Two months ago we visited the seaside resort of Weston-super-Mare. The weather was cold and it was out of season, but there was a sense of optimisim in air.
Visitor numbers were up thanks to the massive Sea Monster art installation and there was a buzz with the announcement that the town would get £20m in Whitehall funding to help turn the Tropicana landmark into an 8,000-seat arena.
Cash would also go to the decades-old plan to reopen the crumbling Birnbeck Pier and to improving the admittedly tired town centre to attract better shops.
But most importantly, traders along the paved promenade told us that the resort was still drawing in visitors from as far away as Japan and America. Not just from Bristol and Birmingham, then.
So wasn’t it typical that a North West England-based reporter for The Telegraph last week judged Weston-super-Mare to be the third worst seaside town in Britain. Only Rhyl and South Shields received a lower score, which was based on how towns had adapted over the past 30 years.
And it didn’t stop there. The writer went on to call the Sea Monster art installation a ‘Frankensteinian botch-job’. He then said ‘walk along the expansive seafront and you get a sense of the town’s bracing, airy hope - until you remind yourself that this is the Bristol Channel, fed by the Severn, the UK’s dirtiest river’.
Westonians are used to their town being criticised in such way, sadly - and this will surely join the other bad press which will be tomorrow‘s fish and chip papers. But I think we should take a stand.
Despite the town having to battle with the rise in cheap holiday packages abroad and the recent Covid pandemic, I believe it continues to hold all the charm of a proper traditional seaside resort - and who says we want that to change?
Residents and visitors like their fish and chips, be it at Papa’s, Atlantic or Winstons . They like a brisk walk along the prominade. They’re happy to pay the £1 to go on the Grand Pier (some don’t pay with a MyGrandPier card). And they look forward to events like the Weston Super Half or the Weston Lions beer festival on the Beach Lawns.
Me? I love it. Okay, I might be biased given I was once on the now defunct Weston & Worle News and the Weston Mercury, but for me Weston provides as good a family day out than you will find in any town or city in the Britain.
From taking a stroll around Grove Park to playing on the arcades on the Grand Pier to seeing a family show at The Playhouse, the town is rightly a top UK tourist destination, and there’s plenty more to come with the work on the Tropicana and town centre.
If Chris Moss from The Telegraph decides to come Weston, I’d happily show him around.