Secret sea air: where to beat the crowds this summer

With foreign travel still a tricky prospect, it looks like being a bumper summer for the British seaside. And yet that means the most popular places are bound to get very busy indeed. To avoid the queues and traffic jams, I’ll be revisiting some of Britain’s less familiar seaside towns. Of course, these places are very familiar to folk who are lucky enough to live nearby, but they don’t attract the bumper crowds you get in big resorts like Blackpool or Skegness. Nor are they terribly fashionable, like Padstow or St Ives. Some of them are a bit offbeat, but they’re all places where I’ve had great days out. You’re

I have been ambushed by the past

The other week I turned up for the village walking club’s Monday hike. A dawn meet. Two cars. A 90-minute drive and we parked on beaten earth under umbrella pines. The line-up that day was three English, three French. I was the youngest; the others were encumbered by walking poles. We shouldered our day packs and skied through the pines to emerge on a dazzling beach next to a glittering sea. A hundred metres offshore was a steep fortified island. Fort de Brégançon is the French President’s summer residence, they said. A spry and taciturn old Frenchwoman, dressed for any future meteorological possibility and with a whistle and lanyard strung