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Sheila's Journey to Birnbeck

Sheila Elizabeth Wood

In all normal circumstances the Birnbeck Regeneration Trust would try to deter the general public from making the short crossing to Birnbeck Island via the low-tide causeway. Birnbeck does not welcome the unwary and can be an extremely dangerous place to visit. We are fully aware of the island's attraction, and we make our best efforts to watch over all who take it upon themselves to see the place first-hand at particularly low tides, as was the case in this instance. We can only do this when we have volunteers at Pier View, or have others who can continuously watch our webcam and CCTV system.

We normally become quickly aware of many of the photographs and videos taken of Birnbeck which are then regularly posted to social media sites, particularly locally-based ones. The following set of videos are no exception to this.

For the sake of the safety of the general public we would prefer to highlight some of the best work in this area in order to make other folk aware that they will not be the first to attempt to carry out such an adventure. We would be much happier if individuals seeing these films were to content themselves having viewed them here, and then decided that they then have no particular need to repeat the same journey in person.

These films, by Sheila Elizabeth Wood, capture the essence of much of Birnbeck as it stand today. We embed them here with her permission. We thank her for them.

As Sheila notes in the videos, there are numerous hazards associated with visiting the island. She particularly mentions the tides and being aware of their states, as well as the mud and the treacherous seaweed towards the mainland. Beyond this there are risks at the slipway, the surface of which becomes just like ice when the algea on it gets wet from the tide as well as the rain. There are risks from falling metalwork, risks from falls and risks from entering the collapsing structures there, to name just a few. We can easily imagine a scenario where someone quite simply slips and breaks a bone, perhaps unseen from afar, especially if they were to be alone. They might well break their phone/camera in the fall as well. And they couldn't have counted on a particularly good mobile signal out there anyway.

We, the Birnbeck Regeneration Trust, by means of videos like the ones below, would like at least to warn the general public about the dangers that exist on and around the island. We can't stop people going over - the very best we can do is to advise about the risks, and countenance against visiting personally - with the hope that viewing the place in this way on the website here will go at least someway to sating the widespread curiosity about Birnbeck that otherwise exists locally.

The RNLI have been called out far too many times already.

Birnbeck Pier Beach Views, Part I, 'The Start of A Walk Out' by Sheila, Oct 17th 2016
(5.18)


https://youtu.be/3kBnsscMA_s

The tide had just started to go out revealing the pathway-----the perfect conditions for exploring for the first time the pathway out to the Pier. I felt like I was about to walk on the 'Moon' unknown and dangerous territory--sacred ground for the Victorian Pier---a place I actually walked upon 20-30 years ago when it was a working pier--full of joy--where people strolled along the walkway. Now abandoned, left to decay, to oxidate as the iron turns to rust---its almost a pilgrimage to visit here with the spirits of so many long gone joining me on this magical walk----peaceful as the sea ebbs away out to sea, where the seagulls wait for opportunities to steal from the shore nets now exposed.

Birnbeck Pier Beach Views, Part II, 'Along The Swan Neck Pathway' by Sheila, October 17th 2016
(9.31)


https://youtu.be/tutEq64DbwQ

Well I am on my way now scanning the path ahead for fossils and treasure---its so exciting but I am aware of the dangers of the sea BUT the tide is just going out so I feel confident as I see the Pier approaching---my imagination 'kicks in' and I can remember when it was busy, colourful with laughter and arcade noises echoing across the bay. I spot the fisherman who come to check their nets now that the tide is taking the sea out to sea.

Birnbeck Pier Beach Views, Part III, ' Fishermen & Seagulls' by Sheila 27th October 2016
(13.46)


https://youtu.be/hPpr3cKNbwo

Some good photo shots of the WSM fishermen as they check their nets now that the tide is receding---the seagulls gather hopefully for a meal---The Pier and Birnbeck Island is getting closer as I gradually make my way along the 'Swan-Neck' route. Such a great feeling being able to explore the pier from here --its like an adventure for a pensioner----he he !!!! Retirement is like a 2nd childhood in many ways--a time to be free again, unburdened in many ways--able to play in the sunshine--walk and breathe with no such thing as time except for Tide tables. I blame it on Enid Blyton and the 'Famous Five Books' that I read as a child all those moons ago----

Birnbeck Pier Views From the Beach, Part IV, 'The Sad Derelict Victorian Pier' by Sheila, Oct 17th
(13.20)


https://youtu.be/1CncvEIAm90

This was such a brilliant visit being able to get close ups of the Pier and its Victorian structures---A 'Brunel' strength dominates the skyline as this majestic Pier expresses itself as it stands the test of time---this pier also looks fragile and spindly but for over 100 years has braced itself against horrendous storms and hurricane like winds when the sea appears to boil and rise up--crashing and smashing down on the structures---this wild relationship like the fulcrum is changing as the imbalance in the form of erosion takes hold.

Birnbeck Pier Beach Views, Part V, 'The Old Life Boat Slipway' by Sheila, October 17th 2016
(6.01)


https://youtu.be/KEuyiLNBziw

The Life Boat slipway stands proud but also looks sad---no longer part of the RNLI--like a giant, a Neptune at rest for now---this structure looked very sturdy with its massive pillars firm and strong. ? its future

Birnbeck Pier Beach Views, Part VI, 'The Crumbling Old Landing Walkway' by Sheila, Oct 17th 2016
(25.14)


https://youtu.be/sU9oPD2k7hw

This is the unedited version---the whole works--plenty of images. I am trying to capture as much as I can if the Pier because I fear it will be demolished in the future---there is already plans to pull down the Victorian landing Deck where the old steamers once moored while passengers boarded or disembarked----this Pier is special and a very important part of the history of Weston Super Mare---the Victorians built WSM from the local stone in the quarry--from the Iron Age Fort---Birnbeck Island has a history and the Pier made it worldwide history-----now private enterprise and greed could be the end of our pier---we need a Knight in Shining armour, a Neptune from the deep to rescue this structure.

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