Beside the seaside

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
November 2011

As caravan parks and camping sites close up after the busy season and tourist attractions say goodbye to their summer, Lincolnshire’s coastal areas are preparing themselves for the quieter winter period.
Grimsby and its near neighbour Cleethorpes are no exception – but these north east Lincolnshire towns still have lots on offer to attract regular footfall and they also have plenty of reasons to celebrate.

September’s Indian summer saw people flock to the seaside in their hundreds to enjoy the continental-style temperatures and there are positive signs of an upturn in trade and industry in the area.

Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce chairman Simon Brett, who is also Grimsby’s deputy port manager, said the past twelve months have been tough for business but the future looks hopeful.

“There are positive signs of increased activity in the area. Significant developments have already been made in Grimsby in the fish market by Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises and further investment is anticipated in the forthcoming months.

“There has been an upturn in fish sales on the fish market as a result of the closure of the fish auction market in Hull and there has been increased trade for fish processors in the area.”

He added that developments in the wind power industry in the North Sea are also good news for Grimsby.

“In particular there is the opportunity afforded to Grimsby to become the main inshore base for offshore wind supply vessels. Despite the relatively difficult trading conditions that the town faces in the next few months businesses remain upbeat and we are hopeful that they can weather the storm,” said Mr Brett.

News from the area’s principal retail quarter, Freshney Place Shopping Centre – which is home to more than 100 stores, cafes and restaurants – is also positive and it too is in celebratory mood.

Visitor numbers have been good, new retailers have moved in and its excellence in customer service has been recognised.

Centre Director Amanda Austin said: “Overall Freshney Place Shopping Centre has maintained a healthy footfall for 2011. We welcome 250,000 visitors to the centre each week and we are forecasting that to rise to nearly 400,000 over the Christmas period.

“Earlier this year the centre was awarded the Chamber of Commerce Business Award for Excellence in Community Relations for the high quality of service offered to the centre’s retailers, customers and the extended Grimsby community. I feel our work in this area contributes to a sustained level of footfall and loyalty from our customer base.”

She said that, in the week when the nation experienced the Indian summer, the centre was quieter than normal – being 10,000 visitors down on the Saturday and 5,000 down on the Sunday – but she said the centre is lucky to boast such great retailers.

“Marks and Spencer has shown its confidence within the centre, with its store refurbishment earlier this year. House of Fraser and BHS continue to invest in their stores, bringing in new concessions. There has also been a number of new retailers to the centre including TDF, Love Forever and Caffechino.”

Amanda said another reason for the centre’s continued healthy footfall is the regular events which it hosts, which appeal to a variety of shoppers.

“Events already held include the official weigh-in of the first lightweight title fight Grimsby has seen in fourteen years, a crafts fair and a weekend of Hallowe’en activities for all the family,” she said.

“With Christmas on the horizon, we have also launched our local charity-focused campaign, Shine a Light. The centre believes strongly in supporting worthy local causes such as this and it further shows our commitment to the North East Lincolnshire community.”

Formerly known as Light up a Life, Shine a Light is a Christmas donation campaign that has been created to remember loved ones who can’t be with us during the festive season, such as friends and family members in the armed forces and those who live overseas. It aims to raise £35,000 for the St Andrew’s Hospice in Grimsby.

A service of remembrance will be held at the centre on 30th November starting at 6.30pm. All people who donate to the Hospice will receive an invitation to the service to remember their loved ones.

The Minster choir will be opening the service and Bishop David of Grimsby will provide words of comfort. The service will last for approximately half an hour and will close with the switch on of the dedicated Shine a Light Christmas tree.

Business has also been steady at the area’s major tourist attractions such as the national Fishing Heritage Centre based at Alexander Docks in Grimsby, which is run by North East Lincolnshire Council.

Combined visitor numbers at the centre for the June to August period topped 31,600.

Councillor Mick Burnett, deputy leader and portfolio holder for health, wellbeing, tourism and culture, said: “The summer tourism season has been fantastic in North East Lincolnshire.We’ve seen many new and regular visitors enjoy our superb beaches, attractions and family activities; many coming for longer breaks but others coming to spend an enjoyable day by the seaside.

“Our events calendar has been jam-packed with fun events for the whole family. From the annual carnival celebrations, to air displays and sports events at Meridian Park. There have been very few weekends where visitors haven’t been greeted with some kind of free entertainment.

“But the season never stops. October saw the return of the literature and comedy festival and there’s plenty to do around Bonfire Night with a fireworks party at Pleasure Island and traditional celebrations at Waltham Windmill.

