How Much Can You Fit In A Beach Hut?

How much can you fit in a standard Brighton & Hove beach hut? 

Well, if it’s the one used by the surf therapy charity “The Wave Project” the answer is, “a lot”! At the last count, that wonderful little space contained about 12 surfboards, 4 inflatable paddleboards, over 50 wetsuits,  4 huge buckets of boots, hoods and gloves, all sorts of items to play beach games and everything you need to make gallons of warming hot chocolate!

And for the last 5 years, that equipment has been used to provide surf therapy to hundreds of young people across Brighton, Hove and Sussex. 

Our surf therapy programmes offer young people aged 8 to 18 the opportunity to participate in a specialised surf therapy course running once a week for six weeks. Each young person is paired with a volunteer surf mentor who provides one-to-one support; helping them to build confidence and self-esteem, develop resilience, and make friends. It doesn’t matter that in Brighton & Hove we aren’t always blessed with waves, we have found plenty of ways to have fun in the ocean even on the flattest days.

David, 2022

Where’s Your Little Hat?

A friendly wave with Debs

For three summers I was a driver on the world’s oldest running electric railway. 

The question predominantly asked of me when I tell people this is  ‘Did you have a little hat?!’ Unfortunately, I have to disappoint them with the fact that no, I did not have an official train driver’s hat but nonetheless it was this kind of gleeful response that made this such a special job.

There was a certain look that would flood the faces of onlookers when they noticed this contraption pootling towards them. Slight bewilderment followed by delight. It was a look that for a moment had the magical effect of showing what they had looked like as a child. 

Since 1883 the brainchild of Magnus Volk has operated in some capacity along a stretch of Brighton seafront ranging vaguely from the aquarium to Blackrock station. This was the rough mile that I got to know so well from oiling the tracks of a morning and weeding the halfway station at Peter Pan’s playground, to hopping out to push car seven when she decided to stop over a dead spot and watching out for rogue volleyballs along the line.

I must have driven thousands of people along that mile of seafront. Each one of them had decided for fifteen minutes to give themselves over to an exercise of folly, to immerse themselves in novelty.

And although I can’t deny that at times there was a monotonous element to coursing that same short span of track, it was the waves that kept me going. Chugging along at 14 miles an hour top speed, past the nudist beach-goers,the mini-rallies, the enprammed toddlers, the marathon runners, the day-tripping families, the Passion recreationists, the bikers, the mods, the fishermen, the naked bike riders queuing for ice-creams at Blackrock station in shoes, hats and nothing in-between; they waved. 

They all waved to strangers because of the simple joy of a little old train born of the inventive spirit that draws so many to our seaside home.  

Debs, 2022

Debs’ story about The Volks Railway has been included in the walking tour at Brighton Festival 2022. You can read and listen to the other 11 stories that have been included by clicking here.

Bright Orange Squash

Madeira Arches

I’m lucky to have been born here as my parents came to live in Brighton the day they were married – to a small dark basement flat in Wykeham Terrace.  But what a spot!

My dad had been studying at Sussex University and had a job lecturing at Brighton Technical College.  

This photo I think was taken on this stretch of beach by my uncle Rob visiting from Nottingham.

It had so much going on especially when I was little. It was very much the source of excitement!  Starting with the Aquarium (then dolphinarium – so sorry dolphins we loved you so much and didn’t know it was cruel),  Peter Pan’s Fairground with it’s long waving slide, Volks Railway!  I remember my dad taking me out for the afternoon to the trampolines and I had a big go on them after a huge drink of the bright orange squash that would have a paddle stirring it round all day.  Yes I was ill afterwards!  When we were allowed to go to the beach on our own – we’d walk down from home in a straight line across Queens Park and be on there all day – having been packed up with a sandwich.  We loved it.  There was a little arcade and we loved the bingo in there where you sat around the edge on a stool and flipped across the cover for the numbers as they were called and occasionally won a prize!

The nudist beach came along later.  I have never taken my notice of it.  Apparently I went to the Black Rock pool before it closed (right at the end by the Marina – which came along later).  I was too small to remember.  I do have lots of happy memories of the open air pool at Rottingdean though – when my Grandparents and Uncle visited us.  

