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Southend Pier
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England’s stunning official ‘pier of the year’ basically goes on for ever

The 1.3-mile-long structure has survived fires, storms and collisions

Written by
Henrietta Taylor

In England, there are three things we love unquestioningly: pubs, pies and piers. And piers, those long, woody stretches scaling our shores, have been a mainstay of the classic English holiday long before Center Parcs and even Butlins arrived on the scene. But with 57 dotted around the country, it’s difficult to know which of these elegant constructions are worth visiting as a priority.

Fortunately, The National Pier Society has just named 2023’s official Pier of the Year. Swayed by the pier’s two new electric trains, record number of visitors (412,300) and the enthusiasm of its volunteers, it handed the coveted prize to Southend Pier in Southend-on-Sea. It was also praised for how it repurposed old train carriages as seating. 

Meanwhile, Norfolk’s Cromer Pier bagged second place, followed by Brighton Palace Pier in third. 

Southend’s win was a no-brainer, really. The city’s pier first opened nearly two centuries ago, in 1830, and since then has become the longest pleasure pier in the world, having been repeatedly extended to accommodate more boats at low tide – eventually stretching to 1.3 miles. Peppered with cheerfully painted beach huts and offering train rides and crazy golf, it’s quite the tourist destination.

Even King Charles III and soon-to-be Queen Camilla are fans. Last year, the royal pair took a trip east to unveil one of the pier’s trains to celebrate Southend’s new city status (awarded in the wake of the murder of local MP David Amess, who had long campaigned for the upgrade).

Tim Wardley, National Pier Society chairman, said: ‘Southend Pier is a true survivor, having withstood storms, fires, collisions and threats of closure to transform into the vital contributor to the resort’s tourism and leisure economy it has become today.’

ICYMI: These are the worst beaches for sewage dumping in England.

Plus: Driverless buses have officially arrived in the UK.

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