221. Skegness to Chapel St Leonards

August 2010

I had originally planned to walk further, but things did not go to plan so instead I had to settle for a shorter coastal walk, but it was a nice walk all along beaches.

For this walk I was travelling from home. About 3 months ago I’d booked train tickets from London to Skegness and back for £21.30, which was a good price. However as is usually the case, this limits me to travelling on the specified trains only. I was planning to walk from Skegness to Mablethorpe but as you will see I had to cut my walk short.

I took the train from my local station to London Waterloo, then two tube trains to London Kings Cross. From there I took another train to Grantham. This was where things went wrong (it’s ALWAYS Grantham that gives me problems). Just outside Grantham the train came to a halt. There was an announcement about problem with the track ahead (signalling problems I think)? We were stationary for around 40 minutes or so before the train moved off slowly into Grantham station. That meant the train arrived 45 minutes late into Grantham. I had 16 minutes to change trains at Grantham onto the train to Skegness so of course the connection had not been held and so I had missed it.

The problem was the next train to Skegness (they only run hourly) was not due to stop at Grantham. The one after that did. That meant I had over 90 minutes until I could catch a train on to Skegness.

I went to the “Station Managers office” to see what the situation was. I had been beaten two it by another lady who was in the same situation. Unfortunately I could hear the news was not good. The lady was arguing that the train company should provide a bus or a taxi, as she had (apparently) had done before. The manager refused stating “we can choose to provide a taxi, but we’re not required to, and we’re not going to”. She did say that it said in the passengers charter that they should provide a taxi (I was sceptical of this claim), but he denied that was the case. He sounded a real charmer. Next it was suggested that instead of a taxi it could be arranged for the next train to Skegness to make an additional call at Grantham to pick us up. “Not possible, we’re East Coast Trains and the train to Skegness is East Midlands Trains, they won’t delay their trains for us”. Of course this is one of the (many) problems with rail privatisation, there are so many companies involved, none of which seem to be prepared to work together to minimise delays, presumably to avoid an argument over who pays compensation for any additional delays.

The only offer was a £10 catering voucher (which to be fair is better than nothing), which could be spent only at Grantham station. So I got a sandwich, crisps and a drink at the “Pumpkin” cafe on the station which was as far as my £10 voucher would stretch and had 90 minutes to sit in there to wait for the next train. This meant I’d arrive two hours late at Skegness.

As my cheap tickets were “Advance” tickets that are only sold as single tickets, I was not permitted to travel back home on a later train (I asked that grumpy “Station Manager”, who confirmed that to be the case). This meant I had two hours less in Skegness which meant I would likely not have time to reach my planned destination for the day, Mablethorpe, which I was annoyed about (as it meant I’d have to make another trip to do that part of the coast). (See the end of this post where I tried to find out, unsuccessfully, why the the rail company had not provided any alternative transport).

So after much boring waiting around at Grantham station the next train to Skegness finally arrived. Now of course when the train arrived it was already busy and was only 2 carriages long (why so short on an August weekend?). Along with the passengers already on the train, we had the passengers who had originally intended to catch this train along with those (like me) that had missed the earlier connection also wanting to get on. There was not enough space, so I ended up standing all the way to Skegness. The train was also full of stag parties, hen parties and loud families, so it was far from a relaxing journey.

I arrived in Skegness, eventually, 2 hours late (a little after 1pm) and in a rather bad mood.

I followed the main road, Lumley Road through the shopping area to the clock tower by the sea front. From the shops I saw, Skegness did not seem to be an especially wealthy town, with a large number of charity shops, £1 shops and the like. Past the clock tower I continued ahead along Tower Esplanade. Things improved now, as the road has pleasant gardens on either side as well as ice cream kiosks, doughnut kiosks and so on.

At last I had reached the beach, and the stresses of the day were melting away. The beach at Skegness is good, being a large sandy beach and there were many of the traditional attractions of a seaside resort, such as a fun fair and donkey rides on the beach.

