Thursday 25 September 2014


Light Railway : Light Houses : Life Boats
The Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway [S&D] ran from Evercreech Junction to Burnham, crossing the main GWR line from Bristol to Exeter at Highbridge. The S&D has its own platform and building at Highbridge Station ...
... and the line crossed the GWR on the level, diagonally, under the road bridge on Market Street.
Nothing remains of the junction or the platforms.
At the end of Newtown Road (still in Highbridge) the line of the track is very obvious ...
... whilst the gently curving Marine Drive at Burnham-on-Sea is built on the former track bed.
The terminus at Burnham has almost completely disappeared. 
The whitewashed building on the right, latterly a scout hut, still stands as a bar bistro.
Ironically, Burnham's bus terminus is on Pier Street next to the Morrison's supermarket which stands at the end of the former passenger line. At one time the track continued on to a long sloping jetty ...
... across the sands, allowing vessels from South Wales to dock and transfer their loads. The jetty was (and is) surely too steep for loco haulage so it is likely that trucks were hauled by horse or manpower from boat to goods yard. Perhaps some S&D expert can confirm this (or otherwise!).
Back in those days, a parking area for the boats had to be dredged regularly and docking was only possible at higher tide levels. Apparently sails to or from Cardiff were popular in the summer months. Most S&D goods, however, were shipped from a wharf at Highbridge. Read more (here)

Along with other operators, the S&D also operated passenger ferry services from the pier at Burnham to Cardiff. These started on the 3rd of May 1858, being run by a subsidiary company, The Burnham Tidal Harbour Company, sharing offices and officials with the Somerset Central Railway. These services continued until 1888.

And it is outside Morrisons that fbb was waiting for his bus interchange to press on to Weston-super-Mare. There is a substantial people shelter ...
... but with no sign of a bus stop pole or flag.
Aha! There is a timetable frame up ahead, cunningly designed as a direction sign; hardly a good advertisemnet for bus travel. It was at this stop that fbb arrived from Bridgwater on Webberbus service 75 ...
... and departed thence on the 76 "fast" to Weston-super-Mare.
A wander across the road to the stops for the other direction revealed the expected Webber timetables but, amazingly, fbb also espied (and you're not going to believe this) a Buses of Somerset timetable. Not a departure list, but a real, live, helpful timetable.
So it can be done. This panel is an enlarged extract from the printed timetable book; an out of date timetable book to be sure but, fortuitously, the 15 minute frequency between Taunton and Bridgwater was added to the existing 30 minute frequency of the full route. So the times are still correct and the improvements don't affect journeys to or from Burnham-on-Sea.

The town itself is, like so many small UK resorts, "tired" - but well worth a visit. Points of interest include three lighthouses; one is (the Low lighthouse, 1832) wooden and built on stilts ...
... one built by a vicar near the church (1801) ...
... and subsequently reduced in height. The third is conventially tall (hence it's name; the "High" lighthouse, 1830s) and used to be open to the public.
It is now a private house. Only the "Low" light is now operational; big boats no longer use the treacherous approaches to the River Parrett.

Another "oddity", but an essential one on account of large expanses of mudflats often engulfed by high-speed tides, are the lifeboats and rescue craft. There are conventional inshore rescue craft ...
... and hovercraft.
Striding out enthusiastically over the mudflats can be tempting, but the warning signs are there for a a purpose. Those channels fill quickly as the tide comes in and it is all-to-easy to get trapped.
The highest difference between low and high tide recorded at Burnham is 46½ feet. Wow! That's higher than 3 double deck buses parked** on top of one another.
Take a bus ride - it's safer!

** Interesting but totally irrelevant snippet: back in the happy Halcyon days of Sheffield Transport Department, buses were never "parked", they were always "stacked".

P.S. Proposals to start a 21st century version of a similar ferry service, called Severnlink and announced in 2009, fizzled out as reported (here). Below, from YouTube, is their boat on test at Ilfracombe in 2010.
The vessel was FastCat Ryde from the Wightlink passenger ferry service. The vessel was subsequently sold to a Russian ferry company.

 Next bus blog : Friday 26th September 


  1. The other clue to the bus stop was the raised kerb - I've found otherwise unmarked stops in South Wales the same way.
    However, the photo beautifully illustrates that no-one involved in its approval and construction has the faintest idea of how a bus works - it is simply impossible for a bus to ever stop with its doors close and parallel to the kerb (unless it was left hand drive....).
    Whether it was funded by Morrisons or by the public purse, it is a complete waste of money, and sadly too typical of examples all round the country.

  2. Thanks MofK. I had not spotted the useless raised kerb! Probably because I am not yet in need of same. Porobably not long until I am!!