What’s Up

Despite currently being a quiet corner of Clevedon, Marine Lake has just officially celebrated its 91st birthday!  Why not take a stroll through history and appreciate its colourful journey.

To keep things vibrant, a fourth mural, pictured above, is to be installed at the lake this summer.  You can read all about it here, noting the actual timing of installation is understandably unsure right now.

On March 15th, MARLENS’ AGM opened its doors to the lake community and was well attended under the circumstances.  Amongst helpful discussions around shared use and maintenance, Trustees expressed thanks to several people and groups for their invaluable support for Clevedon Marine Lake:

  • Viv, Marlens’ bookkeeper for keeping the finances in great order.
  • Linda Knott, who is retiring as a Marlens’ Trustee, following 17 years of bringing life to the Marine Lake.
  • Marlens’ Saturday Cleaning group for a phenomenal job keeping the lake ship shape.
  • The Community for its enthusiasm and engagement with the lake – without whom it couldn’t survive.

The dredging programme in March was very successful, increasing the lake depth to 3ft around the promenade perimeter.  It was the second dig of Marlens’ bi-annual mud clearance programme which began in October 2019.

Six new concrete benches were installed whilst the lake was empty in March.  Two are pictured here, overlooking the model boat lake, creating more seating around this amazing space.

North Somerset Council is obtaining a quote from Dyer and Butler to replace the broken, small penstock.  It’ll be great to get this fixed during the next drain down, scheduled for October 2020, to ensure the lake empties smoothly in future.

The 14m+ high tides carrying substantial flotsam took their toll on the slipway railing after the lake refill in March, pictured below.  Repairs will be undertaken as soon as feasibly possible.

On 30th January, Marlens hosted a User Forum at Clevedon Sailing Club, bringing together lake users to share ideas about how to raise and spend money at the lake in the future.  It was a very constructive evening, attended by swimmers, sailors, canoeists, paddleboarders and volunteers.  A whole range of fundraising ideas and amenity improvements were discussed, providing invaluable input for a 5-year plan for Clevedon Marine Lake, which Trustees are currently working on.

A number of Marlens’ events are scheduled this year but remain unconfirmed due to uncertainty around future restrictions (Bristol Old Vic tour – 2nd April; Lake Day – 9th May; Arnos Vale morbid curiosity tour – 10th June; Marlens’ Musical Extravaganza – 2nd October; Light up The Lake – 5th December).

We look forward to welcoming life back to the lake this summer, but there will be some changes – for safety’s sake.                                                A rope will be used to cordon off a safe area for all other lake users during Clevedon Sailing Club sessions.  More information can be found here.

In addition, we plan to fly a red flag during the warm summer months, when the lake is heavily used, to indicate when there is a bacterial water quality issue.  Two flags will be displayed, one at either end of the lake, adjacent to the information boards containing an explanatory notice.  A red flag means that water quality in the lake is currently poor.  Alerts will also be shared on social media and via our BLOG to explain the situation and actions being taken.  Information is shared to allow lake users to make an informed decision about entering the water.

If you fancy a punt on Clevedon Marine Lake, with better odds of winning than the National Lottery, you can now sign up to Marlens’ Lottery on-line.  Marlens Lottery was launched in August 2015 to create a steady income to help run Clevedon Marine Lake throughout the year, following its renovation.

Lost property is regularly picked up by MARLENS’ volunteers from around the lake and stored in the boathouse. For items left behind, contact 07867 336480.

Lake usage during Covid-19

  • The lake will remain open as a place for individual exercise.
  • Visitors to the lake are reminded to maintain a distance of at least 2m from each other.
  • MARLENS continues to look after cleaning and maintenance at the lake but in a limited way, without the usual working parties.

We respectfully ask that people access the lake grounds responsibly, in line with Government guidelines and avoid unnecessary travel.

 

 

More than 91 years of Clevedon Marine Lake

Clevedon Marine Lake was officially opened in 1929, following over a century’s tradition of sea bathing in Clevedon.

The original idea for enclosing part of Salthouse Bay was first documented in meeting records in 1896, but unanimously rejected as somewhat ‘pie in the sky’.

But thanks to Councillor Frederick Robert Nutting, who believed that a sea lake would be a great asset to Clevedon, on March 30th, 1929, the Lord Mayor of Bristol, Councillor W H Eyles officially opened Clevedon Marine Lake and the recreation ground on Salthouse Fields. Councillor Nutting was the architect, figuratively speaking.

