Although situated in the opposite part of the country from where I type, I was distressed to read this morning that Hastings Pier has gone up in flames overnight and has caused some 95% damage to the upper structure.
For some unfathonable reason, I've got a rather geeky love of British Piers. Ok, well it probably is fathonable and like with many things in my life, I can lay the blame with the Liberal Democrats.
Over the past 8 years, I have travelled the length and breadth of Britain's seaside towns on my annual visit to the autumn 'seaside' Liberal Democrat conference. In fact, this month's conference in Liverpool broke quite a trend - it was the first since I began going to autumn conferences in 2003, which did not have a Pier stuck at the end of it.
2003 - Brighton
2004 - Bournemouth
2005 - Blackpool
2006 - Brighton
2007 - Brighton
2008 - Bournemouth
2009 - Bournemouth
Indeed, I've also been to Liberal Democrat spring conferences in Torquay (2003) and Southport (2004). We've also held Welsh Liberal Democrat Conferences in Llandudno (2002 & 2008).
What do they all have in common? They all have Piers.
So, over the years I've grown to have a great attachment to these 19th century, Victorian fetes of engineering. They remind me of happy, enjoyable days away with my extended liberal family. They have almost entirely been trips that have been welcomed with wonderful weather which of course has added to the fond memories.
Brighton though for me, has always been a sad conference because looking out from the Grand Hotel on the sea front, is the ruin of it's west pier which was itself destroyed by fire in March 2003, just months before my first visit there.
Closer to home, Aberystwyth of course has a Pier allbeit a shortened one from the original opened in 1865 after a storm in 1938 destroyed half of it.
A Proud Pier Geek
So, bizzarely, I've found myself to have been surrounded by this idyllic image of the Pier and it's one I now know, which will always stay with me.
Indeed, I've been meaning too, but have not yet done, but will, join the National Piers Society. http://www.piers.org.uk/
It's the old romantic and the historian in me all rolled into one I think that has made me an oddly keen enthusiast for this rather eccentric piece of British heritage. Mind you, as this BBC interview from 2008 shows, I'm not the only one. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7537242.stm
A Sad Day for Hastings
So it is with this in mind that I was particularly sad to find this morning that Hastings has overnight, associated itself with Weston-Super-Mare and Brighton as recent examples of piers that have fallen on particularly bad times.
There are in fact, or so says the National Piers Society website, 58 piers currently standing in the UK. Unless I'm mistaken, I've been/seen a poultry 11 or 12 of them. I must do better and visit more of those that we still have before they join the list of the 40 that have already disappeared.