Every year Weston-super-Mare is inundated by tourists who have no regard for their own safety and have no basic common sense and do stupid and dangerous things and below are two examples that only happened this week.
We have the second largest tidal range in the world so our sea disappears completely between each tide exposing huge expanses of thick mud, hence our nickname, Weston-super-Mud.
As the sea has so far to come in (1 mile) it comes in extremely quickly and can take people by surprise in a matter of minutes. We often see people in the summer “walking out” to the sea. This is a danger not only to themselves but also to the rescuers, as sometimes help is not alerted until the tide is racing towards them. Of course, there are warning signs warning people about the dangers of the mud, but they are largely ignored.
And by mud boy do we mean MUD. We are not talking about the mud you see on TV at Glastonbury, the not-very-deep, lose a welly kind of mud, we are talking about waist deep, (or deeper) thick, all enveloping mud that will grip you and squeeze you with all it’s might and refuse to let you go.
With fast flowing tides comes added dangers such as tidal currents and tidal races. There is a particularly strong one just outside the harbour that can whip you around past Birnbeck Pier if you are not careful.
Sailing in Weston as a youngster we learnt to respect the sea and the unique dangers within our environment but the tourists don’t have our knowledge, or it seems on some occasions even our common sense.
This week alone there have been two incidents which beggars belief.
The first was the rescue of two young men who came to Weston to enjoy the beach and decided that they wanted to go to Steep Holm Island which is about 5 miles off the coast of Weston. Did they take a boat trip? No, they did something far more stupid.
The second rescue was that of a couple who were left clinging to Birnbeck Pier with the fast flowing water surrounding them after they attempted to swim the Bristol Channel. Read the full article here and watch their rescue here.
The RNLI commented at the time that “We do not advise swimming in the Bristol Channel unless you keep well in to the beach or you know the waters very well.”
Now perhaps this is the problem. As locals we all know the waters very well. We all know how dangerous the mud is from watching years of cars getting stuck as the tide comes in.
We have all supported national fundraising campaigns to raise money for a hovercraft now located at Burnham after the tragic death of 5 year old Lelaina Hall who became trapped in mud at Berrow as the tide came in.
And that is the problem. We know the dangers and the tourists do not.
Most haven’t seen the sea before, played in it, or frolicked in sea mud before. What is common sense to us locals isn’t by tourists. The only water many tourists visiting us have seen are inland waterways, reservoirs or canals that whilst they present their own dangers, do not have those unique to Weston – our vast tidal range, fast flowing tidal races and deep thick mud. So perhaps the tourists are not to blame, it is us?
Perhaps we need to educate them more, as the signs all along the beach are obviously being ignored.
How about a sea-safety leaflet in every Bed and Breakfast establishment, hotel and caravan park within our area that is handed over to new arrivals when they check in or arrive, telling them the unique dangers to Weston? And what about the day trippers that don’t stay over? Well every shop that sells inflatables along the seafront or in town should only be allowed to do so when they hand over a sea safety leaflet highlighting the dangers.
I started off this article by wanting to share the lack of common-sense individuals have when coming to Weston. But now realise that this common sense has to be learnt or taught and it is our town’s responsibility to do the teaching and impart the knowledge.
After all, every tourist visiting our shores are like children learning to walk. They need to be guided and helped to stay safe We can’t just leave it to warning signs dotted along the beach, because unless they enter the water, or mud at the right point they won’t see it, and won’t realise the danger.
Is our town is as much at fault as they are?