In October 1926, Councillor Nutting persuaded the Council to revisit the idea of enclosed swimming baths in Salthouse Bay. Mr Gower Pimm was appointed the consultant engineer, suggesting the lake would need a wall 10ft high, costing £5,440. The greenlight for the project was given by the Ministry of Health in July 1927, and approval for the scheme gained by Mr Gower Pimm from the Mercantile Board of Trade. Councillor Nutting purchased land on the foreshore, with his own money, some of which he gifted to the town. The Crown sold the rights to the foreshore to the town for £150. Councillor Nutting sold Salthouse woods to the Council at cost, to enable access to Poet’s Walk, and Sir Ambrose Elton generously ceded his right to the paths.

In September 1927, tenders were put out for the scheme. The building contract specified that 90% of the labour was to be undertaken by local, unemployed people, to aid community revitalisation post-WWI. Seventeen tenders were considered, but the contract was awarded to Messrs J Moore & Co. of Nailsea for £5,195 and 6d. Work began after March 1928, on a slightly reduced plan, enclosing an area of three and a half acres and incorporating an 875ft promenade.

The lake was in use for boating and bathing in August 1928 and run by the Council for the first year.

Before WWI, Clevedon Aquatic Sports was responsible for running regattas off The Beach. With bathing’s popularity rising alongside the development of Clevedon’s seafront, sea swimming races were a regular attraction in the summer months.

Clevedon Amateur Swimming Club (CASC) was formed in January 1929, to “promote swimming, organise galas and run the Long Swim”, which was first held in 1927. The opening of Clevedon Marine Lake meant that the Club could become affiliated to the Amateur Swimming Association, bringing many of the West of England Championships to the town. CASC’s first gala, held on July 20th, 1929 attracted a massive crowd. A water polo team was formed, which lasted until the mid-50s; they played local teams as well as Welsh opponents brought across the estuary on the Campbell Steamer. After WWII, the Club offered Royal Life Saving Society badges and the Amateur Diving Association Diploma. In the 1980s, the Club moved all but its diving activities to Strode Road’s indoor pool.

As well as the socio-economic and recreational benefits, the construction of the new marine lake also brought an end to ‘stinking corner’, where seaweed and sea rot accumulated, only to fill the air with unpleasant odours!

The Ministry of Health approved a further loan of £1,500 for a bandstand, shelter and bathing stations, which were sanctioned in March 1929. Over the next 15 years, Clevedon Marine Lake was lavishly equipped with a timber clubhouse and changing-room, high diving and springboards, a bathing raft, deckchairs, a row of bathing huts and a bandstand – and remained a much loved, Victorian seaside attraction.  After WWII, its popularity boomed, with busy promenades surrounded by water sports, donkey rides, boats for hire and a miniature railway.

For 30 years from 1957, during the summer holidays, the lake was managed by Joyce Gregory and her daughter Rita.  Rita, a member of Clevedon Swimming Club, was a very accomplished competitive swimmer and diver, who made good use of the facilities; she won the Ladies Cup 19 times in Clevedon Long Swim!  Because the lake’s diving stage was not quite the 5 metres high required by County Championships, Rita practised off a board on the upper railings held down by a group of burly swimmers from the Club!

With an increase in foreign travel throughout the 1980s the use of the lake began to decline, as did the necessary finances to maintain it.  As a result of lack of maintenance and vandalism, Joyce and Rita called time on their tenure; swimming was banned at the lake and the access steps were removed.  However, Clevedon Sailing Club remained a stalwart supporter throughout this time, launching a fleet of Minnow dinghies in 1985 sponsored by local businesses, serving to buoy interest in sailing on the lake and in the estuary, to Woodspring Bay and Flatholm.

At midnight on 31st December 1999, Rita and Joyce fittingly welcomed in the new millennium by swimming in the lake.  Wrapped only in their towels, they walked up to the top of Dial Hill to watch the burning beacons along the estuary, just before the start of another chapter in the lake’s history.

MARLENS (Marine Lake Enthusiasts) was set up in 2004 by Councillor Arthur Knott, Clevedon Sailing Club’s Cadet Officer, to lobby for the lake’s renaissance.  He recognised the importance and value of Clevedon Marine Lake to the local community.

