Somerset's Victorian Seaside town
Weston-Super-Mare is the start for our walking holiday in Somerset, West Mendip Explorer. Weston is on the coast of Somerset and sits at the western extremity of the Mendip hills. The Mendip Way walking route begins at Uphill just south of the town. The Mendip Way is an 80 km long-distance footpath across the Mendip Hills from Weston-super-Mare to Frome. It is divided into two sections. The West Mendip Way starts at Uphill Cliff and climbs the Mendip escarpment and then crosses the central Mendip plateau leading down to Cheddar Gorge and on to Wells. The East Mendip Way continues through Shepton Mallet to Frome.
Weston comes from the Anglo-Saxon for the west tun or settlement; super Mare is Latin for "above sea.” Early in the 19th century, Weston was only a small village of about 30 houses, located behind a line of sand dunes fronting the sea, which had been created as an early sea wall after the Bristol Channel floods of 1607. Weston owes its growth and prosperity to the Victorian era boom in seaside holidays. Construction of the first hotel in the village started in 1808; it was called "Reeves" (now the Royal Hotel.) With the opening of the Bristol and Exeter Railway in 1841, thousands of visitors came to the town from Bristol, the Midlands and further afield, on works' outings and Bank holidays. Mining families also came across the Bristol Channel from South Wales by paddle steamer.
The beach of Weston Bay lies on the western edge of the town. The upper part is sandy but the sea retreats a long way at low tide exposing large areas of mud flats. The tidal range in this part of the Bristol Channel is great, and since beach and mud flats are on a gentle slope, attempting to reach the sea at times of low tide is inadvisable as the sand gives way to deep mud flats which has often resulted in loss of life. The tidal rise and fall in the Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel can be as great as 14.5 m, second only to Bay of Fundy in Eastern Canada. To get to the start of the West Mendip Way you can walk along the beach to reach Links Road which takes you along to the boat yard where you will enter Uphill Nature Reserve, the first of a number of small nature reserves on your walk inland from Weston.
The Grand Pier is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the town. It previously housed funfair style attractions, a go-kart track, cafes, a fudge factory, and a host of arcade games, and underwent a £34 million re-development after a fire in 2008 destroyed the main pavilion. The new pier pavilion reopened in October 2010.
The Tropicana at Weston once contained an outdoor swimming pool, and was unoccupied between 2000 and 2015.
There are 2 islands off the coast of Weston Bay, Flat Holm and Steep Holm. "Holm" comes from the Old Norse meaning "island in an estuary." In the 6th century AD, Flat Holm became a retreat for Saint Cadoc, who lived on the island as a hermit for seven years. His friend, Saint Gildas lived at the same time on nearby Steep Holm, and the two sometimes met up for prayers. Gildas left the island to become Abbot of Glastonbury. In 1897, an Italian inventor named Guglielmo Marconi, assisted by a Cardiff Post Office engineer, George Kemp, transmitted the first wireless signals over open sea from Flat Holm to Lavernock Point near Penarth, Wales. During the most recent ice ages, the sea level in the Severn Estuary was some 50m below the current level and the islands were joined to the Somerset coast as an extremity of the Mendip Hills. Since 15,000 years ago, the ice sheets retreated, and the flat plains surrounding the river estuary flooded; the hilltops of Mendip Hills became the islands of Flat Holm and Steep Holm.
On our West Mendip Explorer walking holiday, the first day’s walking takes you along the seafront before climbing from the marina at Uphill to the highest point of the western edge of the Mendips at Bleadon Hill with views of Crook Peak, the Bristol Channel and the Somerset Levels. You will pass through the small village of Loxton before climbing to the distinctive craggy limestone outcrop of Crook Peak where you will have great views of the Somerset Levels spread out to the south. You will then proceed onto the heathland of Wavering Down and Cross Plain before descending via the Strawberry Line to Axbridge.