Weston – Birnbeck Pier Walk – 08.09.2012

We started the second half of our walk after a spot of lunch, near a strange looking bus shelter. In fact this was a public piece of art known as the “Silica”. I was not overly struck by this artwork, but I have now read that the lights on the sculpture at night are programmed to change colour. These are set particularly to mark special occasions or the rise and fall of the tide. That would have been a lovely sight to see 🙂

We left the town centre behind to rejoin the Sea front and continue our walk along the prom. The first building I noticed as we strolled on was the “Winter Gardens Pavilion”. The Winter Gardens and Pavilion were built during the early C20th and officially opened on 14th July, 1927 by Ernest Palmer, deputy chairman of the Great Western Railway. The Pavilion is still used to today for dances, concerts and conferences. It was even used in the 1995 film “Remains of the Day” starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.

We took a leisurely pace for a while with our walk to enjoy the lovely view across the bay. Weston bay overlooks two particular islands, Flat Holm and Steep Holm. We spotted the passenger boats which would have taken us across to these lovely islands. They run to a strict timetable due to the Weston Tide, it would not have been today as the tide was out. Steep Holm is a privately owned island and holds quite a history with the remains of C12th Augustinian priory and was later fortified by the Victorians. Flat Holm, although it is near to the English coast, is officially run by Cardiff Council and encourages educational trips as well as visitors to enjoy the island 🙂

From 2012 – 08.09.2012 – Weston – Birnbeck Pier

We continued on our walk on to Knightstone Island. The “Island” seems to have some lovely and very expensive looking flats that now seem to have been built here. A far cry from what the original buildings were used for. During 1828, Dr Edward Long Fox purchased the island and where he built “Medicinal baths”. It seems that during the late C18th / early C19th that bathing was deemed good for the health, as discovered Lord Churston’s Bathing house in Devon which may have been used for similar health purposes! (if not just for fun!)

As we came around the Island we found a walkway, which seemed to create an artificial lake, which popularly known as “Marine Lake”. Residents and Day trippers alike both wanted to be able to regularly bathe in the sea at Weston, but due to the large tidal range that occurs here this was rather difficult. Someone had the ingenious idea of creating an artificial lake by the addition of building a causeway in 1928 to ensure that the tide was permanently in! They also devised a filtering system to ensure that the water did not end up stagnant.

The lake was popular in its heyday with a bandstand was built nearby, a diving stage, slides, bathing tents were all added, even boating on the lake took place. In 1937 there was an addition of an Art Deco colonnaded walkway, changing rooms and even a nearby music pavilion. We enjoyed walking along the causeway as it felt a bit surreal with walking with the water one side and the tide completely out on the other!

From 2012 – 08.09.2012 – Weston – Birnbeck Pier

Once we left the causeway behind, we carried along the seafront. I came across an interesting Wooden Sculpture, which I would like to find out more about? I am unsure of the sculptor, so if any one can help I would appreciate it as I am very curious. Our walk then took us past a small shop. The shop stocked everything to do with the RNLI, the “Royal National Lifeboat Institution”. However, there was no sign as to where the actual life boat station was actually based!

As we turned the corner, we saw another pier home into view. This pier did not look as busy or as modern as the “Grand Pier” that we had just seen. I was quite keen to carry on and investigate it. As we turned the corner we were able to see “Birnbeck pier” properly. The first thing that I noticed about the pier was it’s sad and sorry state. It still seems to be standing and as far as I can see and have read the RNLI station is actually based on the Island. The lifeboat station was built in 1882 quite a while after the Pier was built which was built in 1867. I think I saw a lifeboat but I was not too sure, as there were lots of signs saying keep out 😦

The pier was designed by Eugenius Birch who designed 14 in total including one in Margate and West Pier in Brighton. Sadly this is the last remaining example. The pier suffered when the “Grand Pier” had a funfair added with all the new entertainments and the main attention of visitors shifted back to the town. The pier sadly suffered decline ever since. Birnbeck is the only pier in the world which is joined to an island, and it’s one of the oldest piers in the country. I seriously hope there are people out there who want to save this pier! Luckily we found “Pier View”, which is run by a local society wanting to save it 🙂

From 2012 – 08.09.2012 – Weston – Birnbeck Pier

This is the second pier that I have discovered like this – we found Hastings Pier in a bad way too 😦 . We couldn’t explore the area much more, as everything seemed fenced off, which is a shame really as I would like to have walked further along the seafront. Perhaps this will be rectified one day. We therefore turned back and retraced our steps back along the seafront and headed back towards Weston.

As we strolled along we found a commemorative stone which we did not notice previously. It was dedicated to a Miss Kathleen Thomas who was the first woman to swim the Bristol Channel from Penarth to Weston Super Mare, in 1927. The local paper picked up on the story that she was going to attempt the swim and crowds of locals lined the beach to cheer her on. It took her 7 hours and 20 minutes to complete the task and when she reached Weston she was welcomed by cheering crowds. What a fantastic achievement!

We continued to wander back along the seafront and to the “Grand Pier” which we decided to walk along. This pier, as I said in previous blog, has just undergone a restoration and when we entered the pavilion at the end of the pier, we were extremely surprised how much has been packed in such a small space! Although it was exciting to the inside, I will admit to walk outside and be at the end of the pier to look at the view was lovely too. We left the pier behind and headed into town and towards station where we were going to end our walk.

As we walked into Surburbia and left the seafront behind, we saw a large floral display with a steam train! This was originally the “Floral Clock” which was built in 1935. The train commemorated the site had been Weston’s first railway station. During WW1 a large tank was installed in the Parade, but by the 1930’s it fell rusty and the residents no longer wanted a reminder of the war so they wanted it removed. When it was dismantled the metal was used to build a beautiful floral clock 🙂 In later years a “cuckoo” was added, but all that remains is a small wooden hut! Shame as I would like to have seen it!

We turned off here to the station and finished our walk for the day. For the afternoon stroll photographs , please click on the photo below –

2012 – 08.09.2012 – Weston – Birnbeck Pier

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One response to “Weston – Birnbeck Pier Walk – 08.09.2012

  1. Pingback: Weymouth Walk – 13.10.2012 « Karen's Sponsored Walks

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