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Beach Hut

For the last 2 years we have had a beach hut on the sea front in Bournemouth. This article is about the experience of owning a beach hut in the UK. I say owning, but in fact the beach hut we have been using is not privately owned by us, but is a council beach hut which has to be paid for every year. The council beach huts are in great demand, and to obtain one it is necessary to phone up at a particular time on a particular day in late January or early February (and be prepared to be kept on hold for a long time). If you are as much as a few minutes late making the phone call, there is every chance that you will fail to secure your hut. There is also no preference given to people who have held beach huts in the previous year. So that phone call is a high pressure situation.

There are also private beach huts along the front. In fact there are many more privately owned beach huts than council ones. These huts tend to stay in the same family for many years. Although there are very many of them, they very rarely become available for purchase. However, some of the privately owned beach huts are also rented out during the summer.

I should at this point describe what a beach hut in the UK is like, for those that may not be familiar with them. They are small wooden structures of variable but modest size. In many ways they are reminiscent of a garden shed (they do not have windows at the sides or the back) but they do have double doors at the front that open out completely to make one side of the hut open to the beach. The council beach huts tend to be slightly bigger than the privately owned ones, but even so only have an internal dimension of about 8 feet by 8 feet. The typical size of a privately owned beach hut is more like 6 feet by 6 feet.

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Despite its small dimensions, the beach hut is a great luxury. Although we only live some 400 yards from the beach, it is really convenient to leave swimming kit, beach toys, tables and chairs, wetsuits, food and drink, the barbeque and other paraphernalia down at the beach hut. It means that all you need to do is stroll down to the beach unencumbered with items to carry.

Once down at the beach, the hut provides a place to change, a gas stove for cooking and making hot drinks, and above all gives you “ownership” of a small section of the sea front. You can sit and relax in your deck chair positioned just outside your beach hut, and feel that it is your own personal space. Somehow it is much different from finding a space on the beach on which to camp out.

Our beach hut was particularly well positioned, being only about 75 yards from a sea-front cafe, and the same distance from the Fisherman’s walk cliff lift which can transport you up the 100 foot climb to the cafe and pub at the top of the cliff. The cliff lift is an on-demand service – there is no schedule. You walk into the building at the top or the bottom and you are immediately able to enter the carriage. The ascent/descent will be immediately triggered even if you are the only person wanting to travel at that time. This service costs a magnificent £15 for the season, April to November (2013), up from £10 for the season (2012). Given that it is not uncommon for me to make 2 or 3 round trips per day, I would call this good value.

Long lazy summer days can be spent at the hut with swimming, sun-bathing, games on the beach, drinking, eating, and relaxing. All the facilities you need are on hand. Toilets are in a block a couple of hundred yards from the beach hut, ice creams and hot snacks are available from the sea front cafe, and you can always just go up the cliff lift to the cafe or pub at the top. The only problem is keeping your beer supply in the hut cool. There is no electricity supply (cooking is facilitated by a small gas stove). The solution to the beer issue is to purchase a bag or two of ice cubes from the local shop before setting off for the beach. In the peak of the season buy your ice cubes in advance because the shops will sell out. In a cool box in the hut, the ice will last all day, even on a very hot day, and you will always have a cold beer.

It is with some regret that we have decided not to get a beach hut this year. I am reading back the glowing praise of our beach hut that I have just been writing and wondering why we have taken this decision. But of course I know what the reason is and regrettably it is purely financial. The beach huts are expensive. Very expensive. To keep the hut for a full year is very nearly £3000.

The sad truth is that we did not make enough use of the beach hut last year for it to stack up economically. True, we had some very nice summer days down there, and as I work from home Working From Home, I was on occasion able to spend a lunchtime there. Also, as a family we could go down in the late afternoon/evening. And we did do this - but not enough to justify the cost. Our daughter is of an age where you might think that the beach would be the best thing in the world. It certainly was to me when I was that age. But sadly these days it seems that Minecraft and the iPad are all that matter, and it can be a struggle to drag her down to the beach. It is difficult enough even to get her out of the house into the back garden at times. I know – it seems completely mad.

There is a twist to this tale, and it relates to the storms that have hit the UK this winter. I do not believe that these have anything to do with man made global warming – see A personal view of climate change but nonetheless, the winter storms have been more severe this winter than usual. The wind and waves have wreaked havoc with the beach huts and a large number have been either destroyed or very badly damaged. Our beach hut was one of these. We received a phone call from the council to tell us that we should remove our personal belongs (under supervision of council workers wearing hard hats) as it was scheduled to be demolished. It was deemed unsafe from the damage it had sustained in the storm. Here is a picture of a couple of the beach huts that fared even worse than ours.

beachhutstorm.jpg

Now as I mentioned, we had decided not to renew our lease on the beach hut this year, so by the end of March we would have had to remove all our stuff anyway and hand back the key. But for our tenure to end in this way was very sad. We will have been the last occupants of that particular hut, although no doubt in a short space of time a brand new hut will stand in the same spot (the council will not want to miss out on its £3000). I wonder who will get that one.

Society | Lifestyle


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