Something magical happens when a strip of golden sand is all that separates the sea from the land. Cliffs are dramatic, pebbles can be pleasant and mud is, well, just mud. But sand is special and here in Weymouth, we have buckets of the stuff!
You don’t need sand to have a seaside. Plenty of British resorts get by without having a decent beach. Southend and Weston-super-Mare both spring to mind as places better known for their mud than their sand. Both Brighton and Bournemouth enjoy swathes of shingle.
Long curves of sand, that dip gently into the sea for as far as the tide extends, and beyond, are to be treasured and enjoyed. Weymouth’s golden coast has attracted visitors for well over two hundred years and we can rightly claim to be one of the nation’s first proper seaside towns.
Weymouth’s sands of time
It’s odd to think that a few hundred years ago our beach was a combination of an industrial estate and a rubbish dump. The town of Melcombe Regis (that’s the bit of Weymouth with the main beach) was built to face away from the sea and the beach was effectively a dump.
In between the junk that no one wanted and boats in varying stages of construction and decay, the now precious sand lay, ignored. For those earning their living from the sea, the beach was a workplace, not a playground.
All that changed in the mid-1700s when eminent doctors began recommending sea bathing as a remedy for ill-health. The town was tidied up, keen to attract more visitors and achieved the ultimate success in 1789 when King George III came to Weymouth for his own dip in the sea.
Weymouth became a fashionable resort, with rows of bathing machines lined up on the sand, carrying men and women out into the shallow bay where they enjoyed the joys of a sea dipping.
Our town’s place in the history of the British seaside was secured and when the railway arrived in 1857, so too did hordes of tourists.
An economy built on sand
From what I understand, all of Melcombe Regis is built on low-lying sand. That is, the modern centre of Weymouth, the area between the beach and the marina. As a result, it’s often in danger of being flooded. Sea defences have lessened the risk but storms and high tides can still bring water into some areas around the marina.
For many of those living in Weymouth, the sand is also a source of good business. Hotels, guest houses, cafés, restaurants and seaside entertainments all depend on the sand for their trade.
The wide, flat sands make an excellent venue for events. Beach volleyball is an obvious choice and the town has hosted the Weymouth Beach Volleyball Classic for over 25 years. Others making great use of the sands include the annual Kite Festival, displays during Armed Forces Week and the Beach Motocross in October.
Sand modelling in Weymouth
One seaside novelty that you don’t see in many other places is sand sculpture. Weymouth’s sand, made from tiny grains of rock, is particularly good for shaping into models that display, and hold, fine details.
The modern history of sand sculpture in Weymouth began just after the First World War, when a young Fred Darrington began building cathedrals in sand to entertain visitors. He and others developed a tradition of local sand sculpture, leading to a permanent display on the beach and the creation of Sandworld, set up by Mark Anderson, grandson of Fred Darrington.
Weymouth beach: all year, all weather attraction
The town’s beach is open 24/7, every single day of the year and come rain or shine, it has people on it. In the summer sunshine (of which we have plenty) families set up camp for a day of playing in the surf, while when the weather’s cooler it’s a great place to walk with friends, or to enjoy a few moments of solitude.
It’s worth noting that dogs are allowed anywhere on the beach between 1 October and 30 April. In the summer they’re restricted to a small section at the Pavilion end, although they can also be walked on Preston Beach, at the other, far end.
There’s a lot more to Weymouth than just the beach. But it’s the sand that draws many of our summer visitors, with many coming back year after year. Perhaps surprisingly, some spend so much time on the beach that they don’t realise we also have a historic harbour or other attractions, such as Nothe Fort and gardens.
Or maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that once you’ve set foot on our magical sands, it becomes very, very hard to leave.