For those of us who’ve lived in Hartlepool all of our lives, there’s no doubt that the sea has a real emotional pull.
Whenever I’m driving home from the A19, I always look forward to the lovely view of our coastline when you are coming back into town down through Elwick or Hart.
We’ve had some lovely days lately, and the sharp, clean air gives us a great picture of the bright blue sea and the view across to North Yorkshire.
I still can’t decide whether the wind turbines in the sea near Redcar help or hinder the outlook, but I guess there have been changes aplenty over the centuries before us.
I often wonder how that view would have appeared to our ancestors of years ago, long before industry or even housing was around.
The other thing about living right next to the sea is that, of course, we take it for granted. My wife’s family come from Huddersfield, a long way from a beach, and during their visits, they always make a beeline for the headland or Seaton Carew.
They often rave about our closeness to the shoreline and say things like ‘it’s great. You must be down there every day!’
But most of us are not, are we?
I’ve spent a fair bit of time in Leeds and Sheffield lately, and it strikes me that they are changing their city centres to bring the waterside back into everyday living.
I was doing a turn in Sheffield the other night and stayed in a very pleasant hotel overlooking the – wait for it – marina. Of course, it’s the canal side rather than the seaside, but the principle is pretty much the same.
Now that the original industrial freight uses for the canal network have largely faded, they are being put to good use for leisure activity and pretty canal boats.
Sipping a coffee and reading the Sunday papers outside the Sheffield Hilton the other day, it felt as if I was back home on Hartlepool Marina. Only 10 minutes’ walk from the busy city centre, it’s a real haven of calm.
The bustling city of Leeds has developed in much the same way, and its waterside area, only a short walk from the big city railway station, is looking great and would be a great shock to the generations who saw it as a grubby working area.
The other evening, we were at a bit of a do on HMS Trincomalee in our own marina and afterwards enjoyed a pleasant drink at the Jackson’s Wharf pub, watching a hive of activity on the slipway into the dock.
My dad, who worked in shipyards on that very spot, would have been amazed at the sight of families, including many youngsters, enjoying the water, with kayaks and wetsuits much in evidence.
We forget far too often the natural advantages that we have here in Hartlepool.
In an age when a family visit to a theme park means a long drive and a big bill, we should remember that we have a huge number of potential visitors within easy reach. Just ask the visitors who don’t have a seaside at home, or build an imitation version around their canals.
They probably appreciate what we have a lot more than we do.