England’s seaside is made up of a striking variety of coastlines including cliffs, coves, pebbled shore, wide sandy beaches, salt marshes, and estuaries cutting deep inland. On these coastal edges England’s great holiday resorts grew up, developed in the early eighteenth century originally as spas for medicinal bathing but soon morphing into places of pleasure, entertainment, fantasy and adventure.
Acclaimed writer Madeleine Bunting journeyed clockwise around England from Scarborough to Blackpool to understand the enduring appeal of seaside towns, and what has happened to the golden sands, cold seas and donkey rides of childhood memory. Taking in some forty resorts, staying in hotels, caravans and holiday camps, she swims from their beaches and talks to their residents to delve into their landscapes, histories and contemporary plight.
Once thriving, innovative places and leaders of architectural innovation, many are now struggling with the deepest deprivation and ill health in the country. Yet they still act as a bellwether for our nation, and in the stories of their poverty and neglect, Bunting finds that these holiday towns – so influential in England’s history and in the shaping of our national identity – speak powerfully to the character and political state of England today.