Category Archives: Seaside Piers

Bangor Pier

I wrote this yesterday but appear not to have pressed the final button. Another senior moment to add to a growing roll of minor memory disasters…

I’ve been to Bangor several times, and never thought much of it. On this trip it seemed like quite a nice place, though small. I’m not sure why it seemed so much nicer, though it could be something to do with the fact it was dry instead of drizzling. That’s the trouble with Wales – it’s very wet – and I’ve never been to Bangor in the dry before.

Julia says we visited the pier before, when we were in Wales with the kids, but I don’t remember. This seems strange as it’s quite a striking pier. However, I think we’ve established that my memory isn’t always great and it’s possible that a traumatic day with the kids has been erased from my memory as part of a healing process. It’s not a very commercial pier, but it is well-restored and and full of Victorian elegance.

The view is one of the best we’ve seen so far on our pier tour, but as most piers just have a view of waves and gulls the competition isn’t that great. The second best view is probably Beaumaris, with Llandudno third. Wales seems to be doing rather well at this.

There was a welcome lack of gulls at Bangor after our experiences in Llandudno. It comes down to the lack of food – no tourists, no fast food outlets and the gulls have no easy pickings and don’t learn bad habits.

As compensation for the lack of gulls there were jelly fish, including some big ones. That, I’m afraid, is the extent of my jellyfish knowledge. I’d like to learn more but I have so many good intentions it’s hard to fit another one in. The eight-pointed star jellyfish pulsates a becomes round – it’s quite strange, and hypnotic. The two photos could well be the same jellyfish in different stages of pulsation.

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Jellyfish at Bangor

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Jellyfish at Bangor – about the size of a dustbin lid

Beaumaris Pier

I’ll say it before anyone else does – this isn’t much of a pier – it’s more like a jetty with seats. However, the council has made a lot of effort over the years, and it’s a great place to sit and relax. Although people talk of Forest Bathing you really can’t beat sitting on a pier, looking at hills and listening to the waves.

Even though it was the evening it was quite busy. A family were crabbing and eating chips, the lifeboat crew were drilling and the yacht club was training junior members.

 

 

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves today.

 

Cromer Pier

We manged to find a parking space within striking distance of the pier this time, though I decided not to go all the way down the ramp to the pier. Downhill walking isn’t good for bad knees – I know this from past experience. And then there would have been the problem of getting back up to the top.

I like Cromer, but I do think they could have built the pier in a more convenient place. Next to a car park, for instance. (This, if I’d known, was to become something of a motif over the next few days).

About 500 yards from the end of the pier a very strange shipwreck took place on 9th August 1888 when the paddle steamer Victoria  hit a church tower. Yes, that’s right, a ship sank after hitting a church tower. It actually wedged itself on the tower of the lost village of Shipden – originally lost to the sea in the late 13th century. Even then, it didn’t actually sink until they used dynamite to remove the tower and blew a hole in the bottom of the steamer.

That has little to do with the pier, but it’s such a great piece of trivia I felt you’d excuse me.

There have been a number of piers in Cromer. The first one known was mentioned in a document of 1390. Several have been destroyed – one by a storm and one by a ship. The current one was opened in 1902.

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Cromer Pier – a fine looking pier

It’s a fine looking pier, even from a distance, and a tribute to the owners (North Norfolk District Council) and the amount of work they have done to keep it up to standard. It’s recently been cut in half by a drifting barge (1993) and damaged by a storm surge in 2013.  Other people obviously like it too, it’s been Pier of the Year in 2000 and 2015.

It claims to be “One of only five UK seaside pier’s with a full working, flourishing theatre and home to the only end of pier show of it’s kind in the World!”.  I don’t want to get into an argument about it, as I don’t have any evidence one way or the other, or know what the definition of an end of the pier show is. I’m also suspicious about anything using the words “of it’s kind”.

Apart from the obvious problem of weasel words being used by a marketing team there’s the problem of apostrophe abuse. If they can get their apostrophes wrong, what else can you get wrong?

Even without the pier Cromer would be an interesting place. This is the Hotel de Paris. After photographing the pier all I needed to do was turn round and take this picture.

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Hotel de Paris – Cromer

It was originally opened in 1830 by Pierre le Françoise, who had come to England as a child when his family fled the revolution in France.  It was successful and several notable people stayed – including Edward VII and Oscar Wilde (though probably not together).

I looked it up on the Internet – prices seem quite reasonable. We may be back.

