Like a flotilla of brightly painted yachts, they appeared to dance above the foam of the incoming waves on sweet, summer days.
But these ketches of colour were land-side of the sea and used not for sailing but for changing into swimmers, storing deck chairs, and providing a refuge to make a cup of tea.
The great British beach hut has been adorning our favourite seaside resorts for hundreds of years in one guise or another – first as fishermen’s huts, then ‘changing machines’, before manifesting in all their glory as vibrant coastal 6ft by 4ft sheds in the 1950s and 60s.
As children, with only a windbreak – which dad had hammered into the shingle – and a towelling changing robe for protection we used to eye these huts and those who possessed them with the deepest envy.
How jealous we would have been of a new generation of beach hut which now graces the stunning Sussex shoreline at Felpham. They were beyond our wildest dreams.
But the Beachcroft Hotel has just invested in four pristine and immaculate ‘huts’ which sit against the promenade adjacent to the hotel and be in no doubt they are a treat beyond measure.
Beautifully created out of wood and stone and gleaming chrome, you could pack a dozen of the traditional beach huts inside each one. A huge living area complete with the latest TV and Smeg fridge – to chill your drinks – leads out on to a terrace.
As you land in your elegant steamer chair with complimentary glass of rose wine or sloe gin and open your book, you feel in every sense to be on the beach itself – with none of the disadvantages.
Upstairs is a luxury mezzanine bedroom with breathtaking view to the sea spied through an artistic porthole, while directly below is a top-of-the-range shower room and then a second bedroom with bunk beds for kids and guests.
The splendour of 21st century design pays homage to the retro golden era of the more traditional hut. Paintings on the wall evoke memories of my own childhood, while the crafted wooden ship-style propeller suspended from the ceiling fans cool air should the breeze abate.
Earlier this year, the Best Western Beachcroft Hotel and Restaurant won the Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure accolade at the Chichester Observer’s annual business awards.
One of the reasons for it scooping this most prestigious local trophy against tough competition was its commitment to investment in high quality projects such as this.
On the awards evening I was delighted to accept an invitation from general manager Phill Roberts to test out the new accommodation at the end of August and it was a pleasure to find that they entirely lived up to their promise.
Of course, the purpose of any ‘soft launch’ is to identify ways of making the facilities even better and I know the Beachcroft will continue to enhance the experience.
From my perspective, it was a sheer joy to go for a daily swim in the sea – although I could have spoilt myself by using the hotel’s own indoor pool! – and then have a 30 second stroll back to the beach hut for a shower and change – before dining at the hotel on scallops and venison.
The acid test for any ‘review visit’ where you are being hosted is would you actually pay to stay as a private individual?
I am biased because I love this stretch of Felpham and often come swimming here and the weather at the time we stayed could not have been more perfect.
But without doubt the answer is yes.
So many people walking along the promenade were heard to speak in reverent tones about how splendid the beach huts looked. They have become a real local talking point.
It reminded me with a childhood pang of the very same envy I felt nearly some half a century ago.
Beach Huts start from £225 per night B&B (based on two adults sharing). £25 per child (up to 2 children) www.beachcroft-hotel.co.uk / 01243 827142 / email@example.com