SStepping out of Scarborough station into the warm sea air, Barbara Hunt and her husband, Maurice, immediately felt at home. It was their first visit to the Yorkshire coast, but the weather was similar to their hometown of Sydney in the summer.
Pensioners, on a five-week visit to the UK, were rather puzzled by the country’s response to the heatwave. “It’s part of life in Australia but here it’s panic,” said Maurice, 79. “We find that a bit exaggerated really.”
The Hunts had found themselves on one of the few trains arriving in Scarborough on Monday after National Rail advised customers not to travel unless absolutely necessary.
While large parts of Britain baked in temperatures between 30 and 30 degrees Celsius, Scarborough remained slightly cooler. True to its history as one of Britain’s first health resorts, it offered a welcome retreat to residents of sweltering towns on Monday.
Warmer weather attracts more tourists, but there were few celebrations among business owners who depend on their money. “These are extremes and I’d rather these kinds of temperatures didn’t exist,” said John Senior, who owns three restaurants in the city. “It’s a sign of severe global warming and it’s not really a safe environment.”
Tory-controlled Scarborough Borough Council was one of the first local authorities to declare a climate emergency, in 2019. An electric garbage truck began driving around the town this week as part of of its desire to become carbon neutral by 2030.
Senior, vice chairman of the city’s tourism advisory board, said the industry should “reset” to handle warmer days, perhaps by improving building insulation or installing cooling stations like seen in warmer climates.
But it was a global emergency that called on world leaders to intervene, he added. “It’s a global crisis and it takes courage and it’s going to be difficult.”
Global temperatures were falling when Scarborough crowned itself Britain’s first seaside resort in the mid-17th century, amid the Little Ice Age. The world has warmed by around 1.1°C since the second half of the 18th century, with most of this increase coming from 1975, when the Costa del Sol began to replace Scarborough as the holiday destination of choice for Sun-hungry Brits.
Perched on a shady bench overlooking a bustling bay in South Bay, Doreen Edmands, 68, said record temperatures were a wake-up call for the climate emergency. “Look at the situation in Australia,” she said, referring to the drought and wildfires that engulfed large parts of the country in 2020. “It’s terrifying. What future do they have? Some will become completely uninhabitable.
Her husband, Peter Edmands, 87, said he hoped people would now realize the climate crisis was real. “I’ve been worried about it since the 60s and it’s coming home now,” he said.
Jen Laffan, 26, a lifeguard at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), said she was bracing for another extremely busy summer as more people took national holidays due to a combination of disruptions the airport and the cost of living squeeze.
By lunchtime Monday, it was thankfully quiet for his team. Last summer, RNLI lifeguards recorded 1,833 incidents in the North East of England.
Keeping a watchful eye on the approximately 1,500 people in North Bay, Laffan said crowds would start arriving next week when schools separate for the summer. “South Bay will be shocked. We have already had significant water rescues [this year] and with the warm weather and people choosing to stay, it’s busy.”
While some schools closed due to the heat, others went to the beach. Some of the children at Littleworth Grange Primary School in Barnsley were treated to a day trip to Scarborough on their penultimate day of term.
Their teacher, Megan Lord, made sure the group of 53 Year 6 students were slathered in sunscreen as they built sandcastles in the sun. “It’s about eight degrees cooler here than in Barnsley,” said Lord, 25. “Being at school would have been tough, and it’s a treat they need after three years of disruption.”