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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 August 2006, 00:21 GMT 01:21 UK
Why I like the British seaside
By Michael McDonough
BBC News

While millions of Britons spend their holidays visiting exotic far-flung destinations, for 83-year-old Des Hickinbottom, nothing beats the homegrown charms of Weston-super-Mare.

Sea front at Weston-super-Mare
Why go abroad, when you can go to Weston-super-Mare?

"I always feel better when I come back. It's the invigorating air," he says.

The retired bus driver spends almost all of his holidays by the seaside in England and Weston-super-Mare in Somerset is his favourite resort.

Several years ago that might have made Mr Hickinbottom seem rather old-fashioned.

But it now appears he was ahead of the curve: British beaches have just been praised for the high quality of their water and a new study suggests climate change may consign package holidays abroad to the pages of history.

Nearest is dearest

Mr Hickinbottom, from Tipton in the West Midlands, has long appreciated the advantages of staying close to home.

In the 1940s he serving in the armed forces and spent time in Ghana - then known as the Gold Coast - in West Africa.

He visited Europe twice in the 1970s, but chose to go to Germany and Austria rather than Spain, Italy or Greece.

Apart from those trips and a few excursions to Ireland, Mr Hickinbottom has spent all his holidays in Britain, by the seaside.

Max Bygraves
The good old days: Max Bygraves made his name at the seaside

He and his wife Betty, 78, recently visited Scarborough and sometimes go to Blackpool.

But it is Weston-super-Mare which keeps luring them back.

"It's very flat, it has a very nice pier which one can sit on and enjoy looking at the world as it goes by," Mr Hickinbottom says.

Easy rider

Another advantage of going to Weston-super-Mare is the hassle-free transportation: the hotel he and his wife usually stay at provides transport from near their home to their accommodation.

Mr Hickinbottom says: "One thing that puts me off going abroad is the difficulty.

"At airports, everybody seems to be dashing about. If you book a holiday (here) with a tour firm, you don't get that. You get picked up, you haven't got the hassle."

I'm not a sun worshipper, those days have gone
Des Hickinbottom

The uncertain British weather is one of the main reasons people choose to go abroad for their holidays, but it does not deter Mr Hickinbottom.

"With the weather, you have to take that chance. Usually there is somewhere to go. There are shopping centres in most towns.

"I'm not a sun worshipper, those days have gone," he adds.

Costly choice

But there are some downsides to staying in Britain, Mr Hickinbottom feels.

"You don't always exactly get value for money with British holidays," he says, referring to the relatively high costs for food and accommodation, compared with many other European countries.

He also says the selection of food in some hotels could be improved and hotel rooms are often "pokey".

Mrs Hickinbottom does not entirely share her husband's aversion to foreign travel. She has been to the US, Jamaica and Italy.

Golden memories

Mr Hickinbottom first visited Weston-super-Mare in his youth and has many fond memories of those early day-trips and later journeys with his young bride.

Donkeys in Blackpool
Donkey rides on the beach are a British tradition

"Some of the seaside resorts had top names at weekends. Some of the great stars of the day started off at seaside shows."

Big names he used to enjoy seeing included Max Miller - known as the "Cheeky Chappie" - Max Bygraves, Harry Secombe and organist Reginald Dixon.

"There is still entertainment for children, the Punch and Judy show, and the donkeys.

"It's nice. It's nostalgia, I suppose," he says.

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