We are so lucky to live near the sea. It meant that, when the arrival of October also heralded a few bonus days of glorious sunshine, we headed straight for the beach.
Knoll Beach, to be precise, nestled in the Purbecks and a 30-minute drive (plus short ferry ride) away from home. If you are ever that way, do go. It is owned by the National Trust so you have to pay but what you get is a wonderful stretch of sand with a naturally wild backdrop and views over to the Old Harry Rocks on one side and Bournemouth's distant skyline on the other.
The little man was in his element, busily clambering in and out of other children's beach excavations, munching cucumber sandwiches whenever the desire took him and gathering up great fistfuls of gloopy seaweed, flicking it about a bit to remove any excess wet sand before returning it to the waters it had come from. The National Trust should put him on their wage sheet as our little patch was neat as a new pin by the time we had left.
So what tips did I pick up for the perfect, hassle-free day at the seaside? (I know summer has probably been and gone but there's always next year):
Number one. Always put suncream on little arms, legs and face etc while in the car and not on the beach when, with their playground stretching out as far as the eye can see, the last thing they want is to be clamped down and smothered in Factor 50. It also gives it time to dry. Sand-encrusted toddler is not a good look.
Number two. Invest in one of those half-dome tents with special sand pockets to anchor it down; it might have been sunny but this is Blighty and the breeze was up. This gave us a lovely shady spot to shelter, read books and change under but, more importantly, it acted as a rather upmarket windbreak - essential for all days out on the UK coastline. Ours can be zipped up and is just large enough to take a small child, several large adults, chairs, rugs, picnic hamper and towels, if the heavens open.
Number three. If you can, bring reinforcements. For me this was the little man's grandparents who were on hand to help with the standing-up nappy change (always awkward), the erection of aforementioned tent, and to gamely share the shiftwork following the little man around and making sure he didn't toddle into the sea and all the way to France.