We live by the sea; the River Severn and the River Avon flows into the Bristol Channel just further up the coast so we get a lot of sediment in our sea. Weston-super-Mare has its name because it is right by the sea, on the edge between the North Somerset levels and the actual sea so if you can imagine there’s a great flat area riddled with little streams, rivers, springs, hidden water courses, all flowing down, sometimes under the surface of the land, to flow into the sea along the coast. We do have sand, but we also have a heck of a lot of mud. A geologist will explain more, but if you visit Weston (I hope you will!) you will find a lovely sandy beach and then the muddy bit stretching out into the sea. When the tide is in (twice a day of course – I say this because a lot of visitors don’t realise) there is sea to gambol and play in… when the tide is out, there isn’t.
We have one of the greatest tidal ranges in the world, and when the tide comes in, it’s not only over the surface of the mud/sand, but it comes in under the surface, turning it to sticky jelly, which sucks on your feet and tries to keep you from reaching the safety of the sandy beach. To add to the potential for difficulty and maybe disaster, at the south end of Weston Bay, formerly Glentworth Bay, the River Axe runs into the sea at Uphill, our little village. Being a river which runs through the Levels, it also brings a lot of sediment and alluvium. On th other side of the river mouth is a great promentory called Brean Down, one of the last parts of the Mendip Hills – it looks so near, so tempting, such a place to have an adventure… however, you cannot cross the river, you have to walk four or so miles to a footbridge, or drive twelve miles along country roads and over other bridges to get there.
All along the beach, and at every entrance to the beach there are massive signs warning of the danger – danger to people and danger for cars parked below the tide line. There are beach wardens continually patrolling, but it’s a very long beach and they can’t be everywhere and they are called on for all sorts of things, first aid, lost children, directions, general information, lost dogs…
Despite this, and despite the fact that a dozen or so years ago a father and child drowned trying to walk to Brean Down, and up at the other end of Weston Bay there have been other casualties of people ignoring the warnings and advice, despite this, every year, idiots put themselves and their children at risk.
- 10th July 2018: Rescue crews were reportedly called to Weston-super-Mare after around a dozen people ventured into the mud while the tide was out. Jason Frampton from the seaside town said he saw crews launch a hovercraft while a police helicopter lingered above the mudwalkers. He said: “A North Somerset worker has gone out in a high visibility vest risking his own like to warn them of the dangers.” The fire service also attended the incident on July 10.
- 15th July 2018: “A family of four and their dog have been rescued at Brean Down when they got cut off from the incoming high tides on Saturday evening. BARB Search and Rescue were called at 19:20 BST on Saturday by the daughter who was in a hire car and the rest of the family got stuck on rocks nearby. Brean’s beach warden, David Furber said the family had been walking along the base of the Down. The car could not be saved and was submerged by the tide. “They’d left their car on the beach with a family member – a teenage daughter – and were apparently unaware that tide comes in so far,” added Mr Furber
- 16th July 2018: “A family covered in mud from head to foot were rescued from mud flats by hovercraft. Burnham Area Rescue Boat said they were called to Uphill beach in Weston-super-Mare just after 3.15pm on Sunday. A spokesman said: “The beach warden had spotted four adults and a child wading through sticky mud over half a mile down the beach while attempting to reach the sea at low tide.”
- 16th July 2018: another family rescued from mud on the beach
- Today, 17th July: A man has been rescued after getting stuck in the mud at Weston-super-Mare. The coastguard was alerted at 2pm that he was struggling near the Grand Pier. Coastguard rescue teams, the Burnham Area Rescue Boat (BARB) hovercrafts and the new search and rescue helicopter were all called to assist the man who was knee-deep in the mud. He had been digging for worms for fishing bait when it happened. They used specialist equipment to free the man, which injects air and water around them. He was shaken and exhausted but unharmed.