‘Kids should be able to enjoy UK beaches — like the one I loved in Swanage’

I am not sure which hit me first, the noise or the smell. I could hear the waves rolling on to the beach, gently turning pebbles as they raced up the shore.

Then there was that unmistakable air of brine and seaweed. It was at that moment I knew I was back.

Some 30 years ago, I left Swanage – the town where I had tried, and at times failed, to grow up – for a new life in the big cities. First Birmingham and then London.

As my parents moved too, there was little reason to go back.

Three decades on, I may have changed but, thankfully, Swanage hasn’t.

The sandy bay still sweeps round to Old Harry Rocks. The high street still bustles with the same cafes and shops. Tourists still gather outside the same fish and chip shop.

Asked to conjure up the image of perfect English seaside town, it’s hard to find somewhere that fits the bill as perfectly as Swanage.

It’s got a sandy beach, Victorian shelters, bright beach huts, amusement arcades, a pier and almost constant sunshine.

It is so gentle and genteel, its picture should, and does, grace boxes of fudge. My memories of Swanage are mixed.

From late September to May, the town hibernated from the rain and the wind. Then, for three joyous months – June, July and August – there was nowhere better.

After school we would race down to the beach. We swam, we played cricket, we messed around in dinghies and fished for bass.

In my teenage years, there were beach barbecues and nights out at the only nightclub in town.

Did I appreciate all this? Hell, yes. Did I realise how lucky I was? Not so much.

Nearly one in five children in England have never been to a beach.

They have never experienced the joy of building sandcastles, poking about in rockpools, or burying yourself in the sand.

That is why the Daily Mirror has launched a summer appeal with the Family Holiday Association, to raise money for kids who would never normally get the chance to spend a few days by the seaside.

In this digital age of instant gratification it is easy to forget the simple pleasure of spending time as a family on a beach holiday.

You saw that joy on the face of Felix Stanley, three, as he tried to save his sandcastle from the waves, ably assisted by his dad Merrick and grandfather Chris.

Here were three generations and it was hard to tell who was the biggest kid.

“It’s fun and it’s safe and the water’s perfect,” says Merrick, from Bromley, South East London.

The same innocent delight could be found on the quay, where Tina Chawes watched her three sons – Adam, nine, David, seven, and Simon, six – fish for crabs.

They travelled from Copenhagen. What attracted a family of Danes to our south coast? Tina says: “I love England in the summer. It’s nice and friendly. And I like the bakery.”

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