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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the June 2018 issue

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Much work has been done in the past few years to maintain Skegness’s place on the holiday destination map. As it prepares for another summer season, Melanie Burton finds a town that certainly doesn’t rest on its laurels.

The East Coast town was one of the country’s first seaside resorts to welcome visitors and it is still one of the most popular destinations for holidaymakers and daytrippers alike. With plenty of places to visit, family friendly attractions to enjoy and lots of diverse things to do and experience, there is no wonder people return time and again. The resort’s beach has once again been awarded the prestigious Blue Flag award, ranking it amongst the cleanest in the world.

Now organisations involved in running Skegness as the successful seaside resort it has become are being invited to get involved in a project that aims to provide a more consistent look and feel to the town’s foreshore, to improve the appearance of the area.

Working with design experts at Focus and Guy Taylor Associates, the project will see the development of a detailed Design Manual for the foreshore that will enable East Lindsey District Council to proactively pursue grant funding opportunities to enhance what is an important part of the resort.

In late 2017, areas of Skegness foreshore were awarded ‘Registered Park and Garden Status’ and the area is now classed as Grade II listed which opens up the potential to attract grant funding to support schemes that can improve the appearance of the area.

The manual will identify improvements that can be made to lighting, street furniture, signage, colour schemes and pathways; as well as consider opportunities to improve the layout for the benefit of traffic and pedestrians.

Portfolio holder for the coastal economy, Councillor Steve Kirk, said the work is important and there had been a positive response from the stakeholders.

“I think it’s fair to say that Skegness foreshore is looking tired and in need of significant investment,” he said.

“By undertaking this work now the council is positioning the resort to be able to make funding applications when grant schemes open.

“We all know Skegness is one of the UK’s leading resorts, with visitor numbers to the area increasing year on year and we must ensure that continues.”

Lincolnshire Coastal Destination Business Improvement District manager, Lisa Collins, added: “This piece of work will provide a valuable evidence base and resource to enable us to properly identify issues affecting the foreshore and enable us to go forward to apply for appropriate funding to support the development of the foreshore.

“We acknowledge and recognise that there is much to be done to improve the aesthetics of the area, however, we must not lose sight of the potential too. In that respect, the Grade II listed status for the foreshore should be deemed very positive. I’m looking forward to working together to take this forward for the long term benefit of Skegness.”

Chairman of Skegness Chamber of Commerce, Tony Tye, said the Chamber was thankful for the opportunity to have an input on this important piece of work.

“We all know that the foreshore is in need of a revamp and know that this could have huge benefits and will hopefully see visitor numbers continue to grow year on year,” he said.

“We have seen considerable private investment over the last few years and want to see that carry on over the coming years.”

Skegness town clerk, Steve Larner, added: “Skegness Town Council welcomes the opportunity to work with partners on plans to improve the foreshore and Tower Gardens.

“It is very important that key organisations bring together knowledge and resources to shape the future of the town.

“The Design Manual together with the Neighbourhood Development Plan, which the town council is developing, will show we have a shared vision for Skegness, are working together to make it a reality and this in turn will assist all parties in bidding for funding to deliver their projects.”

During the year, four consultants were employed to undertake a public consultation on what the people of Skegness wanted for the town. The consultation took place between September and November during which the #myskegness Facebook group gained around 500 members and seventy-five questionnaires were completed.

“It was encouraging to hear that people generally viewed the town as a good place to live,” Steve said in his annual town council report.

“The consultation also identified issues that could be dealt with through the plan, although additional data and evidence to support the plan may be needed.”

These issues included the protection of open space and leisure facilities within the town, the increase in the number of Houses of Multiple Occupancy and a requirement for greater controls and the need to improve the local economy and expand the employment offer.

“The past twelve months have been extremely busy. Over the next year, more consultations and research will be undertaken to put in place a Neighbourhood Plan that can be officially supported by residents and that will then be part of the official planning guidance,” said Steve.

There are still plans to redevelop the Tower Gardens Pavilion despite last year’s disappointment of not receiving grant funding to redevelop the site. The council has decided to consider a more modest community building to be funded through borrowing and one possible option is to establish a new community hub in Tower Gardens.

Skegness has a population of around 22,000 but this swells dramatically during summer months, as visitors come to the town. As one of the UK’s top five tourist destinations it has a strong national brand image and the success of the town’s economy depends largely on tourism both to the town and to wider East Coast attractions.

