I SPENT two years living right on the beach, overlooking the Med in a lovely town called Canet-Plage.
We moved to the South of France because my husband, Rugby League player Richie Myler, was signed to Catalans Dragons at the time.
It was idyllic, of course, but I still believe you can’t beat the British seaside.
The news this week that 71 beaches up and down the country have been awarded Blue Flag status for cleanliness by Keep Britain Tidy — up six from last year — came as no surprise to me.
From dramatic cliffs, historic castles and vivid red sands, to powdery white stretches, the sheer variety and beauty of Britain’s coastline never ceases to amaze me when I travel to film Countryfile, or on family trips.
Often we focus so much on holidaying abroad that we forget the beauty we have here. The awards prove we have beaches to rival the Continent.
Tourists on Whitby beach in North Yorkshire[/caption]
I remember when I rang my auntie to tell her we were moving back from France but that I was going to miss the beach.
She replied: “Helen, it is a bank holiday. I am on the beach in Bamburgh, it is nice weather and it is empty.”
We just don’t appreciate what we have.
I grew up in Cumbria and as an adult have lived in London, Manchester, Cheshire, Warrington and Leeds.
What our beaches sometimes lack in sunshine, they more than make up for in interest
In every place, I managed to get to a great beach nearby.
I often post pictures online of beaches where I have filmed and I have friends as far away as Australia clamouring to know where in the world it is.
In the past it has been easy to knock the traditional bucket-and-spade British holiday.
But what our beaches sometimes lack in sunshine, they more than make up for in interest.
Longsands Beach in Tynemouth during the summer[/caption]
Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site, tells the story of our planet. And our beaches are packed with diversity and wildlife — people fly across the world to go whale- watching but you can do this off Northumberland’s coast.
Growing up, we spent every October half-term in Blackpool enjoying the illuminations.
And I still make an annual pilgrimage with my own beach-loving boys Ernie, three, and two-year-old Louis.
Keep Britain Tidy, which runs the Blue Flag scheme, claims shockingly that nearly one in five kids has never set foot on a British beach.
Helen spent her childhood visiting Blackpool beach[/caption]
Friends often complain it is too tiring to lug all their stuff there but they are missing a trick. The beach is free and less likely to drive you to distraction than a noisy soft-play area.
My two boys play for hours, happily searching for shells and running in the water. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t sunny.
We hear constant warnings about climate change and the damaging effect of jet travel — but with such beauty around us, “staycations” really should be the future.
The uptick in the number of Blue Flag beaches has been attributed to the “Attenborough effect” — named after the BBC legend Sir David — of people here caring more about the environment.
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Having lived on the Continent, I notice that in Britain we are much more careful about keeping our beaches clean.
Long may we continue to treasure our seaside stretches.
Here are some of my favourite beach destinations in Britain.
Luskentyre Beach, Outer Hebrides
Luskentyre Beach in the Outer Hebrides boasts a fantastic strip of golden sand[/caption]
The Inner and Outer Hebrides – formed by hundreds of islands off the northwestern coast of Scotland – rival anything New Zealand can offer.
One of my favourites is Luskentyre Beach, on the Isle of Harris, but Skye and Mull are also home to some fantastic strips of sand.
Llanddwyn Island, Anglesey
Llanddwyn Island in Anglesey and the Llyn peninsula in the distance[/caption]
The Welsh coastline offers fantastic rocky scenery and Anglesey has become a favourite getaway spot with Manchester-based mates, just an hour or so by car.
Llanddwyn Island has endless beaches and rock pools.
Crosby Beach, Merseyside
Cast-iron, life-size figures are dotted along the coastline at Merseyside’s Crosby Beach[/caption]
This 3km of dramatic orange sand is home to Antony Gormley’s Another Place artwork.
The 100 haunting cast-iron, life-size figures – each weighing 650 kilos – are dotted along the coastline, staring out at the horizon.
Whitby, North Yorks
Whitby is home to colourful beach huts and golden sand[/caption]
Whitby is just an hour away from my home so we’ll often jump in the car for a fun day out.
Along the sandy West Cliff beach are colourful huts that can be hired and, in summer, children can enjoy donkey rides.
Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall
Porthcurno Beach in Cornwall is perfect for sunbathing as the dramatic cliffs shelter the beach from coastal winds[/caption]
About three miles from Land’s End you can find the sandy beach of Porthcurno.
It’s sheltered by high cliffs on both sides, making for fantastic picture opportunities as the sea turns a stunning turquoise in the sun.
St Ninian’s Cave, Dumfries and Galloway
St Ninian’s Cave is a paradise for people of all ages[/caption]
Scottish beaches, where I often went as a child, are dotted with fascinating smugglers’ coves – fuel for kids’ imaginations.
It is believed the spectacular St Ninian’s Cave, in Whithorn, was a retreat of Scotland’s first saint.
Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland
Take a tour of Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland after a day enjoying the gorgeous beach[/caption]
As well as whale and seal-spotting in Northumberland, Bamburgh Castle is a must-see.
When you have finished building sandcastles and paddling in the sea, you can take a tour of the imposing 12th-century fortress.
Escape city life and travel just 40 minutes from Liverpool to Formby, Merseyside[/caption]
This sensational stretch of golden sand, just 40 minutes’ drive from Liverpool, is ideal for families.
The dunes offer views across the Irish Sea and there are signposted woodland walks for younger nature lovers.
Rhossili Bay, Swansea
On this huge stretch of beach on the Gower Peninsula, you find different birds nesting in the cliffs.
Rhossili Bay is also home to one of Wales’ most famous landmarks, Worm’s Head, which is shaped like a giant sea serpent.
Durdle Door, Dorset
Dorset is home to many stunning beaches, but Durdle Door has to be the most beautiful[/caption]
I once posted a picture of the pretty Durdle Door rock formation in Dorset and my friend in France refused point-blank to believe it was in the UK.
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