Thursday, 5 March 2015

Seasonal Beach Activities

The beach is most definitely not just for Summer

It doesn't matter whether or not you live near to a beach.  The UK is a small island, so you're never more than a few hours from your nearest bit of sea, definitely achievable for a family weekend away at any time of year.  As the seasons change, you're drawn to the beach for different reasons, and different activities really come into their own.  Here are a few suggestions of different fun family activities to enjoy on the beach at different times of year:

A day on the beach in wild weather will provide a greater appreciation of our rugged coastline, but winter days can be sunny and bright too.
For winter you need to wrap up warm, take a flask of hot chocolate, a blanket or rug and some spare warm, dry clothes.  Here are a few ideas:

  • sand dune hide and seek - use those beautiful, steep-sided dunes as a place for a fast game of hide-and-seek.  Take care though, marram grass can be sharp, and too much dune erosion can be detrimental to natural coastal defences.
  • Shadow Tag - late afternoon on a sunny winter day and you'll find your shadows stretching away in the distance.  Play shadow tag, where you have to jump on the other person's shadow rather than catching them!
  • Sand Angels - yep, just like snow angels.  Lie down in the sand and waggle arms and legs and then get up and admire your angel.
  • Take the dog - many UK beaches have restrictions on dogs during the Summer months, but these are lifted through the winter, so take your dog and let him feel the salt wind in his nostrils and the spray in his fur as he runs and tumbles like the surf.
  • Wave Chicken - as the surf sucks back down the beach see how close you dare chase it... before the next wave comes racing towards you.  You might need those spare clothes!  (on some beaches advancing winter waves can have a dangerous undertow which can pull you under if the wave does catch you, so this is best left to older and stronger swimmers, and definitely not for stormy weather).
And if the weather really does come in, there's always the opportunity to visit the arcade on the pier to waste half an hour and a handful of 2p pieces, followed by hot salty chips in the beach shelter before the drive home.

Spring and Autumn (Fall)
Weather alternates between wintery storms and beautiful golden sunlight, so brave it and head to the beach.  Again, warm clothing is required, preferably with some spares.  Activities should keep you moving, to stay warm.  Here are some ideas:
  • Play all those brilliant beach games that there isn't always space for when the beach is crowded in the summer - volleyball, cricket and football.
  • Fly a Kite - pick a breezy day, wait until the tide is out (more beach) and fly your kite.
  • Fossil hunting - Some cliffs around our coastline are particularly good for fossil hunting, as the rock they are made of was laid down at a particularly good geological fossil forming age.  Dorset and East Devon are excellent, as is the area around Whitby and Robin Hood's Bay in North Yorkshire.  Coastal erosion during the winter storms will have revealed and broken up a whole load of fresh rocks that won't have been picked over by many hunters yet.
  • Surfing and Kayaking - You get nice big waves without the winter storms or cold, and without the summer bathers, so you can safely go out to play in the waves on your board or kayak.  Always make sure that you know what you are doing or get an instructor to go with you.
  • Beach combing - as with fossil hunting, winter storms will have provided an array of new material for the beach comber.  Look for sea-glass, driftwood and anything else of interest.  The west coast of the UK is better for beachcombing because of the prevailing wind direction.
  • Sand-writing - Get emerging writers to have fun forming letters and numbers in the sand.  Can they write your name?  Can they read the message you've written them?  Can they write you a message back?
  • Bonfires - In most cases, as long as you aren't causing a nuisance to anybody, and are below the high water line (so the tide needs to be out) and you clean up afterwards, its okay to light a small fire on the beaches of the UK.  There are exceptions, I believe the National Trust has a no-fires policy on its beaches.  It is vital to follow the guidelines above though, pick a more secluded beach, and keep things sensible and take your litter home afterwards.  Sitting around a fire cooking sausages and toasting marshmallows on sticks, with the sun setting and a blanket around your back... what could be better?
The summer is a great time to be at the beach.  The onshore breeze and the sparkling sea cool you down on a roasting day.  You can laze contentedly while the children just play in the sand... bliss.  Don't forget the hats and the sun-cream.
  • Build sandcastles - hold a competition.  Don't just build castles, build sand cities, sand football stadia...
  • Driftwood sculptures and beach art.  While many people head straight for the pristine sand of the upper beach, this is a great reason to head for the tide-line where there's plenty of seaweed, driftwood, shells and other material to work with.  Make a frame with driftwood twigs and then use other items to make a picture within.
  • Sand Sculptures - Make a car, make a boat, make animal sculptures, sand men (think snowmen).  What can you think of - can you make an image of it in sand?  Mermaids are one of my favourite, complete with scaly tail, sea shell bra, and seaweed hair.
  • Dig a hole - how deep can you go?
  • Down by the water dig channels in the sand, pour buckets of water along the channels and then dam them.
  • Rock pooling - take a bucket and net, turn over rocks in the pools and see what you can find.  By all means examine your finds, but make sure that you put them back in the same pool that they came from.
Lets face it, any of these activities can be done at any time of year, but some seasons lend themselves more to some activities than others.  Whatever time of year it is, do get out there and enjoy the beach.

What activities do you love doing on the beach?

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