“The town faces the same challenges as other areas in finding ways to maintain vitality in the town centre, provide services for local people and keep the town centre bright and attractive,” said Steve.

“There is, however, a large untapped working population that, if activated, could drive growth in the local economy forward.

“Skegness’ location also presents unique potential for new attractions and experiences with the potential to increase the Skegness season and attract a new sector of tourists.”

With so many exciting things in the pipeline for the Lincolnshire Coast this year, Lincolnshire Coastal Destination BID has much to report.

This year has also seen the creation of its What’s On Guide – a publication which highlights many of the events happening along the coast throughout the year.

“With a month-by-month calendar, locals and visitors will never be stuck without anything to do,” said explained Harriet Lawton, marketing assistant with Lincolnshire Coastal Destination BID.

“From food and drink festivals to stock car racing the What’s On Guide contains something for everyone to enjoy.”

This month sees a Sand Sculpting event taking place on 8th, 9th and 10th June on Mablethorpe Central Beach where anybody can go along and get involved in a beach clean, sea dip, competitions and of course see all the wonderful sculptures from ‘Sand in Your Eye’.

Another main event which is being supported by Lincolnshire Coastal Destination BID is the Skegness Summer Festival – a weeklong festival of events, performances and food and drink following on from the Carnival Parade on 12th August.

“Visit Lincs Coast is a brand of the Lincolnshire Coastal Destination BID and one of the things we are offering to the levy-paying businesses is a free listing on our brand new website where they can upload any events happening along the coast so that people can plan their visits to the Lincolnshire Coast around what is happening,” added Harriet.

RECORD BREAKING YEAR
Skegness can boast of being the place where the Butlin’s empire began more than eighty years ago, because it was where Billy Butlin opened his first holiday camp in 1936. But it is as popular now as it ever was and as important to the British holiday industry as when it first opened its doors.

“We are heading towards another record-breaking year in terms of revenue,” said Andrew French, head of PR and communications for Butlin’s.

“Bookings are up about four per cent on the same time last year, and we still have availability in the school summer holidays, so we are anticipating that figure to improve further.

“This is possibly the first year that the UK tourism sector may see the impact of the weaker pound.

“Brochure prices are ‘baked in’ some time in advance, so although the pound has been weaker for a while, it is probably only in 2018 that it has filtered through to brochure prices.

“That means the holidays abroad that people have taken in the past few years may suddenly have increased by a few hundred pounds. Therefore, many families will look for an alternative that represents great value but also doesn’t involve queues at passport control, limitations on baggage etc.”

Earlier this year Butlin’s hosted its first Job Fair at Skegness in more than eight years and it attracted more than 650 people, enabling it to fill more than 150 roles on the resort.

“We are always very keen to be a good neighbour and help local people find roles that can enable them to develop a career, learn new skills and find job fulfilment,” said Andrew.

This year Butlin’s made a significant six-figure investment in a new dining experience called Pub & Kitchen to allow families time out together to enjoy a refreshing drink, a lovely meal or a delicious treat.

“We continue to invest in accommodation and have focussed on totally refurbishing older rooms to give them a new modern and themed feel, so we have more Seaside Apartments and Fairground Apartments for this year.”

Welcomed first by Butlin’s Skegness in 2015, the Seaside Apartments are perfectly designed for families to get the best out of a holiday by the sea.

The apartments proudly take their place in Lagoon Bay which is a short stroll away from Butlin’s Skyline Pavilion, Splash Waterworld and the sandy beach of Skegness.

The fairground has always been important to Butlin’s because founder, Billy, started out in life running a hoopla stall at a travelling fair and was also the first person to bring dodgems to the UK back in the 1920s.

Since then, the traditional seaside fairground has held a special place in our hearts and it still plays an important role in the Butlin’s experience of today.

These modern family apartments bring to life the laid-back mood of the traditional fairground, through the use of iconic symbols, patterns and stories. There are also some fun fairground elements built in, like the wobbly mirror in the lounge and star lights in the children’s room.

Butlin’s was founded by Billy Butlin to provide affordable holidays for ordinary British families. It is now owned and run by Butlins Skyline Ltd, a subsidiary company of Bourne Leisure Ltd, which also operates other leisure brands in the British Isles, including Warner Leisure Hotels and Haven Holidays.

PARK LIFE IN A FRIENDLY COMMUNITY
Seymours Parks are a local run family business with over fifty years’ experience. The main office at the Royal Oak Caravan Park is the original park and is a short walk from the promenade linking Skegness and Ingoldmells. Since then their business has expanded and now comprises five holiday parks, four in Skegness and one in Burgh Le Marsh.

