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Berrow

Find out about the animals living at Berrow Dunes, how the wreck of the Nornen became stranded and what the old Somerset words and phrases ‘granfer-griggles' ‘mackrelsky' and ‘heglar' might refer to.

Welcome to the Berrow Hidden History Storywalk along the England Coast Path. This trail is designed to be like a skimming stone of interesting facts, myth, history and tales linked to this location. The walks are designed to be read aloud to family and friends and to embellish your experience of the area.

Route – from Berrow Dunes car park, this trail is a circular journey through the dunes, down to the beach and then looping back past the ponds.

If you want to delve deeper then please visit the tourist information centres at Burnham-on-Sea and Weston-super-Mare, plus the local libraries.

Length – less than 1 mile / 1.4km, allow a couple of hours at an amble.
Access – generally level and undulating throughout, not good for wheels.
Directions - This trail begins at the Berrow Dunes car park. TA8 2QX What3words address ///cattle.animates.mash 51.276965, -3.0133790
 
Chapter one

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘mackrelsky' (pronounced maak'rul-skuy) is the observation of high cirrocumulus or altocumulus clouds which have an uncanny resemblance to the pattern on the side of the mackerel fish. The old sailors' proverb:

Mackerel sky and mares' tails make tall ships carry low sails
refers to the observation that this high cloud formation is often the precursor to changeable conditions and that gales are expected soon and so advisable to keep the amount of sail on the mast small for the time being.
Chapter two

Berrow Dunes

Welcome to Berrow Dunes which is a Local Nature Reserve and also part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This area, on the margins between land and beach is fragile and transient, an ecosystem of plants and animals living on moving grounds in extreme conditions which have existed here for thousands of years.

In recognition of this, these dunes were preserved in the 1960s through a compulsory purchase order by Somerset County Council. If the council had not acted, then these dunes would have been excavated for building materials, exposing the lands behind to flooding by the sea.

Our walk through these dunes will reveal the creatures living here on these margins along with a flavour of the local history.
There are two exits from the car park, take the one without the signs and dark shale under foot. The next chapter will reveal at the ash tree just a few meters along the trail on your right. But as you walk perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect word ‘vitty-handed’ (pronounced vut'ee-andud) might refer to.
 
Chapter three

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘vitty-handed' (pronounced vut'ee-andud) refers to a person very adept or dexterous with their hands. Perhaps they were able to stitch a smock, tie a knot or work wood in a manner that others found tricky.
Chapter four

Ash Tree

To the right you will find a healthy ash tree. In autumn it hangs with clutches of ‘keys' also known locally as ‘boots and shoes'. Each has a seed packed with all the genetic material required to grow more ash trees if they find themselves in suitable soils.

Much has been written about the folklore of the ash tree as apparently snakes can't stand them. Adders, Britain's only venomous snake, allegedly detest the ash tree and it is said that the protective qualities inherent in a shaft of ash are so powerful that a person could dance naked through adder infested grasses and be unharmed. (Please note that the author has not tested this theory).
Chapter five

The Royal Promise

Ash trees are said to be the royal thermometer of good fortune as in the year 1649 they were quite barren and bore no fruit at all. The reason for this crop failure was allegedly due to the beheading of King Charles I for high treason. It was also considered prudent to keep a set of ash keys about your person, as it is said that any royal who is offered these, is then duty bound to exchange them for gold. So, if there are any keys left on this tree then we suggest you pop a couple in your pocket just in case.

Many ash trees across the country are suffering from ash dieback, a serious disease caused by a fungus (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus), for which there is no cure. As you walk by, wish this tree good health and greet it again next time you come.
Directions – Continue along the trail about 100 paces to a broad grass path on your left where the next chapter will reveal. But as you walk perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect word ‘ball’ (pronounced bau'l) might refer to.
 