Skegness

I could follow the promenade north, but as the tide was out I preferred to head down to the sands of the beach and walk along the firmer sand nearer the shore. It was less crowded and quieter there.

The beach at Skegness

The beach was busy, but not as crowded as I might have expected for a summer Saturday but then it was quite overcast (though warm and humid).

I soon passed the rather pathetic pier to my left, even the end of the pier was some distance from the shore!

Skegness Pier

Beyond this the crowds melted away and the beach was nice and quiet. It was easy going.

The beach at Skegness

There are trees and bushes behind the promenade in Skegness, so much of the town was out of sight, making it feel more natural on the beach than I had expected.

The beach at Skegness

Soon however the beach started to have groynes along it, which make it a little more awkward to walk along the beach, as you have to keep climbing over them and the beach tends to be different levels on either side.

The beach at Skegness

I had soon reached the edge of Skegness and now behind the beach was a golf course (North Shore Golf Club) though down on the beach near the shore line I couldn’t really see any of it. The back of the beach had now be lined with “rock armour” defences though there was still enough sand between the rocks and the shore for me to walk on easily.

I enjoyed the patterns the waves had made in the sand along the beach.

The beach at Skegness

Another mile or so along the beach and I began to see the buildings of the next town, Seathorne.

The beach at Seathorne

In particular there was a rather large and grand building, the Derbyshire Miners Convalescent Home. What a contrast to mining a view over the sea must be – but it’s a reminder that in many ways we have things much easier today, with few people still working underground in mines (at least, in the UK).

Derbyshire Miners Convalescent Home, Seathorne

Out to sea I could see a wind farm and some rig like structures. I suspect these rig type structures were being used to build more of the wind turbines.

The beach near Ingoldmells

I do think these off-shore wind farms make much more sense than putting them on top of what would otherwise be beautiful hills.

Continuing along I soon passed the large Butlins holiday camp. In fact this was the first such camp, opened in 1936 of which there were soon numerous, all over the UK. This is one of only 3 that remains open today (the others I have already passed, in Minehead and Bognor Regis).

Butlins Skegness

Taking a look at it, I was beginning to wonder if that was 3 too many. The place looked more like a prison, behind high wire fences. I wondered if the purpose of these fences was to keep the public out, or keep the residents in! Not my sort of holiday at all.

I’m not sure how popular these places are, there did not seem to be many people around, though there were enough people for the donkey rides to be doing some trade.

Beyond the Butlins (or perhaps it was still part of it) were caravans, caravans and more caravans. In fact caravans line the entire coast for the next 3 miles or so (and they spread at least half a mile inland too). There must be tens of thousands of these ugly metal boxes along this stretch of coast. Still from my position near the shore line I couldn’t see most of them. This aerial photograph (link to Google Maps) gives a good indication of just how many caravans there are here! Pretty it isn’t – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many caravans.

The beach at Ingoldmells

Mixed in with it was a fun fair, too (Fantasy Island) though it was far enough inland only the taller roller coasters were visible.

The caravans continue unabated through Ingoldmells which seems to be almost entirely caravan parks. Thankfully the coast was mostly lined with trees, bushes and dunes, keeping many of them out of sight.

As I headed north and finally left Ingoldmells, things began to improve as I soon found the promenade was now lined with attractive and colourful beach huts and the caravans out of sight.

The beach at Ingoldmells

I continued north through Chapel St Leonard’s. This is more of a village and less a holiday resort, though there are still a lot of caravans. I continued north as far as Chapel Point where the tide had come in far enough that it was lapping against the concrete sea wall here.

The beach at Ingoldmells

The beach at Chapel St Leondards

I checked the map here and realised this is more or less the last part of the continuously built up coast north of Skegness. North of here, the caravans end and there is unspoilt beach ahead.  Other than one small village, it is more than 5 miles to the edge of the next major town, Mablethorpe. It was now nearly 4:30pm and I had to catch a train from Skegness at 18:14. I was clearly not going to have time to get as far as Mablethorpe and catch a bus back with enough time to catch my train home.  Reluctantly I had to conclude this was as far as I was going to get today. Instead I took a view along the beach north from here, it looked lovely.

