I love a good holiday. I feel happiest with the sun on my skin, a strong cocktail in hand, and the prospect of a trek around a European city. So, with COVID-19 scuppering any chances of jetting abroad for a break (a holiday to Cyprus I’d booked for June was cancelled and, personally, I don’t feel comfortable heading off to another country while Greater Manchester is in the grips of a local lockdown), it looked like Costa del Patio was the only destination where I’d be soaking up the rays.
But when it was announced that UK holiday lettings could re-open on July 4, my boyfriend Adam (who, as the single parent of a child aged under 18, was able to join my household bubble) and I weighed up the option of spending a few days at his parents’ caravan in Filey, North Yorkshire. Despite feeling nervous about the prospect of a few days away from the safety of our homes (we’d barely left our homes since March 23), I was beginning to feel claustrophobic and restless.
So, a week later we packed the car with loads of lovely food, our waterproofs and walking boots plus Adam’s elderly dog, Millie, and made the journey to Haven Primrose Valley. I’d never visited this part of North Yorkshire before but knew from the photo galleries we’ve published on Northern Soul that the coastline was stunning. As we drove into the site, I was astonished to see how close we were to Filey Beach and squealed with joy as the stretch of blue sea became more visible. This was what I’d been craving.
We were in luck. The weather was glorious and the caravan park was quiet. Without knowing it, we’d booked in a couple of weeks before the schools broke up for summer. We squirrelled ourselves away and barely saw another soul.
On the first evening, a Saturday, we didn’t do much. Still feeling a bit shell-shocked that we’d actually left the house, let alone the county, we decided to drive into Filey and pick up some fish and chips. After looking online for the best chippy (and ones that mentioned social distancing on their website to satisfy this nervous girl’s anxiety), we opted for C. J.’s Fish and Chips. It’s a quaint restaurant with a space to eat in at the back and a takeaway hatch next to the entrance – so easy to wait outside for our orders. But, as we stood in the queue, two giant seagulls swooped in and stole a piece of battered cod that had slipped through the hatch.
“It was,” said the server. “But it’s not anymore.”
As she promptly served up two more jumbo cod and chips (if you’re not planning on sharing your fish with a fussy, elderly dog, go for the small portion), Adam quickly retrieved our dinner.
“They’re nightmares,” said a lady in the queue. “Last week they had my granddaughter’s ice cream when we were at the beach.”
“Well, that’s us now not eating on the seafront,” I whispered to Adam. We decided it would be best to head back to the caravan to avoid catching the eye of devious gulls.
The next couple of days were trial and error. We drove to Flamborough Head on Sunday afternoon and were horrified to see throngs of people sunbathing and picnicking. I started to wonder if we’d hallucinated a pandemic. We turned around immediately and found a lovely place called Daynes Dyke in nearby Bridlington to enjoy our picnic and go for a short walk through a beautiful wooded area where the air smelled of moss and bark. We had a similar experience when we attempted to visit RSPB Bempton Cliffs Seabird Centre and were turned away by an attendant because the attraction was full. We realised that we didn’t feel comfortable and decided to go back at a later date.
On Monday, we set our alarm for 3.30am and headed, bleary-eyed and clutching mugs of coffee with our pockets laden with leftover custard doughnuts and pain au chocolat, with Millie to watch the sunset over Filey Beach. We found a bench at the edge of the campsite, high up on the cliff and, as we’d decided to go out in our pyjamas, jumpers and coats, we spread a blanket across our legs and watched the sun slowly creep up from the horizon.
We spent a lot of time walking along Filey Beach with Millie, breathing in the clean air, eating falafel wraps and dipping our toes in the cold sea. It felt wonderful to be doing something so ordinary. And yet feeling the waves lap against my toes seemed like a spectacular event after months spent cooped up indoors. On Monday afternoon we attempted Flamborough Head again (hoping that the majority of people were back at work) and, luckily, there were only one or two individuals on the stretch of cobbled beach below. We walked around and looked at the beautiful chalk cliffs where some of the landscape reminded me of New Zealand, and then had a splash about in the water while the sun beat down on the shore.
Typically, Haven holiday parks offer entertainment in the evening but, under the current restrictions, these are closed to the public. Even if they had opened their doors, we wouldn’t have felt comfortable enough to go. We spent our nights cooking meals from scratch (and setting off the ear-splitting fire alarm when we attempted to make a curry) and watching Come Dine With Me, Four in a Bed and Murder, She Wrote on an old television set. There was no WiFi so we spent three days social media-less which was absolute bliss. It has inspired me to take 48 hours offline whenever I can.
On our last day, we decided to wake early and head back to Flamborough Head to see if we could swim before making the journey home. We arrived just before 7am and, aside for a couple of people at the other end of the beach, it was empty. Wading through the shallows and navigating the rockier parts, we came across a jaw-dropping cove. On the previous afternoon the area had been invisible, kept secret by the tide, and it felt incredibly special to stand in the shallows and look up at the cliffs – even if the gulls, perched on the rock face, were screeching all around us.
We headed back to Manchester feeling refreshed, grateful and far less stressed. Oh, and with a box full of rescue chickens we’d collected from Adam’s sister en route.