Chapter six

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘ball' (pronounced bau'l) refers to the act of tracking a fox by its footprints. When walking the fox will place its back paw in the same place as the front, a characteristic common in cats as well and known as direct register or perfect walking. It is thought that the straight tracks the fox leaves behind suggests they were able to walk on two legs or tip toes whilst hunting, a theme often seen in folk stories and legends as they are so successful as hunters.
Chapter seven

Slow Worms

This sleek bronze reptile with a darker stripe along its spine would at first glance appear to be a small snake, but these creatures are in fact legless lizards. If gripped too tightly the slow-worm will eject his tail and make a dash for it hoping the predator will be happy with half a meal.

Slow-worms are not really very worm-like, although they do like to eat earthworms. Their scientific name Anguis fragilis literally means ‘fragile snake' but it is their eyes which belies their lizard heritage as they have eyelids and can blink.

Living for up to 30 years, a single specimen lived in captivity at Copenhagen Zoo until he was 54 years old. Finding one in your garden is great since they love to eat slugs and snails.
Chapter eight

Sea-Buckthorn

All across these dunes you will find a prickly woody bush with pale green leaves and a heavy cropping of orange berries in autumn. This is sea buckthorn (Hippophae), a deciduous shrub not initially native to these dunes although native to the UK. Since it first appeared it has been doing a very great job of keeping the sand at the front of the dunes from being washed and blown away. It also deters people from running up and down the dune fronts which further erodes them. On the downside buckthorn out competes many smaller native and often rare dune plants and on the reserve there is a programme of shrub clearance under way.


Sea buckthorn is ideally adapted to extreme conditions of salty air, cold temperatures and loose sandy soils and can be found in habitats across the globe from Canada to Mongolia. During the cold war (1960s to 1990s) variations were hybridized by the USSR and East Germany to have higher yields of fruit and vitamins.

For centuries sea buckthorn has been used in traditional medicine, often as a skin cream. The fruits, although sour, are high in vitamin C and a popular drink in Scandinavian countries. At Berrow they are loved by migrating winter thrushes like redwing and fieldfare.
Directions – Turn left and walk along the grass track, the next chapter will reveal as you approach the open grassed area. But as you journey perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect words ‘mullygrubs’ (pronounced muul'i-gruub'z) and ‘mumchance’ (pronounced muum'chaa'ns) might refer to.
 
Chapter nine

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘mullygrubs' (pronounced muul'i-gruub'z) refers to someone who is always sick or ailing and ‘mumchance' (pronounced muum'chaa'ns) refers to a stolid, silent and trustworthy person. This is someone in whom you can confide knowing that the conversation will go no further.
Chapter ten

Cow Parsley

With their umbrella-like clusters of white frothy flowers, and growing waist high, cow parsley is a familiar sight in these dunes as well as across the country. Common Somerset names are lumper-scrump, rat's bane and scabby hands and in Yorkshire it is known as ghost kex and devil's bread. Just over the water in South Glamorgan it was said:

if cow parsley was brought into the home then snakes will follow

Unless they already had an ash wand of course!

Most common folklore associated with cow parsley is that a sprig brought indoors will lead to the death of a mother. The local names of dead-man's-flesh (Ipswich), mother-die (Essex) and break-your-mother's-heart are common across the country. Although it is thought these names are actually designed to scare children from picking hemlock which is visually very similar, extremely poisonous and can be found in similar places to cow parsley.

The flower clusters on Cow Parsley are great for beneficial insects like hoverflies, because hoverflies have small mouths and like the tiny flowers. You may also spot the red carapaces of soldier beetles against the lacy white flowers. Later, the seeds are an attraction for various seed-eating birds like goldfinches.

In the 18th and 19th centuries it was common that cottagers would rear a pig and fatten it on kitchen scraps, bracken tops and cow parsley. It was important not to feed too much of the last to a young pig so as not to ‘stitch ‘un'. Apparently too much cow parsley would make them grow too quickly for their skin!
Chapter eleven

Granfer Griggles, Naked-Nanies and Orchids

Granfer-griggles and gossips along with goose-gause and naked-nanies are just a few of the many names attributed to native orchids. Pictured (Dactylorhiza incarnata) is the early marsh orchid although the southern marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa) and the pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) are more common here.

