LAST WORD - 16th July

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How to avoid public nudity this summer

Oh, we do like to be beside the seaside - but who likes getting changed on the beach?

We’ve come a long way since Victorian bathing machines carried their occupants into the sea for a discreet dip in the water - almost fully clothed. Attitudes towards the acceptable level of public nudity may have altered, but no one is immune to the pressures of a public change, as David Cameron so cringingly demonstrated in Cornwall last year.

From the awkward dance with the beach towel to sand abrasion and tangled underpants on still-damp legs, getting changed on the beach is, at best, an inconvenience, at worst an exercise in public humiliation. Take a moment to be glad that the long lenses of the paparazzi don’t follow your every move.

If only there was a solution… Oh, but there is: the humble (or not so humble) beach hut. A luxurious number in Shaldon, Devon, was recently marketed by Fulfords with the vendors asking for ‘offers in excess of £200,000’. It has now been sold - for an undisclosed sum.

While some huts are really very basic - think brightly coloured garden shed - this one has a shower room, mezzanine sleeping floor, underfloor heating, TV and telephone.

Fresh to the market in Mudeford Spit, Dorset, is a 12ft by 12ft hut with an asking price of £225,000 (Denisons - 01202 484748). It’s been in the same family for over 30 years and has solar panels on the roof, a kitchen and potential to sleep up to 10 people. There’s no toilet, but it’s close to the public conveniences.

For something a little closer to home - Shaldon, after all, is about 200 miles from here and Mudeford just over 100 miles - some Londoners find that the only way is Essex. Earlier this year, the bidding was fierce for seven-year leases of eight ‘new generation’ eco-friendly beach huts in Southend-on-Sea.

Meanwhile, In Essex’s Walton-on-the-Naze - just over an hour and a half from Liverpool Street, changing at Thorpe-le-Soken - there’s a large beach hut development right next to the pier. All of the huts have sea views, plus nearby parking and optional extras like decking and insulation. Prices start at £10,000 (www.walton-beach-huts.co.uk).

Whitstable in Kent is another great destination for city dwellers looking for a breath of sea air and a portion of fish and chips. Local agent Harvey Richards & West has a couple of huts on the books, starting 
at £19,000.

You might be gawping at some of these prices, so is it worth it? Hannah Thomas, a marketing consultant who inherited a hut on the south coast a couple of years ago, believes it is. “We didn’t realise how much of a difference it would make to be able to store all of our stuff at the beach. Now, we have loads of kit, like a kayak and a camping stove. Whenever the weather looks good, we can just jump in the car without having to spend ages getting ready.”

Not convinced? You could always try renting one - the National Trust offers several rental options at Studland Beach in Dorset. You can choose from daily, weekly, annual or three season periods, but be prepared for a waiting list. Buying one might add considerably to the cost of a day on beach but, if nothing else, it’ll spare your blushes…


Check out the full feature on page 26 of MoveTo London