Growing up I loved the beach. Living in the midlands, visiting it was a once-a-year holiday treat. As young children life at the beach was all about the sand. We’d build great castles using our brightly coloured plastic buckets as moulds. Sea water would be collected for the moat, and shells or grass would be used for decoration and flags. We’d bury each other in the sand, until just our heads were showing. The weight of the sand getting heavier and heavier as more was piled on.. until suddenly we’d break free in a panic, like a monster escaping! We’d try and dig big holes to Australia or to find water, until the sides would suddenly collapse around us. As teenagers life at the beach was all about the sea. We discovered body boarding, and every year we endured the long drive to Cornwall so we could spend our days out in the water. Even now I can vividly recall the absolute thrill of catching a wave; screaming with excitement as I was gently lifted, and then pelted at full speed towards the land. Beaches were activity and excitement and fun.
Then I got older and I visited the seaside less. I no longer wanted to build sand castles or ride waves, so the seaside began to lose it’s appeal. For years, my holidays now involved famous sights, or the mountains. However, a visit to a beautiful beach in New Zealand suddenly rekindled my love. Alone with just Phil and some weka birds, I sat staring at the waves and was mesmerised. It instantly relaxed and rejuvenated me. In later countries whilst travelling, we found other deserted and beautiful beaches, which were equally as peaceful and healing. When I got ill, I started to regularly meditate, and found that my favourite meditations involved the sea. In the last three years, I’ve spent many an hour lying on the sofa, listening to the sounds of waves, imagining I’m digging my feet in the sand of the amazing beaches sketched in my memory. I find seasides relaxing and healing. So after a really hard year, I suddenly started craving the sea. I needed to sit on the beach, stare at the water, listen to the waves and feel the peace of the seaside. So we headed to the coast, for another weeks holiday before the Autumn officially arrived.
We hired a beautiful oak-beamed cottage, in a little village on the top of a cliff, a few miles from Hastings. Every day we spent time at the beach, exploring the different ones around us- from the vast sandy expanse of Camber Sands to the rocky stones of Pett Levels. As it was term time, the beaches were empty, bar the odd dog walker; it was so peaceful. Beaches are quite inaccessible for disabled people, my scooter doesn’t work on sand or rocks, and the access point often involves big steps. Consequently I couldn’t explore, but spent my time reading magazines, collecting stones or just staring at the waves… getting my fix. However Lottie and Phil enjoyed jumping over the rock pools, paddling in and out of the waves, and exploring the beach. We went at all different times of the day- we drank morning tea, ate afternoon ice creams, and enjoyed evening fish and chips, all whilst watching the tide coming in and out.
We also loved scootering along the footpaths beside the beach or next to the cliffs. We could walk for a while and watch as the beach changed, from shingle to large stones. Or nose at the Grand Design houses facing the water, and pick which one we’d like to live in. Not intended for mobility scooters, these footpaths would often start wide and paved, before becoming narrow and muddy. As we like to push the limits of my scooter, when this happened we would generally carry on. On one occasion, I realised I was probably pushing the limits a little too far, as laid-back Phil suddenly started tightly holding my scooter. I was trying to take my indoor scooter over a rocky path, so was wobbling around madly, with a big cliff drop next to us! Another memorable seaside walk was on a lovely paved path near Winchelsea. It was brilliantly accessible for scooters so we scooted for a couple of miles next to the beach. Half way along this path, I suddenly needed the toilet. Surprisingly, holding in a wee is a really breathtaking activity if you have PH, so I decided to go behind a bush to relieve myself, before the walkers in the horizon caught up with us. Unfortunately I suddenly realised they were speed walkers, so were closing in on me quickly! Consequently I raced to finish and get my trousers up in time, and despite wearing my oxygen, as I’d done the activity quite quickly, my lungs couldn’t get enough oxygen. I scarily couldn’t breathe! I couldn’t move let alone walk back to my scooter, so literally had to stand still in the bushes for a couple of minutes until my body could breathe ok again. Therefore when the walkers sped by me, it was obvious I had just been to the toilet, even though I pretended to be admiring the brambles!
Amazingly, we were in Sussex during the last heatwave of the summer. It was so hot, Phil swam in the swimming pool a few times and I even wore a bikini one day (and I’m always cold!). Each morning Phil would go running or biking for a few hours, whilst I chilled on the sun-trap patio and let my lungs recover. By not overdoing it with long day trips but instead just afternoon visits, for the first time, I was able to do something every day of a holiday. One morning Phil decided to tackle the biggest hill in the area- a 25% climb! Donning his yellow cycling jersey, he set off.. only to return, puffing away, carrying his bike. His chain had broken mid-hill! He must have looked like Chris Froome on Mont Ventoux- a guy wearing yellow, running up the steepest hill around, with his bike on his shoulder! Although the beaches were our favourite trips, we also explored some of the other famous local sites in the afternoons. At the Battle of Hastings site, I off-roaded on my scooter around the fields, and we took part in a funny reenactment of the fight. Pevensey Castle was a hit with Lottie, as she was allowed off her lead to explore on her own, as we were the only visitors at the time. I bounced up and down, riding my scooter along the cobbled streets of Rye. And we stood on the newly restored pier at Hastings admiring the dramatic sunset skies.
The power of the seaside worked its magic on us. There is something special about looking out at the vast ocean, trying to spot the ‘tiny’ cargo ships in the distance. Digging your feet in to the sand, and feeling it changing from hot and dry, to warm and damp. Collecting stones and shells, marvelling at their different colours when they’re all from the same beach. The sound of the water; repetitive, hypnotising, making you sleepy. Watching the waves as they creep further up the beach over time, slowly covering sand you were just standing on. After a week of sitting on the beach we both felt more relaxed and calmer. On the last day, on our way home, we stopped at our favourite beach and enjoyed another couple of hours before starting the journey back. And we realised it was the first holiday in years where we didn’t want to go home. We could happily have stayed on that beach for another few weeks! We’ve suddenly rediscovered the appeal of the seaside. I think we might be visiting the beach more regularly in future!