Both these orchids grow best in alkaline soils such as on limestone and chalk. They thrive on dunes where the presence of small crushed up seashells reduces the acidity. Southern marsh orchids grow well in damp conditions around dune slacks (hollowed spaces amongst the dunes that can fill with water in winter months).

Interestingly some of the folklore names for orchids are also shared with the bluebell, such as adder's-flower and bloody-man's fingers. But it is the mandrake which has the most in common with respect to herbal uses and general folklore.

The tubers of the orchid and mandrake are often in pairs, sometimes called fox-stones or dog-stones, and are attributed with the ability to heal and influence the heart.

Roots thrown into water will either sink or float, indicating whether your love will prosper or wither. It was good if they sank as your love would then deepen, although today thankfully our love of orchids is deepened by admiring them and leaving them be!
Chapter twelve

The Blood of . . .

A common folkloric theme with plants which have red colouring on their petals or leaves is linked to the crucifixion of Christ. The attributed flower was said to have been blooming beneath the cross and became tainted with the blood of Christ.

Keep an eye out for orchids in spring, May to July. The edges of hedges and the undisturbed scrubby corners of grass verges are ideal places.
Directions – Bear to the right as you walk across the grass sward, you are heading to the far corner where the path narrows and rises. Here the next chapter will reveal but as you journey perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect ‘clinkervells’ (pronounced cling-kur-vuulz) might refer to.
 
Chapter thirteen

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘clinkervells' (pronounced cling-kur-vuulz) are icicles!
Chapter fourteen

The Headhunter Hunter

Sir Charles Brooke was born in Berrow village and became the head of state of Sarawak in Malaysia in 1868, after he succeeded his uncle James Brooke. Like his brothers, Sir Charles joined the Royal Navy, working in the South China Sea until he resigned his commission in 1861. But his work in the area continued as he picked up the mantle of his uncle James, suppressing piracy, slavery and the trade in human heads.

Headhunting was a tribal custom of the indigenous peoples of the Far East. The practice involved taking the head off the body of your adversary to keep as a trophy. A macabre trade emerged at the time, fuelled by western collectors wanting to add to their personal museums.

Brooke remained the Rajah of Sarawak for 49 years until his death in May 1917, with the dynasty of the Brooke family, known today as ‘the white Rajahs', ending in 1946.
Chapter fifteen

The Evening Primrose Burn-Cure

In springtime along the coast, flowering brightly in the dunes you will find hip-high swathes of fragrant evening primrose (Oenothera stricta). A very different plant from the native low-growing primrose (Primula family) common across Europe.

The evening primrose originates from the eastern forests of North America and was first sown in the botanical gardens at Padua university in 1612. This remarkable plant opens its buds soon after dusk to be pollinated by moths. The young root was also found to be a tasty vegetable though in its second year the root becomes woody and tasteless.

Local treatments distilled from evening primrose were apparently good for burns, jaundice and even ringworm, though it would certainly not have been effective for the last two. The burn-cure ointment was a closely guarded hedgerow doctor secret. It is said that the concoction involved primrose leaves and roots, harvested only in winter beneath a gibbous moon. These were then mixed with beef or mutton suet although the true process, ingredients and recipe have never been written down.

For the native primrose, both flowers and leaves are edible with the latter being high in vitamin C and tasting like bitter lettuce. Primrose pie was made by the desperate and destitute, it involved the whole plant including bulb and flowers harvested from the hedgerows.

Evening primrose pills are widely available today and commonly taken to help with skin disorders, the menopause and rheumatoid arthritis.
Directions – Follow the path to the left over the dune rise rather than into the thickets. At the sign board and white post head left to walk into the wide open area. The next chapter will reveal half way to the next wooden post but as you walk perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect words ‘sturtle-boar’ (pronounced stuur'tl boo'ur) and ‘grig’ (pronounced gr’eag) might refer to.
 
