An entrance to the beach, at the top of the sea defences in Burnham-On Sea; 14 Mar 2014.

The Bristol Channel, the muddy sea that sits offshore of the Somerset Levels, has the second highest tidal range in the world.  The difference between the height of the water here at low tide and high tide can be as much as 30 feet (9 metres).  And this vast mass of water coming ashore on Burnham’s shallowly sloping beach poses significant dangers to both the town of Burnham itself and to its hinterland,  which is both flat and, in some places – including my beloved Tealham Moor – below the level of these mountainous piles of water.

Were it not for the sea defences, and many other flood deterrents, these great masses of salt water would roll on inland, as they regularly used to do in the past, to create devastation.

And hence the sea defences at Burnham are not half-hearted affairs.  Following serious flooding of the town by the sea during severe storms in 1981, there is now at the top of the beach a towering concrete wall that is concave in shape towards the tide, so that much of the sea’s incoming force and fury is deflected back down the beach.  And of course, it is no good on towering defences like these having nice little pathways out onto the golden sands, since the incoming water would at once rush in along these paths – and the defences would be breached.

So, along this stretch of the promenade, the entrances to the beach are immoveable, heavy duty affairs.  To get down to the beach, you climb the flight of steps shown here, which brings you up to the level of the top of this sea rampart, and then you descend more steps until you are back on the level of the promenade – except that you are now surrounded on three sides by solid concrete, with further steps leading off right, down to the beach below.

As can be seen from this photo, the sea wall on the right has effectively been offset 10 feet or so inland (i.e. to the left), so that when you climb these steps and descend those on the other side, you are effectively standing to seaward of the top of the seawall, and it is only then that you start to make your way down to the beach.  And of course, when the waters power in from the Bristol Channel, they rush up the steps to the beach, only to be met by this short, offset section of solid seawall at the top.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 240mm; 400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Solarised preset.

About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.


  1. Sallyann says:

    I sometimes think mother nature smiles at our puny attempt at defence whilst she and father time discuss the next assault.


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Oh I agree with you, Sallyann! I was a geologist, you know, and that gives you a whole new perspective on things – we are here, in this life, for less than the fluttering of an eyelid, and our attempts to control Nature are indeed puny. A


  2. krikitarts says:

    That is indeed one Serious wall. Do you happen to know where the greatest tidal range is? I seem to remember David Attenborough highlighting it on one of the Blue Planet episodes–Central or South America?


  3. Meanderer says:

    Love the processing here and the way you have isolated it from its surroundings. It’s as if it is standing proud and saying in a booming voice: “I am THE DEFENDER of the beach”. I wouldn’t want to argue with it 🙂


  4. As I read this it made me think of Frau Blucher from the film, Young Frankentein. If you haven’t seen it, you must! I laughed til I cried. (which, I must admit, doesn’t really take much but till…)

    [as she holds a candle holder with 3 unlit candles]
    Frau Blücher: (with a german accent) Stay close to the candles. The stairway can be… treacherous.

    Mysterious photo. I likey. 😉
    And who’s that cute little avatar with the white hair and the stunning smile? 😉


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      That sounds a good film – similar to the Rocky Horror Picture Show I think – have you seen that yet??? I think you’ll enjoy it.

      And I want you to know that you’ll always be more than a cute little avatar to me, duchess – and take a quick look now, because a couple more Likes and you’ll be off the end of the queue – I wonder what’s down below there? Nirvana, probably.

      Glad you like the shot – thank you! ATP 🙂


  5. I like the black and white conversion. The sky going dark and the concrete becoming lighter creates a really pleasing visual effect.


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