “new” beaches I feel I want to go to places I have never been to before or at least cannot remember visiting. There may have been places we holidayed when I was too young to take much in, but I would like to avoid even them by reason and guesswork!
There are places that call to me. For example, as a child, I can remember when we went to Scotland by train the line runs close to the Northumbrian coast. I can remember hoping that our destination was attractive. I still have that image – or at least the memory of that image – in my head and the desire in my heart.
There are places like the Lancashire and Cumbrian coasts that I don’t know at all, yet find myself not excited by so far. Yet if I don’t choose that part of the country there will be a great swathe of coast untouched by the project. Does that matter?
Something draws me to the idea of visiting places near to my favourites to see how different they are – though there are not many places I have yet to visit on the Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk coasts! Is part of that because I could cut down on travel costs; two birds with one stone? The Purbeck coast is pretty likely to get chosen because it isn’t far away, I have never been and it looks beautiful.
Should I aim for places I guess could be inspirational or are visually attractive? How big should my seach area be? Do I just pick seven stretches of tideline and use them whatever, or am I trying to find 7 new special places?