Chapter sixteen

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘sturtle-boar' (pronounced stuur'tl boo'ur) is a black beetle most likely to be an oil or stag beetle. A grig is the simple cricket, commonly found in long grass here and across the country plus great fun to try and catch!
Chapter seventeen

Oil Beetles

Oil beetles have a very unusual life cycle as they are nest parasites of solitary mining bees. Female oil beetles dig nest burrows in the ground, into which they lay hundreds of eggs. Once hatched, the active louse-like larvae climb up onto flowers and lay in wait for a suitable bee. Their barbed feet enable a firm hold on an unwitting bee collecting pollen for its own nest. Once in a bee's nest the larva hops off and eats the bee's eggs and the store of pollen along with the nectar. The larva develops in the bee burrow until it emerges as an oil beetle ready to mate and start the whole cycle again.

The photograph is of a male oil beetle (Meloe violaceus) but both sexes exude a repulsive oil when under stress, so be gentle if you pick one up.
Directions – Continue along the open track past the wooden post to a further set of two up ahead, but as you walk perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect word ‘squail’ (pronounced s’quaa’l) might refer to.
 
Chapter eighteen

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘squail' (pronounced s'quaa'l) refers to a stick which had the ideal proportions and weight for hunting squirrels. A cocksquail was a popular Easter fair attraction similar to the coconut shy where squails would be thrown at male chickens tethered to posts. Whoever was able to kill a bird with the squail would take it home!

In 1660 there was an official pronouncement by Puritan officials in Bristol to forbid cock throwing as well as cat and dog tossing!
Chapter nineteen

Crow-Toes and Granny’s Toenails

Bird's-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is a common plant in the dunes as well as in meadows across the country. Low-growing and widely known as eggs ‘n' bacon, it is a member of the pea family and can often be found weaving and creeping through long grasses.

With over seventy folk names the claw-like yellow flowers do look like birds' feet, so naturally the name crow-toes commonly pops up across the country. For the Victorians every flower symbolized a mood or feeling, for bluebells there was loyalty, for snowdrops there was hope but the bird's-foot trefoil symbolized revenge!

Interestingly the caterpillar of the common blue butterfly loves the foliage of bird's-foot trefoil. Nectar from the flowers also attracts a wide range of insects including bees and moths and in years gone by the plant was widely used as a field medicine to heal the cuts and abrasions on horses' shins.
Directions – Turn right to walk between the two posts to journey to the beach where the next chapter will reveal. But as you journey perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect word ‘junket’ (pronounced juung'kut) might refer to.
 
Chapter twenty

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘junket' (pronounced juung'kut) refers to a sweet dish made from unpasteurized warm milk, fresh from the cow. Sugar and a little brandy are often added along with the rennet and it's served before it has time to thicken. Clotted cream is poured over the top to take up the calories to cautionary levels and then finally dressed with nutmeg to top it off.
Chapter twenty-one

Palmerston Forts

Looking to the north from here you will see a promontory of land which is Brean Down, at the end of which are the Palmerston Forts. Here they experimented with explosive contraptions during the Second World War and you can find out more about this on the Brean Down Storywalk trail.

The spur of land is made of carboniferous limestone, a continuation of the Mendip Hills and home to a rich set of habitats supporting rare plants and species.

The stones in the cliffs on both north and south shores are rich in corals, seashells and crinoids which support the theory that the bedrock was once an ocean floor and has been raised up by the pressures of the rocks beneath over the millennia.
Chapter twenty-two

Wrecks and Rescues

The dunes and mudflats are littered with wrecks from across the centuries, and none more famous on this coast than the SS Nornen, or more accurately, the Nornen without the SS for she was never a steam ship.

