The charm of Rhyl hasn’t faded… but the visitors have

There is a thick, four foot high concrete wall overlooking the beach at Rhyl.

It’s very close to the lifeboat station and right in front of where chalets one to five used to be.

Thirty odd years ago yours truly would camp out in the shade behind that wall with a tin of toy soldiers and spend a glorious week staging battles in the sand.

Mum and dad, meanwhile, would split their time between what seemed to us to be the Mediterranean heat of the beach and the cool solace afforded by the chalet – complete with sink, powerpoint and a table and four chairs.

In those days Rhyl boasted an outdoor paddling pool and floral gardens.

Donkey rides were 10 pence and, of an evening as my brother and I got older, we were each given 25 two pence pieces to waste on the slot machines in The Bright Spot and other such noisy, colourful arcades dominating the promenade.

Then, after dad had supped a few pints, we’d share two cones of chips and head back to the B&B for a sleep before the whole wonderful cycle started again.

My family went to Rhyl every year from when I was three until I was 10. In fact, for years I just assumed everyone went to Rhyl for their holidays.

Literally tens of thousands of people from Stoke-on-Trent would visit the resort during Potters’ fortnight – many travelling by train.

We would meet up every 12 months with people from Stoke-on-Trent who we never saw for the other 51 weeks of the year.

I remember the beaches were packed and every other voice had a familiar Potteries accent.
It’s a far cry from the Rhyl of summer 2009.

I took my own children to the resort for the first time last week.

I confess, I set out with trepidation – not wanting my own childhood memories to be sullied.

I needn’t have worried. Much of the allure of what kept me and so many Potters happy year after year still remains. Including my wall.

There are still miles and miles of beautiful beaches. The Sun Centre – a forerunner of our own Waterworld – is still going strong.

The Bright Spot amusement arcade and its accomplices still wink at you temptingly as you walk along the front.

Indeed, the promenade itself has been spruced up beyond all recognition. It’s clean, safe and altogether welcoming.

All that’s missing are the people. It’s sad – but the absence of tourists does have its benefits.

You can find a parking space on the front with relative ease these days – even in peak season.

There’s no queuing for anything and the children have so much space to run and play.

There may not be a pub selling our own Parker’s ales anymore but you can still get your hands on a copy of that day’s Sentinel from one of 30 retailers in Rhyl during the last week of June and the first week of July.

My girls had an absolute ball. They paddled in the sea, marvelled at dad’s sandcastle-building prowess, and enjoyed a picnic fit for princesses in the Garden of Remembrance (which we had to ourselves).

Donkey rides may have shot up in price a bit but I can assure you they are still worth every penny of your £1.50.

In fact, we enjoyed the whole experience so much we returned the next day.

These days, the thought of spending a day or more in Rhyl is probably an alien concept to many who are so used to flying abroad for a dose of sun, sea and sand.

But, if you have young children or yours have flown the nest, never underestimate the simple, enduring charm of places like Rhyl.

It’s no coincidence such resorts hold so many cherished memories for generations of Potters.

Try them soon – you might just be surprised.

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