Sunday, 13 March 2011

Weston Super Mare, North Somerset


I have moved back up into Somerset to the third and last of a trio of south west English sea side towns (First image 21 June 2009 and all others 8 August 2009). Weston Super Mare was a small village from Iron Age times until the arrival of the railway in 1841 and the subsequent Victorian tourist boom.


Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who I talked about in an earlier post ("Bristol Maritime History..."), lived with his family on the street shown above while he supervised the extension of his railway south from Bristol.


Weston Super Mare became so popular that Birnbeck pier was built behind the original area of holiday activity shown in the title image. Sadly the listed building that originally hosted the arrival of miners and their families on vacation to the town from South Wales, which was opened to the public in 1867, finally closed due to safety concerns in 1994.
However due to the distant position of these facilities, the trade of town centre shopkeepers was not as great as what it could be.... a second and more central pier was planned and finally opened in 1904...

A second pier closed to the public... empty pier
In more recent times (28 July 2008), it was thought that one of the English seaside "delicacies"... a bag of chips may have had something to do with an extensive fire that destroyed the historic building at the end of the pier within 2 hours. However a chip pan fire was ruled out and it was an electrical fault with similar equipment. It was said that by the time 11 fire engines and 80 firefighters arrived on the scene, the heat was so intense that they were unable to get to within 60 metres of the early morning fire.



Due to the fluctuating tides of the Bristol Channel and the levelness of the sand, the seafront and beach is extensive at a distance of about 1 mile out to sea at low tide.


At the end of an extensive promenade lawned area, Pier square connects the Grand Pier to the town centre and has in itself a small but maybe not insignificant history in the development of the town. At the birth of the tourist industry in Weston, a project was conceived to turn wild sand dunes in this area (difficult to believe when you see the beach now !!) into lawns and parkland. Opposition to this plan held out for 40 years until approval was given for the 3 miles of sea wall and promenade gardens. Originally the area was for the private use of the residents of this street but was eventually opened to the general public in 1910. The Boy and Serpent fountain from the Coalbrookdale Iron company in Shropshire was donated 3 years later by a little known or documented Thomas MacFarlane. It seems that Mr MacFarlane had an interest in promoting trade by improving the town.
2010 was another milestone in turning back the clock in trying to revive the fortunes of an ailing seaside town when the great grand daughter of Mr MacFarlane unveiled the restored fountain in the same year that the £3.9 million "GRAND PIER" . The pier was re-opened on 23rd October 2010 to 52,000 visitors.


My many visits over the previous few years were unusual in that I didn't follow the afore mentioned town planners ideals by visiting both the sea and the town centre on the same day. On this, my last occasion, I only visited both to visually document the empty pier whilst purchasing some essential shopping supplies.... only to discover something more interesting described later in the post. The High street is a fairly standard affair where the shoppers can be occasionally entertained by other means than the chain stores.

The most expensive bus stop you've ever seen
In order to revitalise the fortunes of the town centre, a piece of public art was constructed in 2006 called Silica. The 26 metre structure costing £280,000 was a source of confusion to residents as they didn't know exactly what it was meant to be.... a carrot, a spaceship. It was actually supposed to be man's harmony with the sea ... I think I'll stick with the spaceship idea and send the planners up in it !!
I only mentioned this building once to the people I knew in the area who paid their council tax to this authority, the very thought of it annoyed them as they said project was funded with public money.

2009/2010 grand pier substitute attraction.... view of the seafront construction work.

Although the town has suffered as a tourist destination along with all other British seaside resorts since the 1970's thanks to the cheap European budget holiday, business as you can see from this post is ticking over thanks to innovations that keep the place alive even if the majority seem to be local weekend or  daytrippers.

An amazing seafront attraction is the sand sculpture exhibition that seems to be open for most of the summer ...

WSM seafront

sand copy, originals in the background
Exploring the exhibition !!

Deja Vu ......   familiar ?? !

maintenance in progress... over use or trying to get comfortable

sand bound

Virtual donkey rides

2009 fish theme

err... it wasn't to be for me though

Lastly this man and all this walking and talking has tempted me to do the ultimate seaside thing of finishing off with an ice cream. Oh I've just been reminded, it's March... ahh well, the summer will soon be here.


19 comments:

  1. Truly amazing sand sculptures!

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  2. I like the sand sculptures.

    Your photos brighten my day. Seeing photographs so full of sunshine nowadays will make me smile.

    That 26 metre structure intrigued me too. So, its not a carrot or a spaceship. Hmmmm...

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  3. Buongiorno J, I am very impressed by the perfection of the sand sculpture, compliments to the artists!
    Have a good week!

