BBC News

Why Bridlington's beach huts are a hit in winter

By Katie Hall
BBC News Online, Bridlington


The traditional British seaside resort would not be complete without a row of brightly coloured beach huts. During the summer renting one for a week can cost hundreds of pounds, just to have somewhere to get changed into your swimming costume and make sandwiches.

But what happens to them when the days start drawing in? In East Yorkshire, a council scheme to rent out its beach chalets during the winter has been so successful that all 61 have been snapped up until March, and next winter's waiting list is already filling up.

While beach huts in some parts of Britain can sell for up to £170,000, Bridlington's can be rented for £250 for six months, from October to March.

But what is the appeal of sitting in a hut with no heating when temperatures are pushing zero outside?

"It's pretty self-explanatory, surely," Roger Widdup says as he looks out at the crashing waves.

A retired animal inspector from Skipton, Mr Widdup moved to Bridlington with his wife Sheila six years ago, and has rented a beach hut on the resort's north beach for the last three winters.

"We don't have a house with a sea view, so this makes up for it," he says.

image captionThe Widdups have decorated their hut with pictures

For Mrs Widdup, a former teacher in Bradford who now works part-time as an exam invigilator, the "isolation" of their stretch of sand and shingle is part of the appeal.

"We used to come down here every day and then found out you could rent one for the winter, just a step from the sea," she says.

The small hut, which is part of a row built about 50 years ago, is not glamorous, but the Widdups have made it feel homely, putting down carpet and hanging pictures on the wall.

When they were newcomers to the area, it was a good way for them to make friends.

Mr Widdup says: "We make a point of coming down on Christmas Day and New Year's Day when we heat up some mulled wine and hot punch on a little gas cooker, and if someone we know walks past we'll offer them a warming drink."

image captionJulie Folds says her winter chalet is a "peaceful bolthole"

Photographer and retired art lecturer Julie Folds says renting out a chalet means she can "enjoy actually living in Bridlington" as it gets her down to the seafront about three times a week.

"In the summer I wouldn't want one, it's a peaceful bolthole in the winter," she says.

"It's a great place for me as a photographer, I can watch the light change on the waves, go for walks. At this time of year you can photograph the same thing over and over again because it always looks different depending on the light and the weather."

image captionJulie Folds says having a beach hut near the harbour provides lots of photo opportunities

She is originally from Hull, but moved to north Bridlington eight years ago. When it came to choosing a chalet though Princess Mary Promenade on the south beach was the only option for her.

"The south side is the area I've always loved," she says.

"My dad built his own boat and we used to sail out of the harbour here, and it's where the lifeboat launches so I sometimes photograph them at work."

image captionThe family were "surprised" by how often they visit the chalet

"We usually have sand in the sandwiches, but the children don't mind," Elizabeth Smith says while tucking into a homemade roll.

The 37-year-old mother-of-three lives near Beverley, about 20 miles (35km) away from Bridlington, and has rented a South Cliff chalet with her parents and cousin for the second time.

"Last year we were surprised at how often we came down," she says.

"We come with lots of different groups, with family, with friends who have children and those who don't.

"We'll wake up and say, 'it's a beach hut day'.

"We had one for a fortnight in the summer and our friends had one next door, and it was lovely but you get two weeks for the price of six months during the winter.

Her mother Vivien Gunnis says it is a "good place to congregate" as they all live in different parts of East Yorkshire.

"The children don't mind the weather, they'll dig, dig, dig," she says, as toddlers Rosie and Isabel and their three-year-old cousin Martha tackle a sandcastle-building project.

image captionDonna Morriss uses her chalet as a base for fishing and kayaking

Donna Morriss is one of Bridlington's many seasonal workers, working 12-hour shifts at a cafe in the summer and running a fancy dress hire business from home in the winter.

"We like the trade in the summer but it's very peaceful here in Bridlington in winter," she says.

Her hut on Princess Mary Promenade is sparse. It has a kettle, an antique radio, fishing rods and towels.

But Donna says since she got the keys in October she has visited at least twice a week with her partner, her sons and her dad.

She says: "We're going fishing this weekend to try and catch some sea bass, there's nothing like catching your own fish."

Despite having lived in Bridlington all her life, she says she was "really excited" to get a chalet for the winter and would love a permanent one "to keep the kayaks and wetsuits in".

Looking out at the North Sea waves, she adds: "Being down here, it's like being on holiday."

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