Last Sunday we went to visit friends on the Kent coast for the day and I was happy to get out of London for a little while. Whilst the weather wasn't great, the fresh sea air made up for it despite the bracing wind and rapidly changing cloud patterns. We only took a short walk, but it was enough to remind me what it is I like so much about the coast. I've always liked being close to the sea. The sound of the waves, the endless views over the water, the smell in the air. And the small towns.
Walking through small coastal towns, there's something about them that always gets me: their rough beauty, created by decades of high winds and salty air. I have seen a few upmarket exceptions and know that things are slowly changing. People who cannot afford to buy a property in London are moving further and further out and starting to populate those little towns, restoring some of the buildings and arguably destroying some of the original, weatherbeaten and sometimes run down character of these places. This might initially look like a good thing and many people who move into these towns are probably only doing the best for their family and have the best intentions, but I can't help looking at it with some sadness. With this influx of people from the big cities, prices get pushed up, locals get pushed out and the quirky little shops that might have been there for decades get replaced with gastropubs and upmarket boutiques to cater for a whole new clientele. The rough but friendly character of the place gets slowly replaced with a polished, magazine-style version of a seaside town and longstanding communities lose their bond. The houses and facades that have weathered storms for so long will at some point get replaced by something less susceptible to the elements. Any traces of nature's involvement will eventually get erased and with it the rough beauty of these places. I know that this development can't be haltered and realise that some buildings do literally need to be saved from crumbling, but the romantic and aesthete in me will always look fondly onto the imperfect, rough and beaten. Along with people who have spent their whole life in those places, these are the things that tell the long, old story of weathering storms... and we all know that the old stories are the best.