Things to do in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset
Its precarious situation on the wetlands known as the Somerset Levels means the town has always been concerned with sea defences and land reclamation. Drained in Roman times, the area had a series of ditches and canals. The most serious floods occurred in 1607. The current curved concrete sea wall was built in 1988.
Burnham-on-Sea was mentioned in King Alfred’s will in the late 9th century and the name "burna" means "stream" and "hamm" means "enclosure".
Just offshore lie the dangerous sandbanks known as Gore Sands. They have been the undoing of many a ship in the past with countless shipwrecks. Shipping now follows the deep-water channel marked by a series of lighthouses.
The first lighthouse was a light on top of the 14th century tower on St Andrews Church. It was superceded by the building of the Round Tower when funds were raised by the local vicar! This in turn was improved in 1815 by Trinity House, which manages all British lighthouses.
The High Lighthouse, 100 feet tall, was built in 1832 along with what became known as the "Lighthouse on Legs", a square black-and-white hut on the sands. The first lifeboat was commissioned in 1836 and Burnham-on-Sea is now the base for the RNLI search and rescue operations in the area.
The Somerset Central Railway built the stone pier in 1858 with a view to linking with a steamer service to Wales but it was never a commercial success. The second pier was built around 1911 and has the honour of being the shortest pier in Britain! You can walk around it at low tide.
During World War II Mulberry Harbour was used for the Normandy Landings.
Present Day Burnham-on-Sea
The current population of Burnham-on-Sea is around 18,400. The town centre is the High Street of local shops and banks.
There are a number of churches, schools and cultural buildings and several local sports clubs. The town has some interesting listed buildings along the Esplanade and a drinking fountain from 1897 with lions’ heads around a bowl made of Purbeck marble.
St Andrews Parish Church with its 78-foot leaning tower dates back to the 14th century. It has several marble carvings designed by Christopher Wren for the Palace of Westminster, but never installed.
Things to do in Burnham-on-Sea
Burnham-on-Sea is known for its beach and mudflats, which can be dangerous. It has the second highest tidal range in the world at 15m (49 feet) and the tide can recede for 1½ miles! Kite surfing is popular on the flat sands and the national waterskiing championships are held in the bay every Easter.
The wetlands and marshes are popular with nature-lovers and birdwatchers as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Apex Leisure and Wildlife Park is a series of flooded clay pits, which provides for water-based leisure activities.
The Burnham and Berrow Golf Club is one of England’s historic links courses, founded in 1890.