A recent article in the Guardian about the joys of living in huts and cabins reminded me of the various small dwellings I’ve stayed in and visited, from the huts belonging to my relatives in Wales and the Lakes to a tiny gem of a converted barn in Cornwall, and perhaps best of all, a bothy on a beach in Orkney, which had barely any furniture but a fire burning to warm any passing hikers.
However, one thing missing from my childhood was a beach hut. Whenever we went to the beach, I used to long for a hut of our own – although I was disappointed to learn you weren’t allowed to stay overnight in them, and subsequently struggled to understand what they were for.
If all you could do was sit in them during the day, and not have a fire on the beach at night, toasting marshmallows, before going back to drink hot chocolate and sleep in cosy bunks in your beach hut, what was the point?
On a recent trip to Suffolk, however, I was reminded, via the joys of the British summer, what the real purpose of a beach hut is. As we battled along the windy Felixstowe sea front, and eyed a dark cloud that threatened to break before we reached the nearest cafe, I saw smug people in beach huts who were able to brew tea on their Primus stoves, hide from the gusts behind wind breaks, and (if the clouds burst) retreat right inside to play cards or Cluedo, while those of us without beach huts had to pay to sit in a cafe and stare glumly at our smartphones.
In the nearby village of Waldringfield we saw even larger huts – proper cabins – with curtains at the windows, verandahs and everything, which presumably could be slept in overnight. (although we spotted one with a Portaloo cabin behind it, so evidently full plumbing is not part of the works).
What I was not able to photograph, without being too stalkerish, were the cabin interiors – but from the casual snooping I did as we walked past, I began to realise why the perennially popular ‘nautical style’ is so beloved (it’s not a design trend I’ve ever really understood).
The beach huts which are properly kitted out, not just used as a dumping ground for deckchairs, really are a joy – the snug little kitchen units straight out of a ship’s galley, the padded benches on opposite sides, the checked curtains at the window and the shelves of driftwood, shells and other seaside nicknacks would all look dreadfully twee if they were in Homes and Gardens or Elle Deco, but in a beach hut they look just right.
And for a really glamorous hut with a view, this one overlooking the estuary at Waldringfield, complete with sun deck and bunting, really got me drooling…
We were only there for an afternoon, but I was pleased to discover beach huts at Felixstowe are available to hire by the day – some council-owned, surprisingly – so anyone can become king or queen of their own beach hut for a day.
No, I won’t get my daydream of sleeping in a beach hut overnight and drinking hot chocolate while watching for shooting stars above the North Sea, but I can still be one of those people sheltering from the rain on a British summer’s day, brewing my own tea and eating my own sandy sandwiches, and you can bet I’ll be as smug as anything about it.