AS CLACTON-ON-SEA THRIVES, JAYWICK STRUGGLES TO SURVIVE
WORDS BY DIVYA SEHGAL AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY PAUL HICKIN
Beaches, seaside towns, childhood memories and the decline of Jaywick by Clacton-on-Sea.
I love the idea of chilling on a beach. Sun, sand and surf, right? Until it becomes all too real. Those little, cunning grains of sand get everywhere. Kids run about too close for comfort, spraying sand all over you with their tiny feet. Sun loungers don’t help. Neither do deck chairs. Even spreading a beach towel gets out of hand. And those demonic seagulls, ever ready to swoop down and grab that piece of crisp you’re just about to put into your mouth.
So when my husband suggested we go to his childhood weekend holiday destination, Clacton-on-Sea and Jaywick in Essex, I wasn’t completely enthused by the idea. But it meant a day out in the sun, and the chance to see another part of England. An hour outside East London, Clacton-on-Sea is probably the obvious choice for those living on the borders of London and Essex.
Seaside towns in England aren’t much different from each other, especially on hot, sunny days. A standard pier with amusement rides, arcade games and, if you’re lucky (or unlucky, whichever way you want to look at it), even a live band serenading elderly women seated in an outdoor restaurant by the beach.
The beaches are a mere 30-minute walk from one to the other and yet, how is it that one is bursting at its seams and, though it doesn’t even have that great a beach, is the flavour of the season while the other one isn’t?
The agenda of the day was to park, have a quick lunch at Prezzos (the only decent chain of restaurants in Clacton) and walk from Clacton-on-Sea to the beach in Jaywick. Over the past few years, Jaywick has fallen under unfortunate circumstances and you can see why it tops the list of the most “deprived English neighbourhoods”. Even on a sunny Sunday, there were just a handful of families enjoying the silky sands of the once glorious Jaywick beach. There were no “touts” selling deck chairs and loungers. There was ample parking, unlike at Clacton where we spent at least 30 minutes taking the same rounds in the hope of an empty space. No restaurants – not even a Tesco Express – came into our view. It was depressing, more so for my husband who had some really fond childhood memories of building castles on the (once) busy beach.
And then you think: all this beach really needs is for a handful of traders to come and set up shop – a fish-and-chip joint, a makeshift bar selling drinks, some touts committing daylight robbery with those deck chairs for £3 a day – and people will follow. The beaches are a mere 30-minute walk from one to the other and yet, how is it that one is bursting at its seams and, though it doesn’t even have that great a beach, is the flavour of the season while the other one isn’t? Why isn’t the local government doing anything to restore Jaywick to its former glory? How does a neighbourhood even become the “most deprived”?
In the end, I didn’t mind the day out as much. We walked back to Clacton-on-Sea, seeing the way the “people” landscape changed; empty and calm in its solitude, a couple here, a family there, a golf course to the left overlooking the sea, the chatter of seagulls which only meant more people, and finally, Clacton-on-Sea, which seemed like a party not to be missed compared to poor Jaywick. What a difference two miles can make.
If you’re looking for a quick getaway with the family over the remaining summer months, take a chance on Jaywick. Let’s help rebuild and restore these village neighbourhoods.
Driving from London to Clacton-on-Sea and Jaywick will take you approximately 1 hour 20 minutes. Regular trains go to both beach destinations from London Liverpool Station.