Beach Huts on the Yorkshire Coast
There are more than 20,000 beach huts in the UK today, and some of the best are here in Yorkshire. Jo Haywood puts on her cossie to investigate Photographs by Andy Bulmer
If you had �35,000 knocking about in your bottom drawer, what would you spend it on? A BMW sports coupe, a Rolex Daytona watch or a beach hut on Scarborough seafront?
More and more people are opting for the hut. But it’s not just the luxury chalets (that’s estate agent-speak for beach huts) recently unveiled in Scarborough that are drawing covetous gazes from people seeking a bijou escape on the coast, less chi-chi versions in Bridlington, Whitby and Filey are also proving to be extremely popular.
Most people opt to rent their hut instead of shelling out anything up to �35,000 to own it outright. Weekly rentals are available along the Yorkshire coast from the end of March to the end of September, ranging in price from around �25 to �125.
A growing number are choosing to rent theirs annually, for a fee of around �900, so they can use it all year round, come hell or high water (not a rare occurrence in Filey, as anyone knocked off their feet by a stray wave while strolling along the prom will attest).
The popularity of beach huts is providing a much-needed boost to coastal coffers, but there is a minor downside – the ever-increasing waiting lists.
Julie Finnigan, in charge of admin, PR and marketing at The Copper Horse, The Tanglewood and The Restaurant at Stephen Joseph Theatre, put her name down for a beach hut in Scarborough when her son, Jake, was a toddler. But he was well past the bucket and spade stage when she finally got the key.
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‘We’ve had our beach hut for about eight years now,’ she said. ‘I went back to work after Jake was born and my mum used to look after him. We always went to the beach as kids and so she started taking him down there too.
‘She decided it would be a good idea for us to get a chalet. I immediately agreed and we put our name down for an annual lease. Ten years later we reached the top of the list.
‘Jake was almost a teenager by the time we got it. Even so he’s had a lot of good years on the beach since.’
Like most hut owners, Julie and her family have personalised their beach chalet over the years, bringing more and more bits and bobs from home to make it their own.
‘Anything that we don’t want at home anymore – plates and cups, that sort of thing – finds a new home at the beach hut,’ she said. ‘We’ve painted and stencilled the inside and put up shelves.
‘There’s no running water, but there is a single plug for the kettle and we’ve got a camping stove. That was vital when Jake started to surf. You really need a hot bacon sandwich when you’ve been in the North Sea.’
Julie’s beach hut is one of a number of listed beach buildings on the south side of Scarborough, not ‘up at the posh end’ as she describes the luxury north bay chalets.
In this instance, luxury means a small wooden room with four chairs, a table, a plug, a kettle and a single cold water tap. There’s no hot water, no toilet and you’re not allowed to sleep over (you have to lock up and leave by 10.30pm).
A cold tap might seem like the lap of luxury to Julie, but she wouldn’t swap her southside retreat for a place in the north. ‘I was down at our chalet this week and it was beautiful,’ she said. ‘I always take a book and I never read it. I sit there looking out to sea and then I start people-watching. There’s always a story unfolding in front of you.’
And it’s not always just in front of you. It can also be right beside you, as neighbouring chalet residents gather for a cuppa and a catch-up.
‘There’s a real community down here,’ said Julie. ‘We’re all in this together. We borrow things from each other and stop by at each other’s beach huts for a chat and a mug of tea.’
Some beach hut regulars have rented their chalets for years – two or three decades in some cases – making Julie a relative newcomer with just eight years under her belt. But she’s not planning on leaving anytime soon and looks forward to joining them on the lifer list.
‘I don’t think we have some sort of right to this beach hut, but as long as the council allows us to have the lease we’re happy – grateful even – to have it,’ she said. ‘My parents are elderly and they don’t go on holiday anymore, so my mum spends most of her summer days down here. This hut is her favourite holiday destination now.’
For more information about the history of beach huts, settle back in your deckchair with a copy of Sheds on the Seashore by Kathryn Ferry.
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