‘The times, they are a’changin’, said the Dylan song way back when, and indeed the times, they do keep on changin’, and the author of those lyrics wouldn’t be surprised. 100 years ago it was easier (for most people) to define “British-ness”. Though nobody could give you a concise definition, everybody just knew what it meant.
These days ‘British’ apparently has to do with tea and scones, cricket, fish and chips, theatres, large, venerable homes, pubs and holiday camps or getaways. As of just last year, Skegness, which boasts one of each for every 162 residents, (about 20,000 as of 2001 count) was chosen as the most British of British seaside resorts. Back in 2007 it was down in 7th place on the list, but town planners decided to spiff up a bit and bring back some of the ‘most wanted’ features that voters noted.
Until the mid-1870’s Skegness was just a small port and fishing village, but the arrival of the Great Northern Railway and its advertising campaign featuring The Jolly Fisherman and the slogan ‘Skegness is so bracing’ helped put the town on the map. When Butlins opened its first UK resort in 1936 Skegness became one of the best known seaside resorts in the country, but like most of the others it took a severe hit from the boom of cheap package holidays to Spain.
Now that British holiday-makers are living with tightened financial belts, holidaying at home has regained popularity, and Skegness aims to entice its share of the beach-and-party crowd. The town has initiated a £140,000 refurbishment project, planting flower beds, adding picnic benches and litter bins etc.
The pier, 562 metres long when it opened in 1881, has been reduced through the years to its present 118 metres, but it’s still a major landmark on the coast. The ‘bracing’ part of that old slogan is still quite true, by the way. The wind still blows off the North Sea at times, so remember to pack accordingly.