The hidden seaside community that is a ‘magnet’ for people from Yorkshire

George and Jackie Nixon
-Credit: (Image: Yasmin Wakefield)

Cleethorpes has long been a popular destination visited by people from across Yorkshire - particularly the South of the county - for both daytrips and staycations.

But there are some people who love the seaside town so much that they choose to make it their permanent home. And that’s where the hidden seaside community that is the Humberstone Fitties comes in.

The collection of quaint holiday homes is located a stone's throw from Fitties beach - and the residents reckon that “more than “60 per cent” of the people who reside there come from Yorkshire.

Read more: The pretty Yorkshire town with cobbled streets and great shops - but one thing letting it down

Homes at the Fitties are just a stones throw away from the beach
Homes at the Fitties are just a stones throw away from the beach -Credit:Yasmin Wakefield

But why do so many people from South Yorkshire choose to make it their permanent home? Yorkshire Live took a day trip to find out.

On first impressions, it was clear to see that everyone who lives at the Fitties cares about the community - there was no litter, the area was generally tidy and the number of decorated scarecrows and garden displays shows the occupants take pride in their homes and enjoy bringing a smile to people's faces.

And in the midst of a heatwave, it was definitely seeming like it would be the ideal staycation destination. But for anyone looking to make the Fitties your permanent home, then the deal is that you’re only allowed to live there for 10 months of the year. All residents have to vacate for eight weeks from the start of January until March when the area is most at risk from flooding.

On a sunny day in June finding someone from Yorkshire couldn’t be that hard, could it? Unluckily for me the area seemed particularly quiet and I was starting to think that everyone might have headed to the beach. That was until I met Lauretta McKinnon - who is an active member of the Fitties community and seems to know almost everyone on site, including a whole host of Yorkshire folk.

As she helped me on my search she explained that a lot of people from Yorkshire started buying properties in the Fitties in the 1980’s, when Prime Minister at the time Margaret Thatcher, started closing the mines. She explained that many would use their redundancy payouts to move there, and make it either their holiday, or permanent home.

A number of properties at the Humberstone Fitties are currently up for sale
A number of properties at the Humberstone Fitties are currently up for sale -Credit:Yasmin Wakefield

But Lauretta, who lives on the site all year round, said that more people than ever are starting to sell up. She told me that since the council lost ownership of the site and it was taken over by a private firm, living costs have shot up from £1,500 per year to over £5,000 - and now many people simply can’t afford the costs of living there.

We bumped into Denise Sutcliffe, from Bradford, who told me that more than 60 per cent of her neighbours are from Yorkshire. She said that despite the rising costs she can’t bare to part ways with her holiday home in the Fitties. “I’ve considered selling up a number of times but every time I come here it’s so peaceful,” she said. “It fills my heart with love everytime I come here - I just can’t get rid of it.”

As Denise returned to her garden, Lauretta kindly introduced me to two Yorkshire couples who have lived in the Fitties for a combined total of over four decades.

George and Jackie Nixon, who’s chalet is currently for sale, say that despite their imminent departure living in the Fitties “has been absolute bliss”.

The couple moved to the seaside from Kiveton Park in Rotherham in 1999. “It’s been gorgeous living here, it’s been absolutely amazing,” George said. “For the twenty years we have been part of this community, life has been absolute bliss.

“The sea has been our playground and we’ve definitely played. I learnt to sale, we ran the bar at the yacht club and I started sea fishing. It’s been good fun and the community has been amazing.”

They moved to the Fitties after George started doing joinery work there in 1997 and never properly went back home. “It was a choice between moving here or living in an ex-pit town where everything was shutting down,” Jackie said.

George and Jackie Nixon
George and Jackie Nixon, from Rotherham, are selling their home in the Fitties after 25 years on the site -Credit:Yasmin Wakefield

George added: “It’s just different - I think a lot of people from Yorkshire used to come here for a day trip to Cleethorpes and it was like a little magnet. It’s a nice getaway, secluded and community led. Why wouldn’t they want to move here?”

George explained that one of the most special things about living in the Fitties has been its tight knit community. “In some places, you might not know your next door neighbour but that doesn’t happen here - everyone knows everyone.