Her bones are still easily visible at low tide, look down the beach to your left beyond the posts.
Chapter twenty-three

The Nornen

Sails run-to-tatters from violent gales and an anchor dragged along the sea bed from the powerful sea surge, the Norwegian barque the Nornen was being forced towards Gore Sands and Berrow Flats and there was nothing she could do to stop it. On the morning of 3 March 1897 as first light came, she was spotted in great distress along with other vessels also struggling with the storm surge that day.

The lifeboat from Burnham was dispatched at first light with a crew of volunteer oarsmen putting their own lives at risk to rescue the stricken vessel. At the time the lifeboat was powered by muscle alone for this was before engines were small and reliable enough to be installed in smaller vessels.
Chapter twenty-four

Further Attempts

The Nornen had been beaten by snow, sleet and rain from the Lundy Roads and the crew had battled long and hard to keep her under control but to no avail. The lifeboat pulled alongside the barque just as she was being driven onto the mudflats later that morning. All ten crew members from the Nornen, including the ship's dog, were successfully decanted into the lifeboat and brought safely to shore.

Over the coming months attempts were made to refloat the Nornen but without success and she was eventually sold for scrap. The planks on the southern side are lower than the others where she was cut open for salvage. It is likely that houses along this coast still have timbers in use today which have been repurposed from this ship.
Directions – Turn left and walk along the top of the beach to the triangular warning sign where the next chapter will reveal. But as you walk perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect words ‘flowsterment’ (pronounced flur'sturmunt) and ‘hegler’ (pronounced h’eg laar) might refer to.
 
Chapter twenty-five

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘flowsterment' (pronounced flur'sturmunt) means simply to be flustered or agitated and a ‘hegler' (pronounced h'eg laar) is an egg collector or dealer.
Chapter twenty-six

Measuring Margins

The seaward edge of the dunes here are changing as they always have, tidal and storm forces eat away in one direction, and plants slowly claw it back by stabilising the ground and catching more wind-blown sand. The sea buckthorn has done much good here to solidify the dunes, its roots knit the sand and soil. But in a single night a storm surge can rip away decades of this slow growth, so which is it, are the dunes receding or growing?

Before the sea buckthorn was introduced, the dominant plants that would have held the dunes in place were grasses like Lyme Grass and Marram Grass which can still be seen at Berrow. They are far more susceptible to trampling however and have tended to be outcompeted by buckthorn. The dunes are being managed to gradually re-introduce marram by planting it along the dune front. It is better than buckthorn as it doesn't shade out other rare dune plants. Marram has traditionally been used as thatching material in the past.

Every year surveys are completed which measure the distance from the wooden posts on your right to the sandy cliff face of the dunes to your left. An average is taken from these measurements which are then plotted against previous years.

The truth is that the dunes are getting smaller, why this is so is complicated. Many factors contribute to the picture, such as rising sea levels, higher visitor numbers and new storm patterns due to climate change. All these forces contribute to the dunes becoming slightly smaller by a few inches each year.
Chapter twenty-seven

Hiding not Thriving in the Tidal Sands

The little casts of sand denote the location of a lugworm or sandworm (Arenicola marina) and are a common sight on the sands all along this coast. They are a great illustration that the beach is a thriving ecosystem in itself – different from the shifting dunes above and the mud below this intertidal zone requires a unique skill set for the inhabitants to thrive.

Lugworms are a good example of this, living in their U-shaped chamber they feed by drawing the sea water along with sand and ejecting this out to make the signature curl of sand you see in the illustration. The small depression near each worm cast is the feeding hole where food is drawn down into the burrow.

Interestingly you can tell which species of lugworm is living in the sand just by the shape of their cast, the black lug (Arenicola defodiens) creates a neat spiral whereas the blow lug, (Arenicola marina) creates a messy squiggle. Can you spot which is living here?

Notice there are more casts in the sand where the cars can't park, illustrating that the parking on the sand does have a detrimental effect on the delicate ecosystem here.
Directions – Continue along the beachhead and then turn left to walk back into the lower or southern entrance to the dunes. The next chapter will reveal at the first viewpoint looking back across Berrow Dunes, but as you walk perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect word ‘hagrided’ (pronounced ag'ruy'dud) might refer to.
 
