Tuesday, 20 October 2015

WATCHET



Watchet Harbour has a narrow entrance so that boats above a certain size find it a challenge to enter, particularly if it happens to be after dark.  This was the fate that befell Timothy Spall and his wife Shane when they paid a visit to the town during the filming of their entertaining Somewhere At Sea series.  The battle to navigate their Dutch barge Matilda through the narrow gap took its toll on Matilda, but Tim insisted she could take what he described as "the scars of war".

Way back, early Britons living in Watchet traded with Wales from here, and this early trade included the export of lime from the many lime kilns along the coast.  Other exports included seaweed, alabaster and gypsum, while later on coal was imported - over 13,000 tons of it in 1862.  The harbour had to be rebuilt after a disastrous storm in 1900, and there was further damage during subsequent weather events.  Work on the present-day Marina started around the Millennium, and this now occupies a substantial part of the inner harbour.  Watchet Harbour provided the inspiration for The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge when he arrived at the town and looked down on it from St Decuman's Church:

The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared
Merrily did we drop
Below the kirk, below the hill
Below the lighthouse top.

Watchet is one of the stops on the West Somerset Steam Railway, which starts in Minehead to the west.  Adjacent to the Railway Station is the Watchet Boat Museum, housed in a former railway goods shed and offering free admission.  The museum showcases the nautical history of the area and there is plenty of hands-on fun for the kids, including a boat to climb in and out of.  Watchet Museum is housed in a former Market House and tells the history of the area starting with the Romans, as well as providing information on the maritime history and the railways.  

Map of the area. 

File:The marina, Watchet - geograph.org.uk - 1766952.jpg
Watchet Marina. Photo by Roger Cornfoot, via Wikimedia Commons

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