“If you live in the Fitties then you’re one of us. There are no exceptions,” George said. “If you move in today and there’s a party tomorrow then you’re more than welcome to come. No matter your age, gender, religion - we don’t care about any of that.

“We have a weekly soup morning on a Wednesday and people will open up their gardens and chalets to host things for everyone. There’s always something going on. We recently had an American Jazz night hosted by someone who cooked a BBQ for us too, they cooked 8kg of sausages!”

The couple said they have fond memories of socialising on site - particularly drinking at Seymours Bar, which was run by Fitties resident Seymour who has since sadly passed away, and at the Yacht Club which has also now closed its doors.

While being a stone's throw away from the beach has been a luxury for the couple for over two decades, they say it doesn’t compare to the members of the community who they have been surrounded by. “The people have been the best thing about living here,” George said.

“Everyone rallies together - if there’s someone that’s in trouble then there’s always someone that will help you out. We’re all really good at coming together - if they can’t help, then they’ll know somebody who can.”

George explained that alongside Jackie he is responsible for receiving the site’s food bank delivery three times a week. “Everyone loves that they can come along for a chinwag and if there’s something they don’t want then they will leave it on their gate and someone else will have it. It’s gorgeous.”

The couple and their 13-year-old Jack Russell, Tuck, will soon be leaving the site to move to a bungalow in Derbyshire. “It’s been a good life here and we’ll be sad to leave, but it’s very different to what it used to be. It’s the start of a new chapter for us.”

Walking around I’d been surprised at just how many of the site’s holiday homes were up for sale, including the Nixon chalet. When I asked George and Jackie about this, they said that while homes at the Fitties used to be few and far between, they suspect there’s now more up for sale than ever before.

They explained that a need to be closer to local amenities and the rising cost of living at the Fitties have both been factors in their move. “I’m heading towards 80 and Jackie is in her late 60’s. We’re three miles away from Cleethorpes town centre - there’s no way that we can walk that distance and there’s only one bus that runs in the summer to Thorpe Park.

“Now that we’re getting older, we need to be closer to things like shops and the doctors. We also sadly can’t afford to live here on a pension anymore,” George explained. They said they plan to use their chalet as a weekend home until the sale is finalised, and they will continue to make the trip from Derbyshire to Cleethorpes to visit after that.

But Doncaster couple, Joan and Alan Ward, say they won’t be leaving the Fitties anytime soon and they would “recommend living there to anyone”.

Joan Ward
Joan Ward, from Doncaster, says "anyone who can afford to should try living in the Fitties" -Credit:Yasmin Wakefield

The couple, who had their honeymoon at the Fitties in 1969, say living there offers a “unique way of life”. Before moving permanently, they had visited Cleethorpes many times for caravan holidays with their young children.

“I think a lot of people from South Yorkshire have fond memories of coming to Cleethorpes, Joan said. “It’s close enough and it’s cheap enough.”

Joan left behind her three bed semi-detached house and two jobs as a shop worker and barmaid, to make the permanent move to Cleethorpes in 1996. The couple moved in the aftermath of the death of their first son, who tragically took his own life.

“It came as quite a shock to us. Me and Alan said we would go to Cleethorpes to clear our heads and we never left”. The couple, now both in their 70s, lived in a caravan on Thorpe Park for nine years before moving to the Fitties in 2005.

She explained that you're never far away from someone else from South Yorkshire. “So many people come here from all over Yorkshire. Especially Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley. I find that there’s lot of what I call ‘surprise greetings’ - when you bump into someone that you’ve met throughout your life and you’ll say to each other, ‘what are you doing here?’”

However Alan said a number of people who used to own properties have sadly died and people - like George and Jackie - are starting to sell up and move on.“It’s upsetting that they’ve put the prices up, a lot of people are moving out and the community isn’t what it used to be,” Joan added. “It’s generally peaceful but there are some problems with petty crime from time to time.

“Young boys will come speeding down the road on bikes, wearing balaclavas. And even though it’s a 10 mph speed limit, you’ll get cars coming speeding along over the bumps. But nothing has ever happened to us personally that would make us want to move,” Joan continued. “I would say to anyone that if you can afford to live here then just try it.”

Fitties Beach
Fitties Beach -Credit:Yasmin Wakefield

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