There’s nothing quite like the potent mix of coastal landscape, seaside style, food culture, and easygoing vibes of a beach town. As part of a series exploring exotic beach scenes, we asked photographer Rebecca Zephyr Thomas about Lyme Regis in Devon.

Interview by Rose Hoare, photos by Rebecca Zephyr Thomas

1972: Why Lyme Regis? 

RZT: I went to take photos at chef Mark Hix's food festival, Food Rocks, for a long weekend in high summer. Hix is one of the UK's top chefs and he grew up in Devon so the area is very close to his heart. I was partly there for work but I was also having fun and drinking a lot of cocktails. 

1972: What was the weather like there? 

RZT: I had to buy a new dress from a beach shop because I’d brought jeans and it was too hot to wear them. That's England, though: keep your weather expectations low and you can only be pleasantly surprised.

1972: Did you swim? 

RZT: I didn’t, but there were plenty of other people paddling in the sea or going out on the water in small sailboats. Lyme Regis has a chocolate box prettiness. All the old houses on the beachfront are painted different pastel colours, and I love seaside tackiness in the UK — old-fashioned tea shops and shops selling plastic beach balls. 

1972: What kind of people were there?

RZT: Lyme Regis is traditionally a retiree’s town, but Food Rocks coincided with an annual event where people on the beach play their guitars all at the same time. The year I went, the lead singer of Deep Purple was leading a guitar group that played “Smoke on the Water” with 2000 other players joining in, so the crowd was pretty mixed — some younger rock fans and older heavy metallers.


1972: What did you eat and drink? 

RZT: A lot! There was a vodka and homemade lemonade tent that had really comfortable arm chairs, and pizza from a oven shaped like a UFO designed by Dan Chadwick, and a very boozy late dinner at the Hix Oyster and Fish House by the beach.

1972: How did it compare to New Zealand’s beaches?

RZT: There were people everywhere, and lots of shops, cafes and pubs. It was totally different from our secluded beaches. I loved the faded, slightly melancholy vibe, like going back in time to the 1950s.