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What makes our Golden Mile wish list?

PUBLISHED: 14:06 28 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:06 28 October 2019

Sunshine and blue water: the outdoor bathing pool on the Golden Mile in 1976 Picture: Great Yarmouth Holiday Guide 1977

Sunshine and blue water: the outdoor bathing pool on the Golden Mile in 1976 Picture: Great Yarmouth Holiday Guide 1977

Archant

A bold claim to be "The Resorts that have Everything" served Great Yarmouth and Gorleston well as a publicity slogan in our sixties heydays.

Highly ambitious...the Revolving Tower, an attraction until the 1939-45 war Picture: Mercury LibraryHighly ambitious...the Revolving Tower, an attraction until the 1939-45 war Picture: Mercury Library

Obviously there were facilities, amenities and attractions we lacked, but I doubt that our visitors had check-lists to note those shortcomings.

But, supposing past and present were interchangeable, what should we keep? Or ditch?

My whimsical appraisal of delights Yarmouth provided over the past century on the seaward side of North Drive and Marine Parade began at the rejuvenated Venetian Waterways and boating lake, a lovely attraction reopened recently and proving popular.

However, once the novelty wears off, will they draw visitors to quiet North Drive? To a casual observer, visitors use this road only to park their cars on the redundant tennis courts while they stroll to the livelier Golden Mile.

Packed and popular: the South Denes beach-edge caravan and camping site, probably in the 1960s or 1970s Picture: Mercury LibraryPacked and popular: the South Denes beach-edge caravan and camping site, probably in the 1960s or 1970s Picture: Mercury Library

A meaningful return to North Drive would be the 150ft Revolving Tower, although its old site near the Britannia Pier would involve the loss of some car-parking area and bowls and putting greens.

It was constructed in 1897 for £5,000, bought by the council in 1918 for £300 but never again revolved because of machinery problems.

Its 1939-45 war demolition was to remove a landmark useful to the enemy while providing metal for munitions.

I have no head for heights but, having braved the Eiffel and Blackpool Towers and London Eye, perhaps I might have relished vistas from the Revolving Tower.

And so to the Golden Mile. Top of my fanciful list would be the return of two prime delights: the outdoor (admittedly unheated) 100yd bathing pool where professional galas were presented in summer, and that other favourite - the Marina amphitheatre in which packed crowds enjoyed live music, bathing-beauty competitions and other delights... on fine days.

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Yarmouth's open-air pool (and Gorleston's) were sacrificed as old-fashioned, not in keeping with the resort's progressive outlook.

Instead, we have Yarmouth's Marina Centre, due to close for demolition and replacement, plus the Phoenix in Bradwell, distant from holiday areas.

Back to Yarmouth's Marine Parade and the inevitable sadness over the Winter Gardens at the Wellington Pier, now deemed a safety threat.

We would be saddened if the iconic and elegant glass-house had to be removed after 115 years of dominance and pleasure-giving on our seafront, but the odds against any philanthropist coming forward to restore it to former glory and usefulness are long.

Proceeding farther, we pass the Pleasure Beach - and that definitely must have a large "keep" tick on it because it retains its popularity. It evolved from small beginnings 110 years ago and has stayed abreast of Yarmouth's success as a major resort, this year proudly adding a Premier Inn.

So, our sea-front survey - retaining the best of the past century while rejecting the current also-rans - continues until we reach the Colditz-style high-wire defences of our Outer Harbour keeping the prying eyes of port enthusiasts, casual observers and disgruntled residents from catching a glimpse of its activities, other than high cranes and other items visible from a distance.

The River Yare itself? Now almost a backwater compared with decades past.

Tip-toeing discreetly as far as the chain-link permits, my mind was cast back to the era when, in peak summer, those South Denes were teeming, covered with scores of caravans and tents, fully occupied in school summer holiday weeks with families on cheap-and-cheerful vacations.

It was immensely popular, income-generating for our council and relished by those visitors revelling in budget breaks hereabouts.

If they fancied a cuppa without making it themselves, there was the adjacent Harbour's Mouth cafe although they might have to queue because it was also a Mecca for motorists enjoying a jaunt along South Denes Road and South Beach Parade.

But this mixing the best of old and new is merely a flight of fancy, a veteran columnist's wish-list. If only...

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