The beach at Chapel St Leondards

The beach at Chapel St Leondards

Returning to Chapel Point I stopped to enjoy the view here – it was not so much the view of the coast that caught my eye as much as the scene of the British enjoying the coast!

Chapel Point, Chapel St Leonards

People making tea in their beach huts, sitting on chairs on the promenade and children making sand castles on the beach. It felt like if you went back to the same place 50 years ago, it would look little different. I stopped to join them briefly for an ice cream.

I knew there was a frequent bus service from here back to Skegness though I was not quite sure exactly where from. I decided to re-trace my steps half a mile or so back along the beach to then follow the road to where a post office was marked on the map. The start of the road was not especially pretty.

Chapel St Leonards

I felt confident the buses would depart from near there and as I headed inland I soon found signs for the “Bus Station”.

The bus service is very frequent, it was every 10 minutes during the summer then (though I think it is less frequent now), so I didn’t have long to wait. Although scheduled to take half an hour to get me back to Skegness it took about 45 minutes. The reason was that once we reached Ingoldmells, the road was very congested, with stop-start traffic for much of the rest of the way. The bus filled up and was soon full. The problem really is this is the peak summer season, most of those many thousands of caravans were occupied and the roads simply can’t cope with the huge increase in the population here in the summer. The bus driver told me “it’s always like this in the summer”. I didn’t envy him the job of trying to run a bus to schedule in those conditions!

I had hoped to get something to eat before heading home, but the delay to the bus meant I didn’t have time and needed to head straight for the station. Here there was another unpleasant surprise. It seems those that run Skegness station have been taking lessons from Ryanair. When I entered the station I was met with a massive queue snaking it’s way around the building. It seems the train company (East Midlands Trains) won’t let passengers onto the platform until a few minutes before departure and instead tells everyone to join a queue where they then check the tickets of every passengers before they can get on the platform. So that meant I had to spend the time standing in the queue. Given how busy it was and how many people were arriving if I left the queue to use the toilet or get some food I was worried I’d not be able to even get on the train, so I had to spend the 10 minutes standing in the slowly moving queue.

When I finally got on the train all the seats had been taken, so I ended up standing up the whole way back to Grantham where I had to change. I ended up standing beside 4 seats arranged around a table where the elderly couple sitting there had tried to occupy all 4 seats for themselves by putting bags over the two seats by the aisle. People in front of me tried to persuade them to move their bags on to the luggage racks so they could sit down, which they refused “these bags have our food for the journey home, we can’t keep getting up to get things down from the rack” but eventually reluctantly moved their bags onto the table in front of them instead (after much complaining), so that others could sit down.

This couple then spent much of the time complaining out loud about “all these people standing in the corridor” and “what are we meant to do if we want to get to the toilet, with all these people standing in the way”, glaring at those of us standing in the aisle. To cap it all the man then announced “they shouldn’t have let them on the train, once the seats are taken they should close the doors and stop letting more people on”. Well I was hardly there by choice, if I didn’t catch that train I wouldn’t get home and I’d much prefer to be sitting down too, but what can I do if the train company insists on running two carriage trains to a very busy resort in the height of the summer season?

It was a frustrating end, but at least at Grantham, where I changed onto the train to London I had a reserved seat the rest of the way so I could sit down (unfortunately, seat reservations aren’t possible on the trains to Skegness). I’m not a fan of the train service to Skegness! After that my journey home went smoothly.

This had been a rather frustrating day because of all the travel problems that meant I ended up splitting what should have been one walk into two. Still at least it was quite a nice walk and easy too, the whole way along lovely sandy beaches. It it always wonderful to be walking along beaches, with just the sound of the waves next to you. However Skegness in the height of summer had been a revelation (and not in a good way) because the infrastructure was completely overloaded with the numbers coming here. I decided that next time I came here, I’d make sure to avoid the peak summer months!

