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Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Tourism is not something I give detailed thought to very often – compared to almost any other subject it is quite dull and that is usually enough to put me off thinking about it. Nevertheless if one discounts a few industrial outfits, principally BA Defence Systems, GKN Westland and Britten-Norman, the economy of my county is almost entirely dependant upon tourism, which is a thought that never fails to trouble me.

For those of you who missed those occasions I have talked about m’home, I live (for my sins) on the Garden Isle and therefore, I probably should think about tourism more often.
I bring this up because yesterday I took an amble along some cliffs near my home. I like to walk this rout at times, and it was a nice day. However, the first part of my rout follows the front for around a mile and I confess, I was stunned by the number of people on the beach.

It is incredible to reflect upon this. For at least a mile before me, and a similar distance behind the beach swarmed with people, all of whom seemed to be having the time of their lives, as though burning on a beach or freezing in the sea is a capital day out. The beach was so full there was only room for one giant knob traced in the sand, that’s how crowded it was.

Amazing, however what truly made me abandon my usual practise of not considering tourism was the number of foreign languages which one could hear, if one paid attention. Many people, and many sundry languages all along the front. Let us stop to consider this, unless a man actually comes from Norway then the beaches and the sea (or lakes if his nation is land-locked) of his homeland are sunnier, and warmer and have fewer knob-tracings, than those of Albion, yet her were men and women of a dozen or more nations, some of them most exotic and warm if you will forgive me for making a judgement based upon the colour of a person’s skin. I dread to think how far some of these people must have travelled just to sit upon a British beach whilst their infants paddled in cold water tainted by the traffic of the world’s busiest shipping rout.

But this is only part of the insights my little walk afforded me. Leaving the front I ascended the path to the cliff-tops. Here was a sight to warm the heart – a dozen large whit tents, a flag and a banner had been erected, declaring this to be the site of a Boy’s Brigade annual camp. I did not know there were still enough boys in the Boy’s Brigade to fill a camp site, but here there were many, playing cricket if you please, and a good day it was too.

Had the Alchemist not spend his childhood in Saudi Arabia he most certainly would have been a member of such an organization, (The Sea Scouts is the one I fancied, alas) but I had imagined no-one wanted to be a member of anything so naff when a child might spend his days mugging old ladies and kicking over ‘phone boxes.

But I digress, because I am supposed to be talking about tourism, and posing an important question – to whit: Why, if the beaches are so crowded, do so few people appreciate the five odd miles of unspoilt, majestically viewed and almost completely unused cliff-top path upon which I like to walk?

In between the scout camp and the pub at the headland I spotted exactly four people (and two dogs). This at the height of summer, on a glorious day walking an relatively un-taxing path with one of the more comely views this world has yet shown me.

This, as much as the crowd of all nations upon the beach baffles me.
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