Sunday, 11 August 2013

Down at Brean Down

Brean Down - a spit of land about 1.5 miles long extending into the Môr Hafren (or the  Bristol Channel to the English). It was a bright and sunny day but windy. It always seems to be windy on the Somerset coast. Popular with holiday makers it is surrounded by caravan parks but few seem to make it up onto the Down - well it is a steep climb up and did I mention it is windy?

A hawthorn tree on the top of the Down, sculpted by the wind.

It's an outcrop of the Mendip Hills and made of the same carboniferous limestone. Its a Site of Special Scientific Interest and also a scheduled ancient monument.

We were lucky enough to have an expert guide with us to point out some of the special features of this unusual piece of land.

 First on the beach itself - this is Reindeer Rift. It's a deep fissure in the rock and gets its name from the remains found there dating from the Ice Age. Also found were giant deer, arctic fox, aurochs,bison, mammoth, wolves and lemmings

The views from the top are stunning. we turned right first and walked along to the end overlooking the River Yeo and the seaside town of Weston Super Mare.

Retracing our steps and continuing on out to sea, we came across the remains of the Iron Age fort, now just a series of ditches and earth workings.

This was constructed about 300BCE but there is evidence of land use on the down since around 2000BCE.

 Well I don't need to say what this is do I? It's obvious- Well if you are an expert maybe!. This little stony feature is actually a recently recognised iron age kist. This is where having an expert guide pays dividends.
 Another feature that you'd have to know was there. This is the remains of a Roman temple. It is not known to whom it was dedicated but a lead curse tablet found on the beach invokes a form of Latin that implies that the temple was dedicated to a Goddess.

 Right at the very end is evidence of a much more modern use of the natural pier - a ruined Victorian fort which was the setting for Dion Fortune's novel, The Sea Priestess. The fort was decommissioned in 1900 following a fatal explosion and had a period of use as a cafe.

The out break of WW2 saw it brought back into use as a testing station for secret weapons. The old Victorian barracks have now been made safe for visitors to wander around and traces of its WW2 identity remain in the fireplaces and the remains of the brown and cream paint of that era.
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