Wide Open

When the tide is out, there’s plenty of space to think. Exmoor in the haze, miles to walk, and because of the sharp wind, nobody about. Winter in a seaside town can seem bleak, but it has such views and sunsets here on the West coast of England.

On clear days like this you see across the Bristol channel to Wales, the Brecon Beacons, with this cloudscape for added drama. I love the shades of blue, the detail in the clouds.

After the three storms in quick succession, all rolling up the Severn, creating havoc, it’s nice to look back on quieter times. This past Saturday we had the first face to face meeting of our poetry group. You forget how good it is to listen, in person to people reading for the pleasure of sharing.

I hope your week is good, and you are staying safe out there.

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A walk on a Victorian Seafront, part 2

The second part of my stroll around Weston-super-Mare leads us up into Weston Woods, and Worlebury Hill.

The Hillside Path to Worlebury Hill.
The Hillside Path to Worlebury Hill.

Sand Bay from Worlebury Hill
Sand Bay from Worlebury Hill

As you saw in the previous post, part of the hill has the remains of an Iron Age fort and settlement. The hill dominates the area, with steep sides and access only easy from one side. Which made it perfect for purpose. It was in the early Victorian era that the woods were planted and managed as a resource which later fell into decline. The woods today are being managed again and used for many purposes alongside the wood itself. Youth work, training courses being two of the most popular.

Frost in the shadow of the hill.
Frost in the shadow of the hill.

Steps leading to the Fort
Steps leading to the Fort

Since the wood has been thinned there a spaces now where the sun will catch nature and light it up.

Tree detail
Tree detail

These mixed woods are crisscrossed by tracks trails and it is easy to wander for hours through the mix of Oak, Ash, Yew and pine trees. With the reinstatement of active management the wildlife and flora has also enjoyed a resurgence. It is a semi-wild haven for Small Deer, mammals, and birds. Although they are good at staying hidden in such a small and well used piece of countryside. The tracks they leave are often obliterated by us clumpy humans but you can find them if you look carefully.

Badger Track
Badger Track

Sunny Glade
Sunny Glade

My choice of path this time led me virtually straight up one side and back down the other, using the quarry path to return to company of man and houses. I am a believer in making people use common sense. It seems we are breeding it out these days. In my opinion if a sign tells you there is a cliff, and it is dangerous you should exercise care. If not and you fall off, well you should have taken more care. I don’t think we should put up massive fences “Just in Case” I’ll probably get some flack, but there you go. I don’t like wind farms either and think we should use more nuclear plants. I can probably upset some more people so I’ll leave it there for the moment.

Quarry Fence
Quarry Fence

I'll admit it's a big drop!
I'll admit it's a big drop!

After the woods you come down to Grove Park, a fine park near the town centre. with lots of space for kids to run around, a bandstand for traditional summer concerts in the open air. Weston, has a number of open parks, many bequeathed to the town by philanthropists for the use and enjoyment of the population. This has meant they can’t be sold for building. A great move to keep some fresh spaces in the area. So many seaside towns have been buried under rafts of development that they lose any character they once had.

Quarryside views
Quarryside views

Park Views
Park Views

Park Views II
Park Views II

Open spaces
Open spaces

Open spaces
Open spaces

These spaces along with the architecture that defines the era keeps Weston in a bit of a time warp. Sometimes holding back the possibilities. It is a fine line to tread.

Fencepost Detail
Fencepost Detail

The Old Pier, the ferry from Cardiff docked here, once upon a time.
The Old Pier, the ferry from Cardiff docked here, once upon a time.

Sometimes we forget to look about as we walk along doing the things we need to do to live in the modern world, if you take the time for example to look up as you walk down any modern High Street you may be surprised by what you see.

History above the shops
History above the shops

The Old Post Office, detail.
The Old Post Office, detail.

I love the detail put into such simple things. Like this school. They have realised again how important environment is for learning, and have started creating new schools that engender a sense of pride in students, and so encourages learning.

School Buildings
School Buildings

Victorian Terrace
Victorian Terrace

A seaside corner, with arcade and café
A seaside corner, with arcade and café

A Victorian Crescent overlooking the sea.
A Victorian Crescent overlooking the sea.

The building pictured above is Daunceys Hotel, where my wife and I spent our first married night together, happy memories.

