Hello again, so its been a little while since I have posted a blog and that’s because I’ve just got back to China and been getting settled/organising internet connection etc. What I am going to write about here is the town where I grew up and why you should love it as much as I do.
Recently in Clacton there was a by-election which put the town on the national stage. However, those politicians that were coming here often left with some rather disparaging remarks. Whether it was Tory Matthew Parris saying the people of Clacton don’t matter or UKIP leader Nigel Farage joining in with the ‘Clacton is the end of the line’ rhetoric. These politicicans that were so eager to pillory Clacton in the media had for the most part never spent more than a day there and were doing so for their own selfish political gain. Well what I am going to do is to cut through the hyperbole and negativity and present the true nature of Clacton, as told by someone who has lived in the town for 20 years, rather than attended a photocall for 20 minutes.
Where in the world?
Clatcon is located on the coast of rural Essex, with a population of only 50,000, it doesn’t take long to find yourself surrounded by farmland. This was the lure back in the 30s and 40s when British Rail amongst others would advertise Clacton as a break from the smog of London. British Rail and the advertising may well be gone (although not for much longer?) but the reasons to come to Clacton remain. Fresh air, countryside, the beach and the amusements. If you are looking for a weekend break, then why not enjoy it in England’s so-called ‘Sunshine Coast’ – only an hour and a half from London’s Liverpool Street Station.
Clacton-on-Sea station (abbreviated to CLT on booking websites) can also be reached from Ipswich with a change in Colchester (1h) and services from Cambridge take 2h30 changing at Ipswich, then again at Colchester.
National Express provides coach services to London Victoria departing from Clacton railway station, although it is a slow bus, it is cheap (at London Victoria catch nationwide and international coaches) **British trains have a crazy ‘off-peak’ and ‘on-peak’ system where the ticket will suddenly go up in price depending on the time of day, so try to avoid peak times and book in advance to make big savings on both the rail and coaches.
What’s the attraction?
Ok, so you have put off the city break to Budapest and have got to Clacton, what to do now?
After the hotel, the beach is often the first stop for most people. A stroll along the prom (prom prom) or sunbathe on the beach is the reason that most people would come to a seaside destination.
The bays to the left and right of the pier and extending to the right along to the Napoleonic Martello Tower are beautiful sandy beaches, perfect for whatever you have in mind. In the past, the beaches to the left of Clacton Pier towards Holland-on-Sea were really stony and not really comfortable or convenient for doing anything on except walking past, that was until the new £30 million sea defences. As a welcome result of protecting the homes along the Tendring coast the beaches have been transformed (see picture).
Stretching out 360 meters into the North Sea is the century and a half old Clacton Pier. Originally built as a dock for visitors arriving by ship. The pier following a large renovation has been greatly improved.
Along with the mini-theme park, with 2 rollercoasters, a fortune teller, an aquarium and restaurants can now be added the refurbished amusements. The first time I saw these was when I was back in the UK in January and I could hardly hold back my surprise. Opening the door expecting to see chewing gum dotted carpets and clapped-out tuppenny slots, but instead was faced with a bowling alley, bar, air hockey and an array of slot machine and games which would have looked at home in Vegas or Macau!
The Promenade and the Gardens
Clacton’s prom is a lovely walk. At the area in front of the pier you can buy seafood, the seaside favourite of fish and chips as well as candy floss, ice cream and freshly made doughnuts! Armstrong’s is a new place to eat, drink and be merry, once an amusement arcade, it is amusing people with bowling, pool, a bar and an excellent restaurant with views overlooking the sea. Heading from the pier and towards Holland is the road-train. Jump on board for either a quick way to Holland or stay on for a round trip, a family favourite! Going the other way, why not enjoy the walk along the seafront to the Napoleonic Martello Tower.
The Clacton Remembrance Gardens offer those that care to enjoy them a slice of tranquillity, or a tranquil place to eat your slice, either way they shouldn’t be missed. The Gardens are a prime location for watching the famous Clacton Airshow (late August annually) which showcases both historic and modern state-of-the-art war planes!
When you want a change from sunbathing or swimming head into the town. On Pier Avenue, the road leading directly to the pier, is where you will find Magic City and the other amusement arcades.
In Clacton there are two theatres, the Princes Theatre, which is in Clacton Town Hall and the West Cliff theatre by the hospital. You will be surprised at the celebrities and shows which are put on in Clacton. From Jimmy Carr to Chas and Dave to Basil Brush, there are shows for all ages and all interests. Check their website to see what’s on and you won’t be disappointed!
Clacton has the full selection of the usual restaurants. Pizza Hut, a selection of Chiense and Indian restaurants McDonalds and a Burger King at Clacton Common Shopping Village.
My recommendation are thus: 1) If you haven’t had it before, try fish and chips. It will make your life complete. You will understand Britain and you will know why. You almost shouldn’t be allowed to leave the country without eating it. So get ’em down ya!
2) Having travelled to the four corners of the world and eaten extensively across the UK I can say with my hand on my heart that the best Indian I have eaten was at The Great Gurkah at 126 Old Road.
After being greeted with a warm welcome by the owner and his wife, this Nepalese couple have put together a menu which showcases the best of Nepalese and Indian cuisine, which can be washed down with a Nepalese beer.
There have been people living on the spot where modern Clacton is for over 400,000 years, in fact neolithic spear tips have been found here. There is evidence of Clacton’s rich history all around. Go up to the village of Great Clacton and take a look at the Norman, St.John’s Church. As was the case when building in these times, bricks from Roman buildings would be used in its construction. There are services in the church every Sunday.
Opposite the church on the other side of the road is The Ship pub. The myth is that there were tunnels dug connecting St.John’s Church and The Ship all the way to the seafront where smugglers would covertly bring goods ashore and into the country without being spotted!
With the premadonnas of the Premier League now going down at the slightest touch and being paid a fortune a week and even teams in League One and Two charging £20 or more to watch a game, it can be very easy to be turned off by football and not bother; this is where FC Clacton come in. England is blessed by having such a rich and competitive ‘football pyramid’. With the Premier League as the 1st tier, Clacton Town are playing in the 8th. Get in for a fiver here, with beers for 2 quid and a programme setting you back £1.50. Cheer on ‘the Seasiders’ at the Rush Green Bowl and watch football as it should be, passionate, committed and for the fans.
Although a small town, there is no shortage of places to drink on a night out. Clacton’s nightlife is focused along the seafron where there is a plethora of decent bars and pubs. My favourite is the Wetherspoons Moon and Starfish.
Hope you have a nice day out in Clacton!