Roger Ratcliffe’s
postcards from
the hedge

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Wouldn’t it be great if most people didn’t go abroad on holiday but stayed in Britain like they used to? I’ve heard this misty-eyed muse expressed a lot over the years at down-on-their-luck seaside towns like the one where I grew up.

Well, just be careful what you wish for will be my response after this year. We are now actually living this nostalgic dream, and I can’t help worrying that in some places it is starting to turn into a bit of a nightmare.

Needless to say it has been caused by millions of would-be EasyJetters and Jet2ers finding themselves confined to the UK because of redundancy, low lockdown wage packets or fears of facing a two-week quarantine when they get back from foreign climes. As a result, a fraction of the usual number of flights have taken off and 2020 has turned into one of those gilded pre-package holiday summers fondly held in the memories of anyone over the age of 60.

Conjuring up old postcards of packed beaches, some resorts are reporting bumper business as holidaymakers rediscover the simple pleasures of fish and chips and ice cream. Spain, our most popular foreign destination, normally draws about 18 million Brits a year, but now most of those holidaymakers are going to Bridlington rather than Benidorm and even Langdale in the Lakes instead of Lanzarote in the Canaries.

Unfortunately, the carefree attitude associated with resorts like Magaluf and Ayia Napa has been transported to places that have no experience of dealing with it. The beaches of the Balearics have dedicated workers to clean up after the night-time partying by Brits, but on the shores of Windermere and Ullswater they are used to visitors who have more respect for the landscape. It has been horrifying to hear of rubbish scattered across Lake District fields and woods, fences torn down so their posts could be burned on campfires, not to mention the indiscriminate choice of toilet locations.

I find myself sounding like an old killjoy. It isn’t the fault of the more irresponsible youth if they can’t get away this summer. I’m sure they’d much rather desecrate some corner of a foreign field than do it in Borrowdale. These are unprecedented times. Like the rest of us they are ad-libbing their response to the restrictions imposed by life under coronavirus. If the campsites and B&Bs are all fully booked – which most of them are – and you have driven for a couple of hours to find some respite from all the restrictions at home, surely you find somewhere to pitch the tent and party.

It is probable that the foreign holiday industry will take years to recover, not least because of the continuing shockwaves to the economy from coronavirus. So we need to adapt to this new pressure on coastal resorts, the Lakes and other beauty spots, by allowing more campsites and providing more rubbish bins to avoid the heaps of refuse and other defilements.

And to recapture the golden age of the Great British Seaside at places like Cleethorpes and Filey we need a lot more bricks and mortar accommodation, a revival of the seaside B&B that since the 1960s has become the stuff of TV sitcoms. I like the thought of a whole new era of Fawlty Towers guest houses.

Roger Ratcliffe has worked as an investigative journalist with the Sunday Times Insight team and is the author of guidebooks to Leeds and Bradford. Follow him on Twitter @Ratcliffe

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