An Abandoned Hotel, The Grand Central.
An Abandoned Hotel, The Grand Central.

The nature of English towns changes all the time, not always for the better. I hope we can preserve some of the more interesting objects for the future. But not be held back by fear of change. In both our lives and our environment. One of the interesting things about how Victorian buildings were created is that many came from a set of ready-made plans, these then got adjusted to fit on site by the Master Builder. Many layouts are the same or similar, but the customer could order extras, like a loft room or extra detailing around windows.

I hope you have enjoyed a little trip around an old English seaside town. It’s always a pleasure to walk and try to find details I’ve missed before, to look with fresh eyes at what is around. However, no trip to an English town would be complete without a bag of Fish and Chips, especially in a seaside town. You can’t beat them as you walk along the Prom, eating with your fingers and fighting of the seagulls.

Fish and Chips
Fish and Chips

A walk on a Victorian Seafront, part 1

This weekend has been a busy one, My wife has gone into hospital to have a hip replacement. So Saturday was spent there waiting for things to happen, followed by waiting for things to finish. A long day but it seems to have gone well. Visiting times are in the afternoons so, to distract myself I took a trip to Weston-super-Mare, a seaside town on the west coast of England. It is mostly Victorian in origin, although its history does stretch back to the Iron Age with the hill fort on top of Worlebury hill.

The vague remains of Worlebury Hill Fort
The vague remains of Worlebury Hill Fort

This is part of a group based on the low summits around Somerset.

I started out on the promenade, walking with the sea (or Bristol Channel to be correct) on one side and the Victorian mansions on the other. There have been many changes over the years, and these houses have withstood the elements for over one hundred years in many cases. The seafront area however has recently been renovated. Although many of the Victorian shelters are still standing.

Victorian Shelter
Victorian Shelter

Old and New, side by side.
Old and New, side by side.

Shelter, seaward side.
Shelter, seaward side.

The Tropicana
The Tropicana

The Tropicana, Weston’s seafront Lido has, unfortunately, been left to rot by successive councils who seem unable to make any sort of sensible decision about what to do with the old place. Such a fantastic piece of architecture, and all that seems to be done is to knock bits down because they have become unsafe. Such a shame for an interesting old building.

The rest of the seafront some two miles of sandy beach stretches away dotted with huts and interesting spots and dots.

Big Sky and Beach
Big Sky and Beach

Weston has one of the largest tidal ranges in the world, and due to its position at the mouth of the River Severn, is well-known for the mud and sinking sand exposed at low tide.

The Promenade
The Promenade

Pier post and sand
Pier post and sand

As with any beach there are always things of interest, and places to go, come rain or shine. It is always a pleasure to stroll along, watching for the small details that we generally walk past without seeing. The patterns created by posts on the beach. The sea wall erosion that has made wonderful textured rocks that nobody can resist dragging a hand along as they walk. All part of the meeting of man and sea. The craftsmanship in the small details of the beach-front buildings is so clever, we would struggle to recreate it today.

Café and toilet detail.
Café and toilet detail.

Beach cabins
Beach cabins

Flood Barrier detail
Flood Barrier detail

But when we do attempt to produce our own interpretation of those details, craftsmen can come up with some special results. As on one of the main flood barriers on the front.

Promenade detail
Promenade detail

Sandy Beach
Sandy Beach

The Beach Arch
The Beach Arch

The Arch is designed to draw the eye out across the bay and onto Brean Down, the last landfall of the Mendip hills. It also frames the landward woods of Worlebury if you look back from the sea.

Promenade
Promenade

Promenade Studs, detail
Promenade Studs, detail

Even these studs put in to mark the pelican crossing add something to the scheme. A crossing of lines that draws the eye as the sunlight catches them at certain times of the day and like the sun drifting over the wet sands, marking out the patterns on the beach, it adds to the magic of the promenade.

Hazy winter sun on the beach.
Hazy winter sun on the beach.

Windswept Trees
Windswept Trees

Footprints and Reflections
Footprints and Reflections

The rocky end to the beach
The rocky end to the beach

Sea Wall, detail.
Sea Wall, detail.

Sea Wall Detail II
Sea Wall Detail II

Coast Rocks, detail.
Coast Rocks, detail.

Next post I will continue my walk around the coast and up into the woods overlooking Weston Bay and the land around. Before dropping down into the town itself.