 

 

Hunstanton Pier

It looks good in the picture doesn’t it? What more could you want in a pier? Well, a bit of length wouldn’t go amiss – it doesn’t actually reach the sea.

Hunstanton Pier from the side - can you see the problem?

Hunstanton Pier from the side – can you see the problem?

l must have been going to Hunstanton for around 50 years, often unwillingly, as my parents forced me to tour Sandringham, Norfolk Lavender and a variety of other boring horrors. As a youngster all I required was sand and water, progressing to arcades and birds as I grew older. Stately homes, lavender and art sales did nothing for me.

It’s a nice place but not really an aspirational destination for anyone under 40. It has a sensory garden, a blue crab scheme (blue crabs stencilled by drains to remind you that pouring unpleasant things down the drains is bad for wildlife on the beach)  and a catering outlet called Tubbie’s. The grammar is confusing, maybe even dodgy but the food is cheap and stodgy, and, as it says on the side “Tubbilicious”. Four freshly cooked doughnuts and two very nice coffees cost £3.

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A very fine takeaway

Tubby, or Tubbie, is a well-rounded man, though Julia was not totally impressed. Let’s face it, she’s been a bit spoiled in that department. I’m not just Tubby, I look like I eat tubby men for breakfast.

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Four doughnuts for £1 – diabetes for free

The pier was opened in 1870 and was 830 feet long. By 1882 a steamer service travelled between Skegness and Hunstanton.

In 1939 the pavilion was destroyed by fire, and as there were more pressing things to do, it was never repaired. I imagine that the pier was breached in 1940 as an anti-invasion measure and after that it just deteriorated. They built a new arcade in 1964, which is the one I remember, though I’m not sure I actually remember the pier extending out to sea.

The pier was destroyed by a storm in 1978 and the arcade burnt down in 2002, which is when the new arcade was built. In 2012 an application was made to the National Lottery Fund for £7.5 million to build a new pier, but as you can see, it was not successful.

It was a pleasant few hours, and, as you will see in days to come, the town has a lot to offer.

For now I will leave you with a picture of the cliffs.

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Hunstanton Cliffs

Great Yarmouth – the end of the beginning

Great Yarmouth was bright and hot and crowded when we called. You can probably tell that from the heat haze in the featured image.

It was also short of parking and so our visit to the Wellington Pier was not extensive. In fact we stopped where we could get a photograph and moved on. We’ll have time to do it later, when we return to East Anglia, but after several days of walking I had to admit defeat.

Of course, as I get older I really ought to stop saying things like we will have time to do things later, as there’s a growing chance that one day I will be spectacularly wrong and find that I don’t have any time.

 

The pier itself is supposedly the seventh built in the UK, and was named after the Duke of Wellington, who died in 1852, the year before the pier opened.  It was successful at first but suffered financially after the neighbouring Britannia Pier opened. In 1899 the corporation of Great Yarmouth took on the running of the pier and, in 1903 added Winter Gardens to the pier complex.

The Winter Gardens, originally erected in Torquay in 1878, were not a success in Torquay and the owner went bankrupt. In 1903 Great Yarmouth bought the building and transported it by sea to the position it now occupies. Since then, despite looking fragile, it has survived storms, air raids and bombardment by German battleships.

It even survived a period of ownership by the comedian Jim Davidson. He’s not my favourite comedian but you can’t fault him for putting his money where his mouth is and supporting the traditional end of pier holiday shows.

Back at the Britannia Pier, the parking is easier. I was surprised to see some of the big names that work the pier. (In some cases I was surprised they were still alive).

Britannia Pier, Great Yarmouth

Britannia Pier, Great Yarmouth

Where the Wellington Pier is elegant and Edwardian, the Britannia is obviously a modern pier and it’s open for business. There were, I swear, more people on the pier than there were on the beach.

 

I wasn’t very keen on some of the boards, which seemed a bit soft in places, and the size of some of the gaps was a worry. It looks like it would be easy to put a stick in a gap that size. It probably wouldn’t but it was a bit of a worry. Of course, as soon as you start looking down at where you put the stick, you start to see right down to the sand and the vertigo starts…

It can be a long walk to the end when you’re worried about falling through. It was nice to walk along a properly used pier, where the only gulls were making use of the fun fair rather than using the place as a roost.

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Gulls on Britannia Pier

The end of the pier seems a bit abrupt, with a selection of rusting ironwork at the end.