Over the years much has changed but their principles remain the same: friendly, approachable, a family community and competitive prices.

A comment recently posted on Facebook sums up how well thought of the Seymour family are: ‘Guy, Pat, Hester and the team are so welcoming and are always there to give advice and have really looked after us, with nothing being too much trouble. Grounds are immaculate and the caravan owners always have time to say hello. It’s a little community that we are so glad to be a part of.’ Mrs Dilks.

Hester says: “It is being part of a family community that keeps customers satisfied and returning for more in both our hire and owner-occupied vans.”

So whether you are interested in purchasing a caravan or would like a holiday in Skegness call in and see Guy, Pat or Hester to help you choose the right park and caravan to suit you.

ENJOYING THE GREAT COASTAL OUTDOORS
Mablethorpe has always been a family favourite with its two-mile stretch of golden sand, making it the perfect place to while away those long summer days.

Day-trippers or holidaymakers alike are spoilt for choice with the range of places to eat, drink and relax and attractions such as the paddling pool, boating lake and miniature railway in Queen’s Park on offer.

It also has some unique shops such as The Shell Shop which is a small family business, established since 1986 and an Aladdin’s cave of shells, rocks, crystals and fossils as well as jewellery, woodcarvings and handcrafts from Bali, including a large selection of dreamcatchers and wind chimes.

Then there is the Old Post Office record shop which buys and sells vinyl records and a range of music on singles and albums.

But if town centre and beachfront activities are not what visitors are looking for, there is an alternative coast to enjoy with sloping sand dunes and areas where nature thrives.

Much of it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which offers one of the best places in Britain to see breeding grey seals, while each year around a million birds from across the globe migrate along its sandy shoreline.

Donna Nook National Nature Reserve covers more than ten kilometres of coastline between Grainthorpe Haven in the north and Saltfleet in the south where it borders Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe National Nature Reserve.

The reserve is rich in bird life and is renowned as the site where a colony of grey seals return to shore each winter to give birth to more than 1,000 pups.

The site is popular with visitors throughout November and December and special viewing areas make it possible to observe the seals at close quarters while protecting both the seals and the public.

And just south of Skegness is another SSSI in the shape of Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve (Visitor Centre and cafe) which is managed by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and is a key habitat for a number of important species. It has a network of paths through intertidal habitats, freshwater marsh and seashore.

Another popular spot on the coast with a beautiful stretch of sandy, unspoilt beach is Anderby Creek which is home to the Round and Round House, designed for year round bird watching.

It can also boast of having the UK’s first purpose-built cloud viewing platform where visitors can sit back and enjoy the natural shapes of cloud formations that drift across the coastal skies.

The Lincolnshire Coastal Country Park also has stunning sandy beaches, wildlife packed nature reserves and an extensive network of public rights of way stretching along the coast from Sandilands to Chapel St Leonards, and inland to Hogsthorpe, Mumby, Anderby and Huttoft.

ENJOY EXCELLENT FOOD AND LIVE MUSIC
The Lakes Restaurant, Burgh le Marsh is located within the tranquil surroundings of the Sycamore Lakes fishing and holiday park near to Skegness. The restaurant offers a wide choice of dishes throughout the day, starting with breakfast options, light lunches through to full evening menus plus Sunday lunch roasts. Wednesday evening guests can enjoy Spanish Night and Thursday Soul Nights include a soul food inspired menu with fantastic live bands performing every week.

The Lakes has become well known for its live music, giving the area’s best talent a chance to perform and on 21st July the annual Lakes Festival returns once again. Taking place within the grounds of Sycamore Lakes, revellers can come along for the day or camp onsite in their own tent or caravan to make the most of a packed programme of entertainment. Lincs FM will be live at the festival which includes a Lincolnshire exclusive from the new Brotherhood band who headline this year’s event.

Like The Lakes on Facebook and keep up to date with festival news: /thelakesrestaurant

For tickets and restaurant bookings call 01754 811198 or visit thelakesrestaurant.co.uk

WELCOME ABOARD!
The Admiral Benbow Beach Bar may have a traditional Treasure Island pub name but the bar itself has only been established on the beach front at Chapel St Leonards since 1995.

