Tuesday, July 29, 2008


There’s something inherently really rather nice about the Seaside Pier.

Invented, almost inevitably by the Victorians, they reek of a truly English, rather old-fashioned summer holiday. Strolls, or even train-rides, out to sea on a long, wooden slatted platform, deckchairs, theatres (sometimes quite high class ones at that), penny slot machines, Fortune Tellers and Candy Floss. Not a carbon based holiday air mile in sight.

The sight yesterday of the pier at Weston-super-Mare blazing into nothingness is really rather depressing. So many of them seem to have suffered rather violent ends, either from fire, the weather or even the occasional ship ploughing into them. Perhaps it’s Man being told that the land is his province, and the sea is a step too far. Who knows?

If it wasn't so sad, the black humour in you (or at least me) would at least note the comments yesterday from one of the well meaning firemen that they had suffered a shortage of water for the pumps. I'm sure he's right, but I'd have found a different way to say it.

As structures, they are very photogenic, partly because they are such simple, repetitive shapes and partly because they stand visually very strongly against a clean, uncluttered background. I've dug out a couple of pictures I've taken of them in the past.

Firstly Cromer in Norfolk. The pier here is nearly 500 feet long, and forms a beautiful backdrop to our walks on Runton Beach with the dogs in that part of the world. The first picture shows the theatre on the end of the pier, taken as the sun went down.


The other was taken on a Saturday night in mid season, with the holidaymakers digging into their fish and chips in one of the shelters on the pier. I have deliberately grained the picture and taken a lot of the detail out of it, to make it look a bit like something from the past – which in a way it is.


The last picture, below, was taken at Morecambe in Lancashire about 15 years ago. I think the pier had been destroyed (here we go again) by fire, and the structure stood bent, twisted and destroyed against the horizon. As a metaphor for the town, which in the early Nineties definitely seemed to be on its way out as a seaside resort, it takes some beating. The town faces west, so the sun sets very invitingly against the stark structure of the pier’s remains. All you need is a gentle, misty sunset with the brightness of the sun dampened down into a lovely redness against the grey sea and sky, and the contrast of a black metal silhouette, and the result is a picture I’m quite pleased with.

Simplicity is all.



1 comment:

Whitenoise said...

Beautiful photos. Not living near an ocean, I don't have much experience with piers, save the one at Clearwater Beach in Florida.

On the Great Lakes, there are other issues- namely the ice, which, when pushed by a wind, becomes very powerful and capable of ripping out pretty much any man-made structure it finds in its way.

Consquently, the structures which join land and water are much smaller and known as "docks". Most of them float and are connected by some sort of moving ramp. In the winter, the dock must be either hauled up on shore or left to float around only one attachment point so that it can wiggle its way through an ice flow.