The day dawned bright and windy but promising warmth. Eight residents, three members of staff, and our volunteer bus driver boarded the Bishop’s Stortford minibus in the morning and began the journey to Southend-on-Sea, a special trip made possible by a grant from CDA Herts.
Given the early hour, the drive to the beach was quiet. When we arrived, we agreed a time and place to meet for lunch and then went our separate ways. Most of the residents stayed together and headed straight for the arcades!
The rest of us followed the hint of salt in the air and found the pier. Before undertaking the long walk, we fortified ourselves with freshly made, very hot, and extra delicious sugar donuts from one of the many little shops by the seafront.
We took the pier at a leisurely pace, stopping occasionally to gaze at the sea or the boats stuck in place due to the low tide or the great ships sailing on the horizon to destinations unknown, and chatting to one another along the way.
Considering the length of the pier (1.34 miles – the longest pleasure pier in the world!), we only had time for a coffee and a quick look around the Royal Navy Lifeboat station before we needed to head back to meet up with everyone else on time.
We found a small café across from Adventure Island, and we all had lunch together. The fish and chips were particularly good – “lunch was a big thumbs up!” Afterwards, we all wandered around by the beach. Tyrone took the opportunity to cool off in the fountains while the rest of us enjoyed ice cream.
With our time drawing to an end, we spent the last of our time out on the beach. We rolled up our trouser legs and waded into the water to our knees, enjoying the feel of the cool water and the view of the vast ocean before us. After drying off, it was sadly time to head back – residents and staff alike wished the day could last or that we could stay longer. On the way home, the bus was alive with chatter and singing amongst residents and staff – a clear sign that the trip had energised everyone and brought us all together!
“It was nice to be with other people,” said one resident. The trip “gave me a sense of freedom”, and “I most enjoyed the rides and the company of other people”. Residents were glad they had attended, as they said they would have otherwise stayed at home.
Staff also commented positively. Ebi, a support worker, said, “The relationship amongst residents and between residents and staff after the Southend trip has been better than before and hopefully this good relationship will continue”. Korin, our activities coordinator, said, “Everyone seemed to get along very easily, and I noticed a few friendships forming that I hadn’t seen before. Lovely day.”