Chapter twenty-eight

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘hagrided' (pronounced ag'ruy'dud) refers to a person or animal suffering from nightmares. It can also refer to a horse found hot and sweaty in the stable stalls in the morning when it should be cool and ready for a hard day's work in the field. Horses which have been ‘hagriden' or ‘pixie ridden' had most probably been employed in nefarious shenanigans during the night. Contraband would have been handballed off ship under cover of darkness and moved through, as well as hidden in, these dunes in an attempt to avoid the local customs and excise men and coastguards, who were known locally as ‘perventative men'.
Chapter twenty-nine

Birdlife on the Dunes

A moment of quiet hunkering down in the dunes from the sea breeze always reveals the abundant birdlife here: blackcaps, whitethroats, chiffchaffs and willow warblers are all in residence come spring. In summer cuckoos can breed here, and in autumn, winter flocks of dunlin swirl over the waves.

Some species are resident all year, such as robins and song thrushes, others like the Whimbrel drop in on the beach on their way to winter feeding grounds in southern Europe. The sedge warbler, a slight bird known by many as a ‘little brown job' spends our winter in Africa, arriving in Britain in late April to seek out its breeding territories. The reed beds and dune slacks are ideal for its needs and they might be seen singing in the reeds to attract a mate.

To really get a proper insight into the diversity of birdlife here, we recommend you link up with free tours led by expert guides from organisations such as the Somerset Wildlife Trust.
Directions – Walk along the trail into the dunes, at the first post continue straight. The next chapter will reveal at the next post but as you walk perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect word ‘glistery’ (pronounced glus'tureen) might refer to.
 
Chapter thirty

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word word ‘glistery' (pronounced glus'tureen) means simply shiny or to glisten. The Danish word glisse means to shine as does the old English and proto German glis so the Somerset dialect roots can likely be traced in this direction.
Chapter thirty-one

Dragonfly - The Devil's Darning Needle

Dragonflies have a fascinating life cycle and can often be seen flitting about the dune slacks or ponds. Much of their life actually takes place in rivers, streams and ponds whilst in their ‘nymph' stage and some live in the water for up to four years before emerging as dragonflies.

There are many folk legends across the world about dragonflies, often identifying with their prowess and grace along the river bank. Rare dragonfly species can be found in many wetland areas in Somerset, especially the Steart Marshes where the rare ‘scarce chaser' is thriving along with nineteen other species. Find out more in the England Coast Path Steart Marshes Storywalk.

It is said that dragonflies are generally good omens for fishermen as they have a tendency to linger over pools where a decent catch always awaits. But if the fisherman or child is wicked then the dragonfly will lure them to poorer waters where no fish are to be found. If the children fishing were particularly bad of character then the dragonfly or devil's darning needle, would seek them out after dark, steel into their bedrooms and stitch their eyes, mouth and ears closed with spider silk!
Directions – Of the two metal nature sign boards visible from here, walk to the lower one on the right. But as you walk perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect word ‘dew snail’ (pronounced jue' snaa'yul) and ‘angle-twitch’ (pronounced ‘ayn’gul ‘tee’tch) might refer to.
 
Chapter thirty-two

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘dew snail' (pronounced jue' snaa'yul) is a long black slug. If you were to rub the dew snail on a wart and then impale the slug upon a blackthorn spike then the wart would diminish and die along with the snail!
The angle-twitch is also known as the angle-dog which you will know as the common earthworm!
Chapter thirty-three

Reeds and Dune Slacks

Reeds and teasels were once managed on an industrial scale across Somerset, the latter for the wool industry as part of the carding and then fulling processes. The teasels in the photograph (Dipsacus fullonum) growing wild around the dunes today are the escaped ancestors of this industry, although the favoured species of teasel had thicker curved tips akin to velcro. Somerset grew acres of teasels which were exported across the globe.