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Stagecoach Lincolnshire bus route 1 : Chapel St Leonards – Ingoldmells – Fantasy Island – Butlins Skegness – Skegness (bus/rail station). Every 30 minutes, seven days a week. I believe it runs more frequently in the summer months. It takes around 30 minutes between Chapel St Leonard’s and Skegness.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

Postscript

When I got home I checked the East Coast trains passengers charter. I was surprised to find that sure enough, it said this

If you miss a connection because an East Coast train is running late or is cancelled, we will help you re-plan your journey to keep the inconvenience to a minimum. We will arrange alternative transport to get you to your final destination if:
• The next connecting train is more than 60 minutes later than the one you should have caught; and
• Alternative transport will get you there quicker than waiting for the next train.

Well, the lady arguing with the station staff was right. The next connecting train was more than 60 minutes away and surely a bus or taxi would get there quicker than waiting over 90 minutes for the next train (plus the time the train took to get there)? So I sent an email to East Coast trains asking why they had not done so. I also sent my tickets by post requesting a refund (as you are entitled to a full refund if delayed by more than one hour).

I got a reply to my email 9 days later saying they could not answer until I sent in my tickets (which I had already done):-

I would ask you to forward your original travel tickets to the following address along with a copy of our email correspondence. I would also ask that you include your full postal address in your correspondence. Please note, as the tickets are required for audit purposes, photocopies are not acceptable. Upon receipt of your tickets, our Customer Relations team will investigate the claim and prepare a full written response.”

So they wouldn’t answer why no alternative transport was provided until by email I sent in my tickets by post (which I already had done). Another month later (so about 6 weeks after this journey) I finally got a letter in response. In it I was told that they had asked the station manager why no alternative transport was arranged on this occasion but “the incident was some time ago so he was unable to remember why alternative transport wasn’t provided on this occasion.”. How convenient. Refuse to to answer in an email and insist I send the tickers in my post instead, take weeks to reply to that and then tell me that it was now too long ago to remember (well whose fault is that?). I suspect it was simply that they didn’t want to pay for it, but they had avoided answering the question. What a shambles. Now I appreciate that getting your money back and a £10 voucher for food for a 2 hour delay isn’t unreasonable but I also take the view that if they promise to provide alternative transport in such a situation, that is what they should have done here (and if they had done so perhaps I’d have got there early enough I’d still have been able to walk as far as Mablethorpe).

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5 Responses to 221. Skegness to Chapel St Leonards

  1. Oh my word. How immensely frustrating that journey was! Mind you, the roads are so badly clogged in the summer there’s no guarantee you’d have got there any quicker. That part of the coast was the traditional holiday destination for the mining families of the East Midlands, and was never a posh resort. I have no idea who occupies all those caravans now, or why they would want to!

    • jcombe says:

      Yes your comment “why they would want to”, was rather what I was thinking at the time! I hadn’t realised quite how busy this part of the coast got in the peak summer. Next time I’d come back out of season and things were much less chaotic.

  2. owdjockey says:

    Hi Jon…aaahh the Great British Public! When I was at the bus stop in Ingoldmells to catch a bus onto Mablethorpe, a bus arrived at the stop and two women got off , one pushing a pram with a toddler of about 2 or 3 yrs old. For some reason I did not understand, she shouted at the toddler calling him a “Fu^$ing d%^khead”. I was astounded a grown women calling child of that age a “Fu^$ing d%^khead”, just as I about to interject my bus arrived. If she had struck the child then I would have probably got involved. Throughout the walk, my thoughts kept on returning to what the foul-mouthed woman( I use this word advisedly – I could have typed something more akin to watch she actually was!).

    BTW, I’ve only get about 10 or so retrospective TR’s to write up now. I’ll be glad when they are done.

    • jcombe says:

      Yes there are certainly some “characters” in Skegness, and some of them are not very nice. Though I didn’t come across any quite as bad as you did!

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