“This is such a recognisable image,” says Beaford Arts’ Croyde village promoter Chris Burrows. “Love or hate the building, everyone can spot it’s Saunton Sands Hotel.” He’s right. The hotel, which stands on the headland facing out along the three mile stretch of beach is an iconic, historic building.
The scene below on the beach is also a familiar one, families gathered around enjoying a picnic lunch on the sand. Then there’s the sandcastle.
“Building sandcastles is as popular as ever,” says Chris. “And some people have always gone to town on them.”
This photo shows the familiar turreted tower shapes that were made using the coloured buckets you could buy from beachside shops and seaside towns across the country. Then there would always be a moat; how satisfying is it to dig a trench and then wait for the sea to come in and fill the channels?
Sandcastle competitions have become popular with an event in north Devon raising money for the local hospice. People create ever more lavish and elaborate designs, from dragons to Daleks. Is it a coincidence that Ravilious has chosen to portray two buildings, one made of sand and one made of brick? It’s a clever juxtaposition.
Family groups would always gather for a picnic, usually towards the back of the beach nearer the dunes and the car park, where you’d find the warm and dry loose sand. You’d mark your spot with towels or a windbreak and unpack the lunch. The family in this photo appears to have a Golden Wonder crisp box. Sandwiches, crisps, a soft drink, perhaps a few cakes, they’d all get packed into what was to hand in the kitchen. What do people use these days to carry a beach meal? A box like this or a coolbag, perhaps picked up at a supermarket.
How many plastic bags would you see on the beach in 1975 at the time Ravilious took this photo?
And what about the swimsuits? In the Seventies, wetsuits were almost always the preserve of the serious surfer, but now everyone wears them – a swimsuit is a rare sight.