I love it very much still.  I helped sell raffle tickets for the Grade 2 listed Madeira Terraces and we raised enough to restore three arches (there are 151). I hope they can be saved without changing them completely.  The country’s oldest green wall is just beyond it (and the gem that is Volk’s workshop).  I was one of the many volunteers who helped to replant some of it when they were restoring it. 

I’ve been going to this section of beach before work for a walk …and then the walk turned into a beach clean when I saw the plastic on there. Someone on Freegle kindly gave me some grabbers.  It’s a great reason to get to the water’s edge when everyone else is rushing about getting to work.  Last week’s beach clean was my 40th!  It’s glorious. I love it there.

Chloe, 2022

The Hidden Beach

My favourite spot in Brighton is the beach to the west of Millionaire’s Row in Portslade. I don’t even know if it has an official name but our household often refers to it as the secret or hidden beach. During lockdown I frequently walked west along the beach around the Shoreham port area and discovered how much tranquility the ‘hidden’ beach has to offer. It is such a quiet spot and provides totally unspoilt views of the sunset. I love the fact that it’s just a few minutes walk from my house and will look and feel different every time I visit due to the ever changing skies and tides.

Lucy, 2022

Gradually and Gracefully

My favourite place in Brighton is standing on the beach gazing at the old pier. I have been doing it for years, from my twenties to my forties (I’m 49), and I watch as it gradually and gracefully falls into the sea. It’s a metaphor for me as I age, for accepting my life as it is even though I couldn’t have the children I longed for. It’s a little bit of peace in the chaos. It’s perfect in it’s imperfection.

Meriel, 2022

Murmuration Addict

I only visit my favourite place between November and March, and only when the tide is low and the sea is flat. It’s a little rocky ledge at the base of the Albion Groyne, the stone jetty just to the west of the Palace Pier. It gives the clearest views of the starlings who dance their crazy patterns every winter’s night before roosting beneath the pier. The ledge is only a few inches above beach level but it’s high enough for people to walk past in front of you without blocking your view. 

The murmurations are, to my mind, the best show in town and it’s surprising the number of people in Brighton who have never seen one. Personally, I’m addicted. I’m there most winter nights, weather and work permitting, twenty minutes before the sun goes down readying my tripod to film them in the hope that a peregrine falcon will share my interest. For the starlings to create their tightest balls of frenzy in the sky usually takes the intervention of a bird of prey. It doesn’t happen often, maybe 5 times a year, and when it does the peregrine more often than not leaves empty handed, or clawed. 

Throughout lockdown, a group of fellow starling fans would meet on the beach every day, standing in a socially distanced row along the shore. I owe my sanity in those times to the starlings, and to my little ledge. 

Alex, 2022

Magical since 1860

Why does this little arch mean so much to Lynette?

My favourite place in Brighton is outside the arch that belongs to Brighton Swimming Club just to the left of the Palace Pier. It’s been a magical place for many since 1860 and is still held dear all all current and past members.

When I joined the club some 6 years ago I was newly single and looking to find a new hobby. Every Saturday before the pandemic the changing rooms at 1030 would be a hive of activity with people chatting about their week and getting ready to go for a swim. All year round people would arrive without fail which was such a comfort when you felt alone in a big city.

After a swim one of the members would erect a Woden table outside the arch and bring bread, cakes and biscuits to have with hot tea and we would all gather around to talk swimming obviously.

During the pandemic the arch was closed for the first ever time in the clubs history (other than during the war), which so devastating for all the members it was a lifeline for. The lovely thing about the club though is that many of us still met on the beach outside the arch to swim and drink tea. We did very much however miss the hot showers and warm changing rooms in the cold winter months!

Lynette, 2022

Lynettes’ story about Brighton Swimming Club has been included in the walking tour at Brighton Festival 2022. You can read and listen to the other 11 stories that have been included by clicking here.

Coming Home

I travel a lot for work. Not far, but I’m often away from Brighton & Hove. Whenever I can, I walk to the seafront and sit on a bench near the steps down to look at the sea and remember why I’ve lived here for so long. It’s important to reconnect with that.

Jim, 2022