In the local newspaper tonight we were intrigued by the above headline; we live in a small village, Uphill, which is at the south end of Weston beach, and we’re about a mile from the town of Weston-super-Mare itself. We often walk down to the beach and we can do a circuit, along the beach to the River Axe estuary, along the estuary, across the water meadows, onto the path and back on the other side of Uphill Rhyne (small brook) into the village and home. Going on this route we pass the Yacht Club which is elevated on legs so when the tide is in it’s not flooded. So the Yacht Club, on the beach, is quite near to us.
So what was the news story all about? Well, we went to investigate. It had been a high tide earlier but it was out now so it was quite safe to walk along the beach and round to where the Yacht Club stands. Members of Weston Bay Yacht Club to give it its full name, are complaining that they have to wade through mud to get to the clubhouse because the sand has been washed away from that part of the beach leaving only the y sticky, dangerous, sucking mud. Weston is famous for it – in fact its nick-name is Weston-super-Mud. It is not just the mud; there is, apparently a crevasse has opened up! Every time the tide comes in and then goes out, it’s able to take a lot of the surface sand with it.
Why should the yachties complain? isn’t the sea washing away sand what the sea does all round the coast of our country? Well, there are various events held on the beach over of the year including the Weston Beach Race for motorbikes which involves a course being built to include banks and hillocks of sand, which is moved from one part of the beach to another. The yachties think this causes the erosion which has caused the sand to disappear from this south end of the beach.
I guess it’s no surprise that the Council says it’s nothing to do with the beach race and the sand they do use isn’t taken from that part of the beach and anyway it would cost thousands of quid to rearrange the sand – or ‘reprofile’ the beach. (Reprofile? What a word…) … and anyway, he said, within a few weeks it would all be back to the way it is now because of the tides.
This might just seem as if a load of boating people are making a fuss about access and getting their shoes muddy – well, no. The mud and sand are so soft it is no longer possible to drive on it, which means people can’t move their boats and can’t access their boats. In the club as you would imagine there are toilet facilities which use a septic tank; septic tanks need to be emptied and now the waste disposal lorry can’t get to them.
It’s not only Yacht Club who have difficulties; ordinary people who would normally walk round this way – as we do, no longer have proper access. People who walk their dogs, people who walk themselves, fisher-people and more to the point – emergency services, the coastguard for example don’t have safe access!
One of the people from the Yacht Club who was interviewed said ‘I’ve never seen anything like it before. The sand is always moving, but it’s never made this deep ditch and scoured out so much. It’s from the sea wall down to the sea, so every time the high tide comes in that drags even more sand and mud away. It’s getting deeper and deeper and it’s dangerous.’
This chasm has developed, and this evening when we went down to have a look it was perfectly obvious that the incoming tide and the outgoing waters from the river would dig out more sand just by the action of the currents and the waves. It may have been caused by the amount of rain we have had, and the spring tides and the currents, but who knows whether the sand being taken and the shape of the beach changing has made it worse?