Saturday, 22 August 2009

Drivers need educating about tides

I have to say that all natural phenomena fascinate me, none more so than the tides. Partly because of this deep interest and partly because I grew up in a town on the Devon coast (Salcombe) I do, I think, have a fair appreciation of what tides are all about. However various mishaps that occur emphasise that some motorists just don't have the knowledge - or not enough of it at least. At the moment we are on spring tides which means the high tides are higher and low tides lower than normal. The other extreme when there is the minimum difference between high and low water are neap tides. But ... not all spring tides are the same, the current ones are among the highest and lowest of the year. For the Somerset coast up in the Burnham on Sea area for instance one should also note we are getting into the mouth of the River Severn and so we are talking about a much greater tidal range than other parts of the coast as evidenced by the proposal to build some sort of barrage across the estuary to generate electricity.

The reason I particularly mentioned Burnham is because a day or so ago five motorists had parked their vehicles on the beach that stretches north to Brean Down, strolled away and were somewhat astonished to find their cars swamped by the incoming tide when they returned. All that beach fronting Burnham, Berrow and Brean is absolutely vast so that at low tide you might well believe that the ocean's waters will never reach where you have parked. But it can as five unfortunate car owners discovered. This is not the first time this area has seen cars falling foul to the incoming tide but usually it is one at a time not five!

Other places where the motorist needs to be wary are the beach at Port Isaac on Cornwall's north coast and the foreshore at Golant part way up the Fowey estuary. Another place where one should be careful is the tidal road between Bigbury and Aveton Gifford in Devon's South Hams and I believe I read about a motorist at Dittisham on the River Dart the other day in similar trouble.

I also understand that walkers got cut off by the tide at Charmouth and had to be winched to safety, variations on a theme - I don't know the precise location but guess that the extremely high tide would have been part of the story. So the moral is: don't make any quick assumptions when dealing with this country's natural phenomena, apart from anything else it is highly variable from day to day and from place to place.


stephen said...

Yes I agree especially around Salcombe, it's not often but the sea side is dangerous with the tides and people can get seriously hurt! A car however is only a car and although where you park it can mean when you get back it's submerged, surely you would put a sign up for the tourists! I will be staying in a lovely luxury hotels in devon really looking forward to my break near the coastal path it sounds so friendly and a warm atmosphere be sure we will be doing the pub walk along side the south coastal as what is life but to enjoy good beer and nature!

brian in the tamar valley said...

And another one at Brean - this time two men had to be rescued when they stripped off to swim out to their part submerged hire car!