The main structure was a former toilet block and first aid room but it was transformed by a local businessman into a hidden gem of a bar with an excellent reputation for real ales, fresh sandwiches and snacks, and a warm welcome for families and their pooches as well. The interior was remodeled using reclaimed breakwaters and groynes from the beach giving a traditional smuggler’s inn feel. Outside, the seating area is designed as a pirate ship where guests can relax on the deck of the ‘Hispaniola’ with refreshments while children play on the beach, or just admire the beautiful view out to sea.

Whether you are dog walking, having a family picnic on the sand or walking along the Promenade be sure to stop at The Admiral Benbow and get a taste of traditional pub hospitality.

PET SUPPLIES AND SERVICES
Digby’s Pets & Aquatics Skegness, established in 2006, is a family run independent pet store located on Heath Road.

They specialise in quality natural food for your pets, so whether it be wet, dry or frozen with six freezers in store there is always plenty of choice.

The large range of pet supplies including collars, harnesses, beds and accessories must be the largest in the area.

Other popular services include nail clipping and dog grooming as well as a small animal and bird boarding service so you can go away with the knowledge your pets are being well cared for by knowledgeable staff.

The staff at Digby’s Pets & Aquatics aim to get the message across that it is not safe to leave your dog in the car once the temperature starts to rise and that is why they have introduced their hourly Dog Sitting Service; a safe environment where you can leave your dog while you attend appointments or go shopping.

PIER AT FOREFRONT OF TOWN ATTRACTIONS
Skegness is home to one of the largest amusement centres in Europe. Awarded a TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award for 2017, which is the highest honour TripAdvisor can give, Skegness Pier boasts a full sized Qubica AMF Bowling Centre with an American themed Hollywood Bar and Diner, Laser Quest, Escape Rooms, Captain Kids Adventure World and hundreds of the latest amusement machines including virtual reality.

Brand new for 2018 is The Pier Beach Bar with happy hours, live entertainment and events to enjoy. It opened in April and is going from strength to strength.

“It has been a very busy month and things are going well,” said admin manger Gabriella Wilkinson.

“There was a slow start to the season because of the ‘Beast from the East’. However, it was very promising over the early May Bank Holiday weekend and we were very busy. We think it will be a good season.”

It was the Earl of Scarborough, the leading landowner of the area, who was responsible for Skegness getting a pier. He had helped bring the railway to Skegness in 1872 and four years later helped form the Skegness Pier Company, with the intention of providing the town with a spacious promenade pier.

Work began in 1880, and on Whit Saturday 4th June 1881, the pier was officially opened amid great ceremony by the then Duke of Edinburgh.

A landing stage, built of pitch pine, was provided on the north side of the pierhead, but due to difficulties in embarking and disembarking passengers in rough seas, it was transferred to the south side, where there was better protection from the elements.

The first steam boat trips, organised by the Skegness Steam Boat Co, began in 1882, and they were soon to become very popular.

There were trips around The Wash and up to the Lynn Well Lightship, but the most popular excursion was the trip to Hunstanton, where most people travelled the extra eight miles to visit the royal residence at Sandringham. Skegness Pier soon proved to be a very popular and viable attraction, and more than 20,000 people trod upon its deck on one day alone in August 1889.

Disaster nearly struck in 1895 when a small fire in the saloon was only contained by the quick thinking of the pier staff and holidaymakers. However, it didn’t fare as well on 21st March 1919 when the schooner ‘Europa’ went through the pier causing a 150ft breach.

A so-called ‘temporary’ gangway was constructed across the gap, but this was to remain in situ until 1939, when the pier was finally restored.

The 1953 East Coast floods damaged the north east corner of the pierhead and flooded the pier entrance, but no serious damage was sustained. But on 11th January 1978, it was irretrievably damaged by a northerly gale with high spring tides along with the piers at Margate, Herne Bay and Hunstanton.

Though it was designated as a listed building, it was considered a hazard for shipping and in October 1985 work began on dismantling it. But whilst this was taking place, the theatre caught fire and was completely gutted.

A £5m development plan to rebuild 100 metres of the pier incorporating a new pierhead was completed some years ago and holidaymakers and residents alike can still stroll down the pier and enjoy the wonderful views along the miles of beach.

The Pier’s most recent setback was the devastation caused by the tidal surge of December 2013 which completely flooded the bowling centre and Laserquest.

It cost more than £1 million to completely refurbish but it now boasts ten new Qubica AMF bowling lanes.

Skegness Pier keeps evolving to stay at the forefront of attractions on the East Coast. It now even boasts its very own app, as well of course as being on Facebook with more than 20,000 thousand visits being recorded. It also has a big following on Twitter.

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