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Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Filey

Filey c1957
Dad with my brother, Primrose Valley, Filey, around 1957

Filey, like Bridlington, is another Yorkshire seaside resort with a long family association. There are pictures of my dad there with his parents in the nineteen-thirties and then with his own family including me in the nineteen-fifties. Later I took my family in the noughties. We had some good times there, and some not so good ones. 

Primrose Valley caravan site 1950s
Primrose Valley caravan site 1950s

My earliest memories are of Primrose Valley, the caravan site just south of Filey near the Butlins camp: not the modern fixed caravans there now but the old towable tin boxes with fold-away beds, sickly calor gas, a long walk to fetch water and cell-block toilets. We spent most days on the beach with proper metal buckets and spades, digging and building sand castles with paper flags and sea-water moats.

A fresh-water spring bubbles out of the sand near the cliffs and washes down the beach begging to be dammed before it flows away. No matter how much sand you pile up, the weight of water accumulates until it inevitably breaks through. You have to watch out nobody is sitting on a picnic rug lower down the beach.

And there is Filey Brigg, a long, low neck of sandstone and limestone sticking half a mile out into the sea, covered in shells, fossils and rock-pools. It makes for a breathtaking walk on a warm day at low tide, with gentle waves, seaweed smells and lazy seals, all at one with the enormity of the earth, sea and sky. On other days, at other times, it would be foolish to defy the power of the wind and tide.

Filey beach
On Filey beach with the long, low neck of Filey Brigg piercing the sea to the right

Filey Brigg
Filey Brigg

Filey Brigg
On Filey Brigg
At the end of Filey Brigg
At the end of Filey Brigg

We had two family holidays at Filey in the noughties, staying in the rented cottages that nestle in the dunes beyond the caravans. It was a wonderful time: our children, born in my forties, were still under ten. That first year we found the fresh-water spring and dammed it, or tried to, and walked out along the Brigg searching for life in the rock pools. From the cottage windows, through binoculars, we watched the Regal Lady from Scarborough sail by in the evening sun on a coastal cruise.

It was so good we booked again the following year in a different cottage. That was one of the not so good times. We nearly went straight home. It was the most disgusting holiday cottage I’ve ever stayed in.

I still have a copy of the letter we sent to the agent. The cottage had not been cleaned. There were stains and spots of blood on the bed sheets and one of the children’s beds smelled of urine. The drawers and cupboards stank and were filled with the owners’ dirty clothing and other personal items such as half-used bottles of mouthwash. There was very little room for our own things.

In the bathroom there were soiled footmats, hairs around the wash basin, the bath needed cleaning, and the lavatory smelled appalling and had a broken seat. There was a note from the cleaner to say the shower was not working and would be repaired during the week, but it wasn’t. Other things in the cottage were also broken.

In the kitchen was a vase of dead flowers, the bin had not been emptied, there was rotting food in the fridge, a smelly dishcloth on the draining board and a grill pan full of dirty fat that tainted the oven. There were crumbs everywhere.

The sitting room stank of stale cigarette smoke and prominent in the book case were Alex Comfort’s ‘The Joy of Sex’ and other visually explicit sex books, hardly appropriate in a seaside holiday cottage where young children such as ours would be staying. We encouraged our children to read and take an interest in books, but not those at that age.

The cleaner and owners could not be contacted, nor, it being Saturday evening, could the agent. Fortunately we found clean bedding to make the beds usable, did some cleaning ourselves, and survived the week by eating out more than planned.

It took two weeks to get an apology. The cottage had been unbooked the week before ours but someone had been there without booking. It had been cleaned after the previous legitimate occupants, and the cleaner had then gone away on holiday. The owners, a couple from Sheffield, were also on holiday.

We got a refund eventually. The owners sent flowers, which seemed patronising, and offered a further week’s stay for free, but, frankly, at the thought of them enjoying the joy of sex in their pissy underwear, we politely declined. 

We have been back to Filey for days out, but have not stayed.

