beach hut; orange hat ladies; gurnard; isle of wight; sea swimming; wild swimming; swimming women; 1930s

Hooked on a Beach Hut

We call it ‘our beach hut’. But actually it doesn’t actually belong to us at all and nor have we proper access to any of the stout green sheds on Gurnard sea front. But it is ‘ours’. It’s the small wooden hut that we always seem to use to get ready before swimming and then when we are drying off after. And if we’re really honest, we feel most put out if we find that another swimmer has left their belongings on its little step ahead of our arrival. Someone else’s stuff in our spot?! But I should point out that there are some 25 plus beach huts at Gurnard, it’s just that we seem to have only truly adopted one of them. And…it belongs to someone else. (To save any embarrassment, it is not any of the ones pictured!)

beach hut; orange hat ladies; gurnard; isle of wight; sea swimming; wild swimming; swimming women; 1930s
Gurnard beach huts lined up since the 1930’s

Whilst we fully recognise that we don’t own that, or any other beach hut, we’ve often joked how handy it would be if there were a couple of hooks to hang up our dry robes, maybe a handy shelf to pop our bags on or perhaps a slatted shoe rack. Unbeknown to the owners we have revamped and organized the outside of their summer pride and joy retreat…well in our imaginations at least. 

We know that it is in fact one of the more regularly used beach huts. During the summer months we would stride down to the beach, eager to throw down our bags of assorted belongings onto the beach hut step only to find an entire family enjoying their little piece of beach paradise. Whilst slightly frustrating / embarrassing, it has always been lovely to see – a set of grandparents breakfasting with their grandchildren most mornings throughout the summer months. Those children will grow up with amazing memories and adventures… and hopefully no recollections of huffing swimmers balancing towels, buckets (more on this in another blog I feel) and clothing on the nearby public benches.

beach hut; orange hat ladies; gurnard; isle of wight; sea swimming; wild swimming; swimming women; 1930s; shadows
Beach Hut Summer Shadows

Is getting a beach hut taking this whole sea swimming too far? Whist swimming we’ve talked and fanaticised what it would be like to have a beach hut. They are hugely expensive to buy (currently around the £28K upwards mark!), plus you have to pay a nominal rental fee to the council. Each one is painted a nostalgic 1930’s garden green, mainly with a deep Devon cream trim. There’s none of that garish ice cream colouring for Gurnard. They sit nestling up against one another guarding The Green behind, gazing out across the Solent towards the New Forest. What they might lack in bright colours they make up for in location. Gurnard is where you watch the sunset. At the height of summer, these little huts bask in the full glory of an open horizon setting sun. Glorious.

isle of wight; beach hut; gurnard; sea swimming; orange hat ladies; swimming women; wild swimming
Summer sunset at Gurnard, beach hut happiness

Thankfully they are like hens teeth to get your hands on so the idea of counting out buttons and selling cupcakes at the gate needs not to be considered any further. Passed down through generations like priceless art works or antiques (definitely similar to the latter as they’re not exactly state of the art) they rarely come on the market. But… imagine if we had one. We could share it between our families and friends (once things return to normal hopefully, post COVID). We’d be ‘in with the in crowd’, hanging out like proper beach bums. But wait a minute… I also fear that we’d start buying even more kit – a VW camper van each, trendy footwear and organic sarongs. Before you knew it we’d have bought stand up paddleboards, beach BBQ sets and kite boards. Everything would have to be jammed into a shed the size of a double bed (many are only 6’11” x 6’11” / 2.11m x 2.11m) along with folding chairs and beach rugs. It’s all very well owning a beach hut but it would mean even more stuff. Plus, just how much time could we end up wasting sitting around in damp clothing, making hot drinks instead of getting into a nice warm shower back at our homes? Although to be fair the views would be wonderful!

If we did own one, we would at least be able to put up a hook for our dry robes just by the door. Instead we simply ‘borrow’ a step, drape our things on the floor and plunge in. 

Thank you to all beach hut owners for your understanding.

I’ve been speaking on line to a local historian, Nick, who is trying to research more about the history of Gurnard’s beach huts. Rumor has it that they were once connected to the mains gas supply decades ago and there are stories of someone using one to make jam in as the gas was included in the council rent.  Such records of local history are fascinating to uncover – memories and anecdotes keep our links with the near past alive. If you’ve any stories or information about the beach huts or promenade at Gurnard, Nick would love to hear from you -clark.iow@outlook.com

beach hut; orange hat ladies; gurnard; isle of wight; sea swimming; wild swimming; swimming women; 1930s
Early morning beach huts

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