It’s had an interesting history – opened in 1858, shortened by a ship in 1859 and by a storm in 1868 before being demolished in 1899. Reopened in 1901, fire damaged 1909 and again in 1914 (allegedly by Suffragettes, who were more violent than their current image suggests). Another fire in 1932, breaching by Royal Engineers in 1940 and a further fire in 1954 completes the list of misadventure so far.

All in all it was a good, traditional pier and you can have a look at the donkeys (very traditional) and Scroby Sands Wind Farm (less so).

They actually have a Scroby Sands exhibition on the seafront (Julia looked round it and used a telescope to watch the seals that were basking in the sun). I sat outside with an ice cream.

 

In 1922 the steamer SS Hopelyn was driven onto the sands and wrecked. Such things happen. Heroic acts also happen, and on this particular occasion heroism was well to the fore when the Gorleston lifeboat, powered only by oars, took part in a lengthy rescue. It took 30 hours in all, involved several vessels and resulted in the rescue of 23 crew, the Captain and the ship’s cat. You can read about it here, and about Coxswain  William Fleming here. He served with the RNLI for 49 years and helped to save 1,188 lives.

And that is the end (at last) of the first part of the reports of the pier visits.

 

Eight down, forty sevenish to go

I’m behind on my pier reports – I still have a report on Great Yarmouth the write. After yesterday I also have two others to report on – Cleethorpes and Skegness.

My orderly side says I should do Yarmouth first and the other two in turn. Another side says I should write up the most recent visits while they are still fresh in my mind.

And yet another part of me says I should review another piers book, or even write about something completely different so that I don’t become a pier bore.

The picture at the top is a flattened penny from the machine on the pier. This is what the other side looks like.

Squashed penny - reverse

Squashed penny – reverse

The trick with squashing pennies is to use a dirty one so that traces of the design show up and make things a bit more interesting.

For now I’ll leave you with that, as I need to get to work on the other posts. I put up a 1966 medallion for auction today.

1966 medallion - Jules Rimet still gleaming...

1966 medallion – Jules Rimet still gleaming…

World Cup Willie - sounds like some sort of repetitive strain injury you get from too much celebrating

World Cup Willie – sounds like some sort of repetitive strain injury you get from too much celebrating

The medallion is only 30mm across in real life.

Then, in a new low for quality standards, I put a lot of 100 National Transport tokens up for sale. I have no pride.

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Book Review – “Pier Review”

Pier Review: A Road Trip in Search of the Great British Seaside by [Bounds, Jon, Smith,Danny]

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Summersdale (11 Feb. 2016)
  • ISBN-10: 1849538115
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849538114

Again, with this being a Kindle book I’ve taken the book cover art from the Amazon website, so thank you Amazon.

It’s a good book, though one with quite a few rough edges. You can tell this before you pick the book up because the less enthusiastic reviews, and even some of the more favourable ones, refer to grammar, blokiness, bad language and beer. I’m not that bothered about grammar, as you can probably tell from reading the blog, and, in truth, I didn’t notice any bad language. That probably results from me being desensitised by having two sons and a background of working on farms and markets. Like so many of my contemporaries that year at Finishing School eluded me.

It’s a tale of two immature mates and their driver, Midge. The narrative is based on them travelling round 55 piers in two weeks. It is, unsurprisingly, a badly organised and under-funded trip. It’s a familiar model and it felt like I’d read books by this pair before. After looking at their previous books I discovered that I hadn’t. I’ve merely read other gimmicky travel books by similarly immature, badly organised blokes.

This isn’t a criticism, just an observation. It was interesting to spend time learning about different lives and their relationships with the seaside, each other, their laundry and their past. There’s even a bit about piers in places, though not a lot.

One of the things they discuss early on is a quote from someone – J G Ballard, I think – that travel books never mention the parking. I take this badly, as my post on Cromer, our first attempted pier visit, does feature parking quite heavily. Now it’s going to look like I’m copying them.

Apart from that, I have a sneaking feeling that they planned the book better than it looks on the surface. They meet people, they stay in various places (a B&B, camp sites, floors of friends) and they space out the reminiscences. It could be an accident, but it could, under all the casual chaos, be quite a well-planned book.

It can be a bit tedious reading about people drinking (even more tedious than actually having to listen to them whilst they are drunk) and about their constant bad planning, but they are likeable idiots and the time passes quite easily as you read.

It cost me £3.99 on Kindle, which is more than I normally pay for a Kindle book, but I was happy with it. However, it’s a book about mates on a road trip: if you want to learn about piers buy a different book. I’ll review that later.