“There is something for everyone in North East Lincolnshire, at any time of the year, in all weathers and they will always receive a very friendly welcome!” said Coun Burnett.

Nigel Lowther of Tourism in North East Lincolnshire, which monitors visitor figures and is responsible for events and marketing in the area, said informal feedback has been good.

“In general terms, it was a terrific start to the year and last month’s Indian summer temperatures meant people flocked to the coast. But it’s fair to say that the six-week summer period, with its mixed weather, didn’t help. This is a crucial six weeks.

“The weather was a little disappointing and that impacted on business. It’s difficult to say how much because the weather last month meant it was terrific in Cleethorpes. The resort was packed, it looked fantastic and it feels as though there has been a lot more people around.”

And everyone is obviously enjoying quality service at many venues. The Fishing Heritage Centre is celebrating after being awarded Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme (VAQAS) status for 2011. The award is given by Visit England and shows the centre to be a good quality visitor attraction.

Cleethorpes has been voted the best coastal resort in the country by The Royal Horticultural Society in its Britain In Bloom competition. The resort was awarded gold in the competition’s coastal category and Alan Fletcher, the council’s parks and open spaces manager, also secured a Community Champion award from the judges – paying tribute to his dedication over the years to the In Bloom cause.

The Britain In Bloom results were announced just one week after the East Midland In Bloom awards, which saw Cleethorpes retain gold and Grimsby and Immingham collect silver gilt awards.
Cleethorpes also took the East Midlands In Bloom Award for the Least Littered Environment which is awarded for exceptional standards of cleanliness.

CLEETHORPES ATTRACTIONS
No one would think of sitting beside the seaside during the winter months but there is more than just the beach to enjoy on a visit to the east coast town of Cleethorpes.

There are many attractions which are open to the public all year round ranging from award-winning parks and gardens to heritage trails, a boating lake, exhibition centre and play facilities for the children.

You’ll find a huge range of activities for all ages at the Discovery Centre located on the Kings Road including an interactive exhibition, guided walks and an observatory where you can enjoy the spectacular views across the Humber estuary.

It hosts art exhibitions, has a café and is also home to Artlandish, a popular and respected community arts group that provides socially inclusive visual art and craft programmes in the wider communities throughout North East Lincolnshire.

Exhibitions to enjoy in the coming weeks are the annual Artlandish and Friends Exhibition, which opens to the public on 22nd November and will be based in the centre’s community, exhibition and observatory galleries.

It showcases a collection of work from Artlandish artists and external artists that have supported the charity. The exhibition is a celebration of their work and the support they have given the organisation over the past year.

Another exhibition, called The Docks, which opened on 18th October, can be seen until 16th November. This is a collection of photographs supplied by Grimsby Library and highlights Grimsby Docks from the past and present. It is accompanied by paintings of the Docks by William Dixon, and model six-foot-long trawlers created by Henry Hartley.

If you prefer to be outdoors, the Discovery Centre is set between two lakes, one of which is open for fishing; the other is the boating lake.

Cleethorpes Sand Pit is located to the rear of the centre and is quite unique because it is surrounded by the original stone wall, which acts as a shield or wind buffer.

A galleon ship and interactive play equipment are a focal point, situated within the sand pit while other children’s play equipment surrounds the perimeter and forms part of the Cleethorpes Play Trail. In the lakes area, there is also a small zoo.

If it is walking that you really enjoy, then Cleethorpes offers a step in the right direction: its Sea Front Gardens and its Country Park were both given a Green Flag award this year making them two of the best parks in the country.

The Green Flag award is the national recognition of a good quality park with particular focus on the quality of its management and operations.

Originally open farmland, Cleethorpes Country Park was formed in 1988 when the seven-acre lake was dug out and the first trees were planted. Since then the council has continued to develop the 160-acre park. In 2008, it became North East Lincolnshire’s third local Nature Reserve.

The Sea Front Gardens are situated in the main tourist area of Cleethorpes, on the sea front near the Pier. Visitors will actually find three areas.

There are the Dolphin Gardens which have trees, flower beds and shrubs and which are dominated by a piece of artwork in the form of an anchor with dolphins.

Then there is Sea Road with its central island of gardens and the Pier Gardens which has two walled gardens and a wildlife area. It also features a waterfall cascading from the top of the gardens down onto Central Promenade. To the rear of the waterfall is a putting green and crazy golf.

Further on, there is a maze where you can while away the time, a war memorial dedicated to the crews and ground staff of RAF North Coates, and Ross Castle – a Victorian folly dating back to around 1885 when Pier Gardens was first built.

