The conversation went as follows; me: “What shall we do on Sunday?” him: “Let’s go to the sea. I want to see the sea”. My other half and me, neither of us likes the winter. November has been wearing it’s full winter garb over the last week, leaving the house means wrapping up. Yet, despite our dislike of the short days and the cold, we love to plunge ourselves into winter seaside. It is that bit colder, the horizon more sullen, colours muted, the sea air chilly and invigorating. On a dull winter morning, we wound our way through Devon lanes to Sidmouth.
Sidmouth is a very straightforward seaside town, it is compact. No penny arcades and minimal seaside tat shops. It isn’t short of interesting shops for browsing, there is a good toy shop and a beautiful perfumery that sit on the same stretch (by the church FYI). Pebbles cover thehe beach, when the tide is out it reveals sand and rock pools. There are plenty of cafes and a couple of good places for fish and chips.
Sunday morning arrived, the house was warm and I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to go but we had agreed “the sea”. I knew that once out and then back, returning home would feel more appreciated, cosier and warmer for the comparison.
Much as I struggle with winter and sunshine makes my soul happy, there is an appeal in the variance of weather in the UK, perfecting the right layers to against the cold. The joy of finally catching summer sunshine, thin t’shirts and bare feet in sandals. Beating the rain in waterproofs and wellies. Endless sunshine has a paradise ideal attached to it, but there is also a blandness in months of matching weather. I love the British familiarity with the weather, the easy fall back of weather conversation with strangers and neighbours. A reminder we are part of something bigger, connected to nature, dictated by contrasting seasons. How little we might have in common, we can fall back on conversation around the cold, we know that “isn’t it lovely” is all that needs to be said to share an appreciation of blue skies and sun.
The seaside in winter is moody, the sea darker and uninviting. Beaches are less for lingering and more a place for a brisk walk. Sidmouth was busier than we expected; walkers with dogs on the shore, families having lunch in the seafront hotels. One day, I want to sit out a storm in a sea front hotel and watch crashing waves from the sea view room.
Sidmouth carries on through winter, there are “closed for winter” signs and ice cream stands boarded up until spring, much else is still open; our favourite fish and chip shop on reduced hours ‘The White Horse Cafe’. Warming chips after our packed lunch. There are seaside rituals for winter, sandwiches followed by locally purchased chips. Neither of us remembered to pack a flask of hot drink, we need to improve our winter skills. A flask is vital. There is something slightly ridiculous in sitting in the cold eating sandwiches, when you could be inside, but I like that. Why do the obvious? We wanted the see the sea.
Summer at the coast is a long drawn out day. In winter, the light dips sooner and the tide seems to turn quicker, time on the beach is an experience that feels more snatched. Despite layers and hats, the cold creeps in.
We pottered about on rocks before the tide came and swept away our foot prints. Chilled but happy, we headed home before the light faded, taking advantage of empty November roads to explore small places along the coast, making notes to come back again soon for walks along nearby shores. Happy to have spent Sunday elsewhere and pleased we braved the cold.