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  4. The sand sculptures are fantastic, and I would love to visit the seaside and walk along that extensive beach. But the rest of it? I don't like to see villages turned into carnivals. I don't mean that to sound so harsh. It's just that there's so much natural beauty, it seems a shame to spoil it, especially at taxpayer expense! I wonder how the natives felt when the railway first came to the village. Reminds me of the movie Cranford

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  5. I 'put my eyes' on three favourite pictures: the firefighter carriage against the sea-beach background, the saxofonist, and the sand exihibit of virtual donkey rides.
    In fact, all the pictures are really very attractive!

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  6. I really enjoyed the walk with you! Lovely place.
    The sand sculptures are terrific! I saw the exhibition of sand sculptures in Berlin once, but at the seaside they seem more appropriate:)

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  7. I just love this town! The Silica is very unusual and the sand sculptures are magnificent. Thanks for the tour - I enjoyed it.

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  8. Great sand sculptures.....
    I was there about four years ago...It was at the start of a 5 days backpack to the subject of your last post.. Weymouth. I called it a west country mini coast to coast.

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  9. Many aspects and views of the terrific place. Great shots as usual!

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  10. Great photos and you captured the spirit of the town so well. Sand sculptures were great. You were fortunate to have the sun shine while you were there.

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  11. Lovely post, J_on_tour! The bus stop is interesting but not worth it's money...I liked the sand sculptures instead!

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  12. Again a place I have never explored......Thanks I'll put it on the list. The sculpture is ridiculous but the sand sculptures brilliant.

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  13. Catching up on your tours... have actually visited Sidmouth and Weymouth in reality and enjoyed your pictures. But alas! I missed the Giant Carrot of Weston Super Mare!

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  14. Great post J!
    All my life I haven't seen pictures of
    sand sculptures.
    Amazing!

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  15. Always great to see some western place, so nice!
    Make me wanna travel again! ^.^

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  16. See your wonderful post is like a holiday trip:-)) Hugs from Luzia.

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  17. I'm not sure if you're into MTV's Jersey Shore... but I grew up vacationing at the Jersey Shore (Seaside Heights where the show is filmed, to be exact) and these photos remind me of how it USED to be! Now it's been Snookie-fied.

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  18. As soon as one of my favorite song is 'Dust in The Wind' (Kansas) for sure this post is one that I like the most!...not because the joy I found on the promenade or in that song on the saxophone, but because somebody gave a status to that sand. Sculpture in sand! Is like in our life...only that everything is consumed faster...everything exist until the wind blows!

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  19. Farmchick... thanks, I've seen sand sculptures before but never on a scale like this.

    Rizalenio... Thanks, I am pleased these photos brought you pleasure.

    Sciarada... Thanks, there seemed to be a lot of work in the sculptures, I could only show you a small amount of it here.

    Cranberry Morning... Thanks, Weston Super Mare is a strange place in that it has different uses for many people groups. I was here on many occasions and was just taken around the shops. Day visitors would use the beach whereas locals might just sit on the grass and watch from afar. As a sea front destination, it is probably more for young families although the local shopper rarely walks two blocks down to find it.

    DUTA... Thanks. I wonder what the owner of the firefighting carriage thought after the pier building was burnt down. Poignant indeed.

    Joo... Thanks, Yes the sounds of the sea and the atmosphere made the sculptures seem authentic.

    Sweet Virginia Breeze, Thanks, I am pleased you enjoyed the variety of this post.

    Trevor Woodford... Thanks, your mini coast to coast backpack sounds like a great trip.

    Phivos Nicolaides... Thanks once again for your nice comments.

    Midwest to Midlands... Thanks, I was only ever taken to WSM when it was sunny, rainy days we went elsewhere. I don't think my guide (who originally came from WSM) knew too much about the sand sculpture exhibition in previous years.

    Travelling Hawk... Thanks, I agree with you about the bus stop. It has nothing to do with the sea and a first viewing and thoughts in real life are "what's that?!"

    Adrian... Thanks, Not quite your kind of place though. I don't think you'll be seeing any more WSM images on my page as I seem to have exhausted it with this one... but never say never, the sculptures are different every year but then again I don't have the same access any more.

    Vicki Lane... Thanks, I would stick with your memories and your choice of places that you have visited :-)

    Monika... Thanks, I originally thought about posting this as two parts but I thought the town part 1 might not be that interesting. I think that the part 2 sand sculptures give it more variety and hold it all together well.

    Raphael Lam... Thanks, pleased to inspire you about travel.. but it has to be said that not every place I photograph and write about are all my recommendations. The sand sculptures are the main thing here for me.

    Luzia... Thanks, You are right, it feels like a holiday trip even though it was a 3/4 day visit.

    Kae Lani... Thanks, I don't know that programme but I looked it up on Youtube to see what you meant.

    Wind... Thanks for your great comment, your words are very deep but very understandable. As a side note, When the band Kansas wrote the song, they had no idea that they would also be consumed by problems and personnel changes with the passage of time that reflects what you said.

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