GRIMSBY ATTRACTIONS
A visit to Grimsby doesn’t just offer the chance to look at the town’s maritime history; you can actually experience what it was like for the fishermen of the past.

Climb on board the Ross Tiger trawler, which is moored adjacent to the national Fishing Heritage Centre in Alexander Dock, and prepare to be blasted by freezing winds and lashing rain.

You can feel the trawler decks heave and moan beneath your feet as you learn the ropes from former trawlermen who have many a tale to tell. Sign on as a crew member for a journey of discovery that will take you to the ‘edge of disaster and the extremes of the elements’ to witness first-hand what life was like for trawlermen in the 1950s.

The Ross Tiger was Grimsby’s last traditional sidewinder conventional trawler and is one of the few vessels left that once made up the largest fishing fleet in the world.

She was converted into a museum ship in 1992 and forms the star attraction at the national Fishing Heritage Centre.

Another tribute in Grimsby to the fishermen of days gone by is the Fishermen’s Memorial which was unveiled in January 2005 in St James Square close to Grimsby Minster.

After six years of campaigning and fundraising, the Memorial was created by sculptor Trevor Harries and serves as a lasting and unique tribute to the men who lost their lives at sea.

It captures and depicts the difficult conditions in which the fishermen worked.

Looking out over an invisible sea, the fisherman symbolises the losses suffered in more than 100 years of fishing, when hundreds sailed out of Grimsby, never to return.
Grimsby is also home to another surprising attraction which is located deep in the prison cells of Grimsby Town Hall. A visit to The Time Trap Museum takes you on a time travel journey to uncover Grimsby’s colourful past.

As you pass through dark, twisting corridors you will be able to explore mysterious nooks and crannies and make your way up and down winding stairs. You will discover the town’s treasures as you piece together the jigsaw that reveals how Grimsby developed.

It is open weekdays Monday to Friday and offers a potted history of Grimsby through the ages.

Town and Civics manager Paul Wisken said: “There are exhibitions and areas you walk through like the old exercise yard where there are historical things to see.

“You don’t need to make an appointment but trips after hours can be made by special arrangement, if needed.

“Visitor numbers are never going to be huge because of the nature of where this is. But we get between 200 and 300 a year.”

The building of the Town Hall in its present form was completed in 1888 when its uses included a police station and magistrates’ court, complete with cells.

If it is a bit of retail therapy you are looking for then Freshney Place shopping centre houses more than 100 stores, cafés and restaurants. There are a number of local, independent, specialist stores in the town, such as Lees furnishers of distinction in Victoria Street which was established in 1901, when Arthur Lee set up his business in modest premises in Grimsby offering a selection of carpets, linoleum, beds and bedsteads.

An old photograph of King Edward VII’s visit to Grimsby in 1916 shows billboards outside the shop advertising Lees’ home furnishings. Today Lees furnishers is run by third and fourth generation members of the Lee family.

FISHING HERITAGE CENTRE
Grimsby’s links with fishing dates back as early as the twelfth century and at one time the town was ranked twelfth in importance to the Crown, in terms of tax revenue.

No wonder then, it is home to the country’s national Fishing Heritage Centre which takes visitors back through the ages of the maritime industry.

2011 has seen some exciting developments at the centre, which is based at the Alexander Dock, run by North East Lincolnshire Council, and it has had a double reason to celebrate.

Heritage Lottery funding of £50,000 was awarded to the council for it to open up its full photographic, artefact and arts collections to the public, in a series of exhibitions and outreach sessions over the next four years. The first, called Changing Faces, took place from January to April. The second and current show, The Humber and the Tees, runs until 8th January. It highlights the history and people of these East Coast tidal estuary rivers and includes dramatic paintings of the River Tees and images of and objects relating to the River Humber.

The centre also received a £10,000 grant from the Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA) Renaissance Yorkshire initiative to enable it to open a brand new gallery named after a local man who donated more than 200 items to North East Lincolnshire Council back in 1941. Wilfred Vere Doughty bequeathed his huge collection of ship models, marine paintings and china to the Borough of Grimsby and it was of such value and importance that it was a catalyst for the forming of a museum service in North East Lincolnshire.

NE Lincolnshire council’s head of cultural services, Steve Hipkins, said: “This new gallery is a welcome addition to the Fishing Heritage Centre and adds another exciting museum experience for our visitors.

“We are very excited to be able to dedicate an entire gallery to the items donated to us by Wilfred, which have become known to us and the people of North East Lincolnshire as the Doughty Collection.



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