Burnham-on-Sea is almost in the middle of Somerset's stretch of coast and close to the mouth of the tidal river Parrett. It is at the southern end of what is the second longest strip of sand in Europe and boasts several beaches.
As with so many of the UK s seaside resorts, Burnham blossomed during Victorian times and many of its finest buildings date from that time. Today it has everything you would expect from such a resort: campsites, candyfloss, donkey rides and tea shops.
Burnham may have one of the longest expanses of sand but it also has the shortest pier. What this pier lacks in length, it makes up for in elegance and has survived because of its unusual construction employing granite in its concrete structure to withstand the waves. It was built to serve as a jetty for a steamer service connecting the railway to Wales but problems with silt meant the idea was short lived.
Sand and silt in the Bristol Channel have been a challenge for the settlements on its shores and for sailors down the years with a number of wrecks off the coast, one of which is still visible at low tide. To aid seafarers, a lighthouse was built by the local vicar who used the proceeds from selling it to improve the townscape. A reduced version of this first lighthouse is now a house and its replacement has also been converted to residential use. A third lighthouse was built on stilts on the beach and still functions today.
Burnham is a thriving seaside town with a theatre, gardens, bi-annual food and drink festival and busy calendar of events throughout the year for residents and visitors alike. Disused claypits have been turned into the 42-acre Apex Park which is enjoyed as a space for picnics, games and wildlife watching.
The bridge in the name of this town gives a clue to its influence in the days when transport by water and rail was more common than today when the motorway takes most of the traffic. Highbridge, as a market town, grew up around the bridge over the Brue and served numerous communities including those on the nearby peat moors.
One of the markets best sellers was Caerphilly cheese which in fact originated from farms in this area and gained its name because so much of it went across to Wales where it was popular with the miners as a cheap, salty source of nourishment. In Highbridge it was made at the West of England Creamery. There was also a large bacon curing business in the town established in the late 19th century.
With its position, in former times, on the main route from Bristol to the South West, Highbridge once had its own wharf, canal and railway line. The canal linked the town with Glastonbury but was bought by its rival Somerset Central Railway Company and ceased being used. On the new railway s board were two brothers James and Cyrus Clark who founded the famous Somerset shoe company.
Today Highbridge is a known as the birthplace of Frank Foley who saved thousands of Jews during the last war. A statue of him is on the town green. Highbridge has a 42-acre leisure and nature park, Apex Park with lakes, walks and picnic areas. The town also offers a variety of shops including post office/store, public houses, restaurants, supermarkets and still has a main line railway link. There are regular bus services through the town to Weston super Mare, Bridgwater and Taunton.