The spiky teasel burs, once essential in the textile industry, are first placed in a flat wooden frame to be drawn across the cloth by hand, teasing and pulling the nap of the cloth. The process was industrialized in Victorian times in ‘fulling mills' where three thousand teasel burs were installed in rolling drums called gigs.

There was even a ‘teasel man' who would journey between mills expertly tuning the gigs to have a neat and even output. Teasels were eventually replaced with a metal equivalent which, if not properly used, could easily rip the felt apart. Today it is still common for artisan felters to use teasels in their craft.
Chapter thirty-four

Mote

The Somerset dialect word ‘mote' (pronounced moa'utt) is a strand of reed or corn which is good to use as a drinking straw. Many rushes were put to service in times gone by, whether for thatch, floor covering or for lighting. They grow in profusion in the west country and today line the ditches and rhines of Somerset.

Pictured is the feathery rush, (Phragmites australis) common across the world and known locally as shalders (pronounce s' auld airs). Once harvested commercially for thatch, today they are left uncut and provide an ideal habitat for the specialist wetland bird, the reed warbler.
Chapter thirty-five

Power of Still Water

Somerset has many legends and lore associated with water which are mirrored across the world and in different societies. These stories are often cautionary tales to keep children away from water – they tell of creatures who live in the weeds and grab children's ankles and pull them down into the deep mud to smother them with brackish love.

But water wells in Somerset were often attributed with healing powers too, and many have a specific leaning towards curing ailments of the eyes. A drop of water from St Agnes well in west Somerset would cure cataracts and even glaucoma. The Somerset dialect word ‘dimpsy' refers to the evening gathering dusk, but the phrase ‘they've got a case of the dimpsies' suggested a person was either blind or on their way to losing their sight.

The waters here have obvious regenerative qualities judging by the variety of species, but they do need nurturing and protecting so they will be here for generations to come.
Chapter thirty-six

The End

This brings us to the end of this Storywalk although there are many others along the Somerset Coastline to enjoy. Feel free to post a picture on the Storywalks Facebook of your family or group enjoying the trail.

These trails have been researched and written by C. Jelley and have been made possible by grant funding from the England Coast Path scheme, managed by Somerset County Council and the Rights of Way team. With additional input and guidance from Dr H. Blackman, Dr M. Ward, Dr A. Halpin and N. Philips.
Chapter thirty-seven

Directions

Directions - Take the path to the right of the sign board which weaves through the dunes, past reed beds and ponds. Then take the right fork at the first post, followed by a right again at the second. This will lead you back to the car park where our trail began.

For Storywalk app service issues and enquiries – Storywalks contact

For Somerset public rights of way issues – Somerset County Council
Chapter thirty-eight

Acknowledgements

Images – in order of display

1 – The Nornen on Berrow Sands – photograph – C. Jelley

2 – Ash keys – photograph – C. Jelley

3 – Reynard the Fox, illustration – Ernest Henri Griset – public domain

4 – Sea buckthorn – photograph – C. Jelley

5 – Marsh orchid – photograph – C. Jelley

6 – Sir Charles Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak – Wellcome Collection – https://wellcomecollection.org/works/jc2q4g6n

7 – Evening primrose – photograph – C. Jelley

8 – Oil beetle – photograph – C. Jelley

9 – Birds-foot trefoil - photograph - Somerset Wildlife Trust

10 - The Nornen and Hinkley C construction – photograph – C. Jelley

11 – The Nornen – photograph – Anon

12 – The Burnham-on-Sea lifeboat men – Anon

13 – Dune ends – photograph – C. Jelley

14 – Lugworm casts – photograph – C. Jelley

15 – Dragonfly – photograph – C. Jelley

16 – Teasels in Berrow Dunes – photograph – C. Jelley

17 – Rushes in Berrow Dunes – photograph – C. Jelley
Directions - take the path to the right of the sign board which weaves through the dunes, past reed beds and ponds. Then take the right fork at the first post, followed by a right again at the second. This will lead you back to the car park where our trail began.
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