Brean Sands

Brean, Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, UK

Shorelines is a collaborative project on writing and reciting stories related to the dividing line between land and water.

Richlyevocative

In the late 1970s and early 80s my family used to come down from Bristol to holiday in a caravan near Brean Sands, Somerset. The dunes there seemed vast and wild and with my brothers and sisters I’d spend hours exploring, jumping around, crawling through scratchy sea-buckthorn thickets and running down to the beach. I recently paid a return visit and found that while the dunes seems smaller, the beach and sky seemed vaster. This piece is a fictionalised version of someone’s brief return.

Brean Sands

Bad idea, going back. Perhaps. This place couldn’t be trusted. Dad’s fault – his warning story, repeated back then whenever we came. What happened, he’d said, was this: a boy playing on the dunes had dug a hole, tunnelling into the side of one of them and crawled in. Head first. He died of course. Suffocated in the collapse of a ton of loose sand. Swallowed by a hill of sand.

As a child I imagined his small legs, skinny like mine, sticking out, like the dead witch under the house in the Wizard of Oz. I shuddered. It was a long time ago. Today the dunes seemed diminished. What had once felt a Sahara by the sea: slope after sandy slope stretching along the edge of the beach, full of hidden ways and foxy corridors, beneath a low scrubby jungle of sea buckthorn, was now a thin strip of dirty piles, flecked with wrappers and cans and cartons, snagged on brambles, shaking in the wind – a forest of dirty leaves.

That was behind me. Ahead the real threat. The infamously treacherous, deceptively fast tide. A tide that could race across that vastness of beach, hungry for walkers and cars, for anyone who made a mistake with their time.

But I’d be alright. I’d checked. Setting out now, I could easily make it over the sand to the end of Brean Down. Drink eyefuls of sky, look across to Steep Holm, wave at South Wales. Plenty of time.
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