For those of us who grew up by the coast, there is something soothing, almost spiritual, about a beach in winter – bleak yet soulful, moody yet uplifting. Time spent by the sea in the depths of January, for me, is like therapy. 2019 had been a challenge and, as we headed into the new decade, coastal therapy was, we decided, just what we needed.
Our nephew, who had just completed a stem cell transplant, couldn’t be in public places for fear of infection, or venture far from the hospital in case of emergency. With January kicking in, time spent on the beach with the wind in our hair would be a tonic for us all – even if it had to be just a stone’s throw from home.
Lovely schoolfriends Lindsay and Ade have a holiday cottage at Meon Shore in Hampshire, and they offered to open the chalet for us for a mini celebration on the beach; a cosy home-from-home and a weekend antidote to winter.
Our little beach house had its own basic kitchen, shower room and two bedrooms. The open plan lounge and dining area have wall-to-wall windows to make the most of the view, opening onto the beach and kept super cosy with the log burner.
As children, we called this village of beach houses Shanty Town. That’s not how you’d describe them today with prices in the hundreds of thousands mark. Ours was more extended beach hut than luxe beach house, basic but well equipped, incredibly cosy and spotlessly clean. They are a delight.
They sit literally right on the beach, with locked gate access away from the main beach road. They’re flanked by the RSPB Titchfield Haven nature reserve, the quintessentially English Hill Head harbour and of course the spectacular Solent, with its views over to the Isle of Wight and Southampton Water and down the beach to cliffs with their Broadchurch vibe. The walks, whichever way you turn and at any time of year, are amazing.
Our objective was to just relax for a couple of days and let the sea weave its magic. Two of us stayed overnight as a base and the rest of the family were happy to come and go.
We wanted to watch the waves from the comfort of a beach house, light the log burner, spend some time together or just read a good book – to recharge after the mania that is always December and had been the key feature of 2019 generally.
We arrived on Friday to bright blue skies and winter crispness which gave way to a spectacular slow sunset.
Overnight the wind blew up and Saturday morning brought high winds and rain – but there’s an undeniable calm that comes from being indoors, somewhere safe with a spectacular view while the elements take their toll on the world outside.
By the afternoon the rain had cleared although the wind blew stronger and the waves battered the shore and the beach hut – nonetheless we were determined to have our barbecue on the beach.
Out came the camping chairs, up went the windbreaks and on went the coats, hats and wellies (in little Lilly’s case complemented by an illuminated tutu before the cold really took hold) and we went in search of driftwood for a fire on the beach.
There’s something about this kind of English fun, in the face of weather adversity, which puts colour in your cheeks and a smile on your face – helped by a glass or two of red.
The sunset was not spectacular, but there was to be a wolf moon which turned out to be unbelievably beautiful over the nature reserve, casting a reflection on the water as if it was the sun as it first emerged, turning into a golden orb on a black canvas as the night wore on.
For those living further afield, who perhaps prefer some warmth with their beach break, this little beach house would make a lovely value-for-money destination in the spring or summer with prices from around £85 per night.
For couples it would be a tranquil escape and, for a young family, an idyllic seaside holiday – skimming stones, sunbathing, swimming, walking, barbecues and swingball on the little lawn on the beach. Just 20 minutes from the M27, there’s a café, a Chinese Takeaway and a lovely pub with a beachfront garden just down the road, while the villages of Titchfield and Stubbington are a short drive away.
It’s also an ideal base for sightseeing – Portsmouth, Southampton, The New Forest or the Isle of Wight are all close by. Or, of course you could just take a good book and watch the waves!
It was an admittedly eccentric weekend on the back of what has been an unreal, awful six months – it was just what we needed. We’ve now decided, whatever a year has to throw at us, the following January will be enjoyed rather than endured.
W: Osborne View