Winter is a good time to visit Clevedon and its Victorian pier. I know most people would disagree; I mean, what is the point of visiting a beach town if you can’t enjoy the beach? Well, England is not precisely “the” place if you are into sun-bathing and sky diving. However, its mild temperatures are very inviting if you are into strolls to admire the seaside and the architecture of its coastal towns. Windswept dramatic walks aside, in the winter, when the light is right in one of those odd cold and sunny days, you can get very atmospheric shots, especially at dusk.
And a moody ambiance is what I wanted when I set out for Clevedon a couple of winters ago. Sunny but cold days are not a feature of typical winter English weather. Instead, December to March is a dreary procession of short, cold and dark days all alike. So, when my app announced a break in the dread, I jumped at the chance, took a bus from Bristol’s centre and a very short ride later I was in Clevedon.
I had wanted to visit this small town ever since a shot of its pier had shown up on the Instagram feed of one of the profiles I follow. I was told that there was nothing interesting to see, that although it had been considered “the most beautiful pier in England” by none other than John Betjeman, and recently One Direction had recorded one of its music videos on site, the place was a typical English seaside town with nothing to do for people under 60. Not a hot touristic spot at all.
I disagree. It might be that I have the soul of an old person, who knows. But I enjoyed a stroll on the promenade by the beach, ate a delicious fish and chips while I soaked in the winter sun and then continued to Poets Walk’s footpath to delight in the vistas of the Bristol Channel. Then, as light changed and the sky was slowly acquiring a yellow and then pinky hue, I ran near toward the pier and started shooting. The result is below.
This Grade I historic pier opened in 1869 to provide ferry services from Clevedon to Wales, on the other side of the Bristol Channel. You have to pay a small fee to enter, but it is worth helping support this beautiful structure.
This portion of the English coast has the second largest tidal range in the world. This fact was very much taken in consideration when building the pier, which was constructed with discarded wrought iron railroad tracks.
Below, I walked away from the pavilion and toward the toll house to take some additional shots. As the sun set, so was the temperature, but the light was too good to pass up the opportunity to take some shots.
Finally, the lights on the pier were turned on. Demolition was proposed in 1970 when two of the pier spans collapsed and fortunately avoided thanks to a successful fundraising effort. The pier was actually dismantled, restored and built again. For anyone interested in all the restoration work that Clevedon Pier has gone through over the years, here is an account.
As I exited the pier, night was coming in. It was so cold, but I had to wait a bit longer to get a darker sky, so the lamps could show prominently.
As it happened, months later I was back to take a longer stroll along Poets Walk. It was a rainy summer day and the clouds lent an gloomy feel.
As I took the photos and saw the results, I thought that it was quite interesting that such an unassuming little town could prove a treasure trove of photo opportunities.
And below, the pier as seen far away from the Sugar Lookout. This spot has been restored recently and I suspect it is a folly. Legend has it that the name is due to its being the spot from where a family of sugar merchants could see ships bringing its cargo from overseas.