The River Axe flows into the Severn Estuary in our village of Uphill. It rises not that far from where it flows into the sea, at Wookey Hole which is a series of caves in the Mendips. In a straight line it is just over fifteen miles from Wookey to Uphill, but the course of the river wiggles and winds through many small villages which were once quite important in the life of the river. One major port is now just a farm, that’s the only thing which remains of the once bustling wharves of Rackley, ships from Wales, Cornwall, France and Holland no longer visit, and haven’t done for over a century. The Axe is now just a small river and only the smallest of craft could navigate it, although where it runs into the sea the yacht owners ‘park’ their boats.
The distance between the north Uphill side of the river flowing into the sea and the southern bank of Brean is not very great. Brean is a long thin coastal village, mainly consisting of caravan parks, static homes and shops serving all the holiday makers who come to enjoy the fine sands. The distance across the river is not great here, but it is extremely, extremely dangerous because of the soft sinking mud and the treacherous currents and fast tidal flow.
When we go for a little walk, we often go down to the beach and then take a circular route along the north side of the Axe, and round back to the boatyard and home. We are very used to looking across to the south side and seeing the silhouette of the holiday homes, and the great rising peninsular of Brean Down, the last bit of the Mendip Hills attached to the mainland. Yesterday we drove to Brean (eight miles by road – if the ferry across the Axe was still in use it would be less than a quarter of a mile, sadly the last ferry-man went some years ago) It was amazing looking back to Uphill across the mouth of the river… we could see the quarry and the boatyard, and the church on the hill… an extraordinary change of perspective of our little village.