23 comments:

  1. Like I said in my comment to your post about Bridlington, I enjoyed my (so far) one and only day trip to Filey very much, and your photos brought back to my mind some of that day.
    Your experience about the second holiday cottage is awful! I don't think I could have stayed there, not even for one night. How someone could have been staying there unbooked puzzles me - where did they have the key from, if not from the owners?

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    1. I wondered whether they had stayed there before and made a copy of the key, and then looked at the agent's web site to see which weeks were unbooked.

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  2. Oh dear Tasker how awful. I think most of us have tales of not so good holidays but I have never heard of one as bad as that.

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    1. We made a reasonable week of it in the end. The second cottage was behind the first which was good. The reason we didn't book the first one again was that the windows had blocks to prevent them opening more than a couple of inches, and we found it hard to sleep.

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  3. I enjoyed hearing about your childhood holidays and most of your other ones. That one cottage was indeed dreadful for you and your family. It's good that at least you found clean sheets!

    You have wonderful pictures of the sea here and I love the picture of your Dad and brother!

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    1. Without finding the clean sheets I think we would have gone straight home. Yes, I like the picture of my dad and brother. I wonder what they were saying.

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  4. I have gone into rooms like that, but fortunately, always could be moved to a better room. How sad to have it happen to a whole vacation.

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    1. I can't understand how people think they can get away with renting out awful places like that, although I suppose it wasn't entirely their fault the place had been left in such a state by uninvited occupants.

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  5. Oh, man. That cottage sounds the worst. I can well understand your not wanting to chance it again. Day trips would suffice for me as well. I really like the photos. I feel as if I could almost smell the sea air in that last snap.

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    1. Filey Brigg is a special place, especially when not too busy. It's around a couple of hours in the car from home so well within day tripping distance.

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  6. The photo of the line of caravans reminds me of a holiday my family took in the Scotland Highlands back in the 1950s. Then the story of your second cottage fiasco completed the memory because that Scottish caravan was the coldest, dampest, dirtiest accommodation we ever (tried) to stay in. We didn't last quite as long as you. :)

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    1. Doesn't sound very pleasant - at least we were warm and dry. I once stayed in a dirty, cold, damp, run-down caravan in Scotland too, but only for a couple of days after the zip broke on the tent we were in. We were quite thankful for it, but putting up with discomfort is what camping is all about anyway.

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  7. I swear that in the caravan site picture from Primrose Valley there are two Linton Triumphs. One of them could have easily been ours. Later, in the summer of 1974, I worked at the Filey Butlins. Living in the staff quarters was like inhabiting a lawless boomtown in The Wild West. What a shame that the second cottage was so awful but at least you tried to make the most of things and still had a holiday. All part of life's rich tapestry I suppose.

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    1. Linton Triumph! How do you tell? You must have been the inspiration for that poster showing a line of camels crossing the desert and the slogan "I used to take the caravan to Filey until I discovered Smirnoff".

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    2. That's like asking: How do you tell the difference between a Spitfire and a jumbo jet or a Land Rover and a Ford Mustang?

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    3. I suppose you can even distinguish a Linton Triumph from a Lynton Triumph.

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    4. You are right. It should be spelt with a "y". I'm losing my marbles.

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  8. The rocky shore looks very appealing (far more than your accommodation I am sure), the kind of place I revel in visiting. I could get lost for hours exploring the tide pools.

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    1. Rock pools like that are widespread in that part of the Yorkshire coast. It's also great for sea birds.

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  9. I love the clothes your father and brother are wearing in that photo.
    1950s smart casual?









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    1. I suppose it was. As mentioned in a previous comment, it was probably my dad is probably in an old suit. I guess my brother is wearing 1950s toddler clothes.

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  10. Not an appealing place to stay at all. I love the East coast although I've never been a particular fan of Filey. We've just returned from a few days in Scarborough. We stayed away from busy areas and found the most amazing cemetery, and as you can imagine it was dead quiet there! We really enjoyed the change of scenery.

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    1. Filey Brigg and beach are wonderful but there's absolutely no we we'd go back to that cottage. It was bad enough finding the copy of the letter we sent.

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