Yorkshire’s coastal resorts have always been a mix of pleasure beach, fishing port, working heritage and rugged beauty. They bring back happy memories of my childhood family holidays, but over the last few years they have also been a place for me to head to during the cold winter months while the holidaymakers are at home.
It has been a winter secret. A secret that this year has a more sombre tone. The rugged beauty and blue winter light, the cold biting wind and bracing walks along beaches and cliff tops are still heartwarming. But the towns are empty. The summer season ahead may yet prove to be one where we embrace our holidaying heritage again but for now the latest coronavirus lockdown has closed the doors of our seaside resorts and left them soulless.
During the first lockdown last March, handmade road signs outside Whitby were urging people not to visit and to “go home”. The fine spring weather and the draw of the coast had been too much for some. Those signs are gone now. The message and gravity of the pandemic is well and truly understood. The weariness of the population has taken hold. A strange emptiness greets any visitor to the promenades of, Whitby and Filey.
A Union flag flies at half mast as a line of idle minicab drivers sit outside the railway station. Whitby is the end of the line. The air temperature is a chilling -7ºC and Bram Stoker’s Dracula would find inspiration in its desolation. The goths are no longer to be seen in Whitby and the pandemic blackens the mood of those that need to work here.
It is not hard these days to social distance on Yorkshire beaches. Twice daily the tide reveals beautiful beaches on long open bays. A five-mile walk will take you from one end of Filey beach to the other. It grew from a small fishing town to a Victorian coastal resort where, in summer, the beach would usually play host to young families playing games, strolling pensioners and young couples holding hands.
The pandemic has been difficult and a time of despair for many. Personally, it’s been a quest to keep our family’s health intact and to keep working. It has also been a time to reassess. To look forward sometimes you need to look back to find out what really matters. For my generation the trips to the coast would have played a huge part in their early lives. The lockdowns have temporarily stripped the resorts of their soul but the heartbeat will soon return and my winter secret will be a summer’s delight for many once again.