Last Saturday (March 12) saw the ‘kick-off’ of British Tourism week with the creation of ‘Party on the Pier’, a nationwide celebration of a great British institution, that of the SEASIDE PIER. This event was the mastermind of National Piers Society patron, Gyles Brandreth. Owners and managers of piers throughout Britain were tasked with the job of hosting a party to bring the public back to these historic and fun-filled locations. No particular theme was required, just a party to celebrate the piers, their heritage and the need to maintain these historical landmarks.
The managers of the restored Victoria pier in Swanage, Dorset (last year’s runner-up for ‘Pier of The Year’) took on their role as party host extraordinaire with great vigour and imagination. What better way to celebrate and bring out the family than to organise a ‘Mad Hatters Tea Party’.
Lewis Carroll’s characters from his glorious tales of ‘Alice In Wonderland’, including Alice, the Mad Hatter, White Rabbit and Queen of Hearts each dressed from head to toe in all their finery were on hand to serve the likes of you and me with a free cup of Dorset Tea, donated by sponsor Keith Spicer (Est. 1934) and perfectly poured from brightly coloured teapots at the Mad Hatters table, but beware those bottles marked ‘EAT ME’ and ‘DRINK ME’ for you may suddenly appear to be falling from a great height down the never ending rabbit hole and find yourself involved in all sorts of mischief and adventure!!!
It was a delight to see children of all ages, Parents and Grandparents alike enjoying not only the tea party but also the fresh home-baked cakes beautifully created by local volunteers. A very friendly and informative Sarah Parr, marketing and event volunteer and wife of Gordon Parr, the Swanage Pier Maintenance Engineer informed me the majority of which were devoured within only 45 minutes of the party commencing, but happily raising a welcome £1,000 toward the restoration work relating to the Swanage Pier. Sarah, astonishingly the mother of the wonderful team who manned the Mad Hatter’s table explained that this would hopefully become an annual event encouraging both locals and visitors to the area to come out and support the Swanage Pier, its heritage and maintenance so that future generations may get to enjoy it too.
Other amusements to enjoy on the pier included Croquet, bouncy time on the bouncy castle, and a game of life-sized chess and wonderful book sale stand.
As a child, I lived near Southend on Sea and would often visit the famous mile-long pier there to enjoy the seaside, amusements, Candy Floss and Ice Cream, so it was with sentimentality that I made the decision to attend this very special event and I’m so happy that I did.
Swanage Pier is a beauty; one that has been given much loving care and maintenance and most definitely one that should be enjoyed by others. Take a leisurely stroll along the promenade, breathe in the fresh sea air and listen to the sound of squawking seagulls. Look out to sea and enjoy the peace that surrounds this beautiful little extremely authentic seaside town in Dorset.
Long live Swanage Pier, and long may the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party continue.