As a result, and after much neglect, 2004 saw the lake’s fortunes change thanks to a community partnership that resulted in the lake being used for sailing, canoeing, open water swimming and model boat sailing.  The lake was subsequently promoted annually through Marlens’ community festival from 2005 to 2017, offering have-a-go sessions to the public, awakening North Somerset and Clevedon Town Councils’ interest in the amenity’s potential.

In 2014 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded an £800,000 grant to Marlens to help make Clevedon Marine Lake ‘as good as new’, in partnership with North Somerset Council, Clevedon Town Council and Clevedon Civic Society.  The £1m renovation project was undertaken from April to September 2015, rolling back 80 years of pounding by the sea and giving the lake a new lease of life.  Take a look at the lake’s restoration album here.

In recognition of the amazing work undertaken by volunteers from 2004 to 2015, Marlens is proud and delighted to have been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for 2016 following the lake’s renovation.  It’s the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

MARLENS, the charity behind the lake, continues to fund raise toward the management and further development of Clevedon Marine Lake for all to enjoy.  Find out how you can Help us Help the Lake – H2L – and help Clevedon Marine Lake become a double nonagenarian!

Clevedon’s sea bathing heritage

Clevedon Marine Lake is a piece of aquatics history, born out of a sea swimming heritage pre-dating the first, annual Clevedon Long Swim in 1927. Today, both Clevedon Marine Lake and Clevedon’s seawaters are a regular training ground for long distance swimmers who have swum the world over, and the lake provides a calmer environment for all water lovers – recreational, competitive and endurance.

The first reference to sea bathing in Clevedon dates to 1823 when four bathing machines made their summer debut on Clevedon Beach adjacent to the Pier.  Although 75 years behind Scarborough, the advent of sea bathing in Clevedon coincided with the town’s growing popularity as a resort, and the trend toward bathing for enjoyment as opposed to therapy.

In 1828, Samuel Taylor of Hutton purchased a plot of land just north of the Pier, where he constructed a house and created a sea pool for swimmers to shelter from the 47 ft tidal range of the estuary.  This entrepreneurial venture enabled Taylor to capitalise on the growing number of people wishing to bathe in sea water.  However, the site became derelict as the decades rolled by, and eventually the outer wall of the pool collapsed into the sea in 1905.

Yet, before the end of the 19th century, options for more suitable bathing facilities in Clevedon were under discussion amongst Clevedon Local Board of Health, soon to become the Council.  They were slow to progress however, eclipsed by the purchase of the Pier in 1890.  Subsequently, when a man attending a public meeting of ratepayers in 1896 suggested enclosing Salthouse Bay to form a lake at a cost of £12,000, it was unanimously condemned as little more than amusing!

Since the official opening of Clevedon Marine Lake in March 1929, thousands of children have not only been taught to swim in the lake, but also trained weekly over the summer months as members of Clevedon Swimming Club.  The lake was roped off into lanes for training and galas.  In the 1930s, Somerset County swimming competitions were held in the lake, including springboard and high diving events.

Until the 80s, the lake was owned and maintained by Clevedon Urban District Council and after that, Woodspring County Council, at which time it became victim to financial cuts during the 1990/1 recession.

During 1980s and 90s, although Clevedon Marine Lake fell into disrepair, it was never abandoned, and quietly nurtured long-distance swimmers who have swum the world over.  One of a handful of such swimmers is Steve Price, who went on to become the first man to complete the 3-Channels’ challenge, by swimming the English, Bristol and Irish Channels.  In 1999, Anders Frappell succeeded in his crossing of the English Channel thanks to hours in the lake.  And in August 2007, Gary Carpenter, a member of Clevedon Amateur Swimming Club was the youngest swimmer to cross the Bristol Channel, aged 16.  Not only covering a swim distance of 18 miles from Penarth to Clevedon, he battled the third highest tidal range in the world.

Many successful long-distance swims have since been achieved thanks to Clevedon Marine Lake and its enduring accessibility as a training ground – as a result of the lake’s renaissance in 2015, championed by MARLENS, the charity behind the lake.

Take a look at the lake’s historic album here.

As part of the Heritage Lottery bid to renovate Clevedon Marine Lake, North Somerset Council asked Civic Society member and local historian Jane Lilly to write about the history of the lake and the emergence of swimming as a pastime in Clevedon.  Grateful thanks go to Jane for providing the foundation for much of the detail in this BLOG.

 

Artwork on The Lake

A fourth mural will be on display at Clevedon Marine Lake early summer, featuring a poem from Writing on The Lake and another colourful design by Nancy Farmer.

