As parents we’ll never forget it, as a baby Sonny will never remember it, but this was a huge day for us as a family that we’ll look back on with fond memories for many years.
I’ve never lived anywhere near the coast, so seeing the sea has always been a big deal for me. When I was a kid we had to travel a couple of hours just to reach the seaside, and as a result there’s always been something magical about it: the fresh salty air, the screeching gulls, the fish and chips, the sticks of rock, the booming waves, the eerily retreating tides, those curly little sandworms, the side-shuffling crabs, the colourful beach huts, the rolling dunes, the big skies, the changeable weather, the happy children – absolutely everything.
We live in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, around 70 miles from the beautiful North Norfolk coast, so a trip to the seaside is always a big event. But last Friday the weather forecast was perfect so we loaded the dog and baby into the car and set off for Wells-Next-The-Sea. If you’ve never been to this charming little town, it’s well worth sticking on your wish-list. With an old-fashioned town centre, busy harbour, stunning beach, undulating sand dunes and thick pine woods all within a couple of kilometres of each other, it provides a perfect day out for anyone wanting a slice of coastal adventure without expending too much energy.
We parked in the town centre around 4pm, helped ourselves to an ice cream, loaded Sonny into his carrier then headed off on the sea wall path towards the beach. It was a hot, breezy day, with oystercatchers pottering around in the harbour to our right and happy kids hunting for crabs with nets and buckets as we approached the beach. Why don’t I come here more often?
As usual, Sonny fell asleep as soon as we started walking, but he woke up once we hit the beach. At 12 weeks old I’m not kidding myself that he knew where he was, but this was another new life experience for him. He heard new sounds like boats, the calls of wading birds and gulls, and the whoosh of the ocean; felt the salty sea breeze on his face and scrunched his toes into the sand. He smiled and cooed like he does every day, but I allowed myself to believe he was happier today than he’s ever been before. We rolled out a mat, sat on the beach with the dog and baby for half an hour and gazed out along a stretch of golden sand that looked like it belonged to some faraway tropical continent. This really is a special place.
I watched kids playing football and beach tennis in front of us, charging up and down the sand dunes and digging with plastic spades and pictured Sonny doing the same in just a few short years. It’s such an exciting thought and I already know he’ll love this place for years to come. As the sun started to dip in the sky we packed up our stuff, climbed the wooden steps behind the the colourful beach huts and made our way back through the pine woods to our starting point, with evening sunlight flickering through the trees and illuminating Sonny’s happy face. We treated ourselves to fish and chips in the harbour, then started the long journey home, safe in the knowledge that we’d treated our young son to another new life experience. And if we can do that every day, no matter how big or small it is, then I guess we aren’t doing such a bad job.