From Watchet to Porlock Weir

Two days of hot, sunny weather is forecasted so the routine goes out the window and out comes the camera. I have two legs I want to complete – past of the coast in Somerset/Devon and a small section of the Kennet & Avon Canal. They are in the same direction so I decide to do the former first and complete most of it today leaving the other for the way home.

So I head for Steart on a peninsula, west of Barnstable, sticking out into the Bristol Channel. There’s not a lot here.

It’s not called Steart Marshes for nothing even if some small settlements hug any firm land they can find. Sheep and cattle graze the lush grasses, rushes line the vast expanse of clinging mud and large pebbles form an impossibly hard beach to manoeuvre. Hartland Point Power Station is the main, man-made feature on this part of the coast.

The first real settlement is Watchet. A delightful harbour town which is also on the West Somerset Railway line. You can almost feel the history ooze its way out of the Flag stones around the harbour.


Blue Anchor is a long, wide strip of pebbles backed by a road, backed by a line of static caravans. Each end is stapled to the ground by a group of more permanent detached houses.

Dunster Beach is the coast side of Dunster Castle and of Dunster medieval village. There is a refreshment van and then a wide strip of parked cars and vans with their owners sitting out on camping chairs devouring the Sun or the Mail. The other end consists of a never-ending crescent of large, almost bungalow-sized beach huts which line the heart of the bay.

Minehead had its glory days in Victorian times when it’s rather remote location only allowed the wealthy to make the journey to its glam hotels and bathing huts. When the railway arrived the hoy poloy were able to holiday here. This was exaggerated further when Butlins established a holiday camp here in the 50s, which now has an almost permanent presence in the town, swamping any history the harbour might try to show off.

Porlock Weir is delightful. A fishing and trading centre for the Porlock Estate, the harbour still provides shelter for private boats while the bars and hotels refresh the crews and the more up-market souvenir shops like Exeter Glass satisfy the shopping visitors.

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