Writing on the Lake is an anthology of poetry and prose inspired by Clevedon Marine Lake and was published by Clevedon Community Press in April 2016 in collaboration with Marlens.  The book is a celebration of the lake, inspired by the lake. Thirty-three local people share their vivid memories and imaginations and feelings about this amazing place.

‘Resurrection Lake’ was written on the lake blackboard when it re-opened in 2015 and has been much appreciated ever since – but is now faded.  The poem captures the essence and revitalisation of Clevedon Marine Lake, and a mural will help preserve it, for all to enjoy, for years to come.

Resurrection Lake by Bernie Jordan

Cradled beneath a wooded hill,

A sweeping concrete wall of white

Curves around a man-made lake,

Holding the rippling waters tight.

 

Grey, at times, with wind-lashed waves,

Or burning red at end of day,

Dazzling gold in the heat of the sun

Or silvered with moonlight across the bay.

 

Restored, renewed, brought back to life,

Result of many years’ endeavour.

So come, enjoy, walk, swim or sail,

Make sure Marine Lake lasts forever!

Marlens is hugely grateful to the following people for their contributions toward the fourth mural:

  • Nancy Farmer for donating the artwork.
  • Unique Tiles for providing the tiles free of charge.
  • Peter Gibbs, Clevedon Literary Festival organiser, in collaboration with Clevedon Community Bookshop, for championing the project.

Marlens is using £600 from its 2019 fund raising coffers to pay for the installation of the mural.  It is hoped the mural will be installed for Lake Day on 9th May 2020, but if not, then in time for Clevedon Literary Festival on 13th June 2020.

In April 2018, MARLENS (Marine Lake Enthusiasts), the charity behind the lake, installed three colourful ceramic murals (below) to cheer up the concrete and stone lake surrounds.  The three designs were donated by local artist and outdoor swimmer Nancy Farmer and bring to life different aspects of activity at the lake – cold water swimming, crabbing, model boating and a variety of water sports.

 

 

What’s Up

Sirena the mermaid, who has been watching over the lake since December 2018 retired from marine life in January, somewhat dishevelled and weather-weary!

The sunken buoy has been relocated nearer to the model boat lake and is now visible above water, so should no longer give swimmers an unwelcome start!

MARLENS’ AGM opens its doors to the lake community on Sunday 15th March starting at 6.30pm in Clevedon Sailing Club.  All welcome including volunteers, Friends, Lottery members, lake users, clubs and coaches.

January’s Winterfest raised over £700 for MARLENS, the charity behind the lake, which will be put to good use supporting major projects in March.

The lake will be drained on 29th February to enable mud clearance commencing 2nd March, before beginning to refill on 8th. This is part of an annual programme to dredge the lakebed each October and March costing £7,500 a year. If you are able to help with litter picking and/or cleaning during the week, please contact volunteer@marlens.org.uk

Six new concrete benches are being installed whilst the lake is empty, costing over £3,000, creating more seating around this amazing space.

It costs £15,000 a year just to run Clevedon Marine Lake, on top of these investment projects, which is raised solely through fund raising, so please remember to drop a coin or two into one of the collection boxes at the access points on the upper promenade.

MARLENS is recruiting! A secretary to help with meeting administration and organisation. For more details on pay and hours, contact info@marlens.org.uk

Lost property is regularly picked up by MARLENS’ volunteers from around the lake and stored in the boathouse. For items left behind, contact 07867 336480.

Help Us Help The Lake

You can help Marlens help Clevedon Marine Lake by shopping on-line through Give as you Live and Amazon Smile. Every time you buy through these channels, Marlens benefits from a donation which is either a percentage of the sales price or a percentage of the shop’s listing commission.

Help Us Help The Lake Collect… HUH? TLC… Yes please!

Marlens puts on another foot stomping fundraiser!

On 27th September 2019, just two weeks after the curtain closed on the biggest classical music festival on earth, Marlens hosted its very own tumultuous musical celebration at Clevedon Community Centre. Two hundred and sixty-five people attended a rousing night of popular music and singalong songs to raise funds to maintain and further develop Clevedon Marine Lake. Leading the fantasia was BOLD BRASS with Rachael Cooper (Soprano), John Prescott (Tenor) and Sue Parker (Accompanist).

A spokesperson for Marlens commented, ‘The event not only made a great profit – approaching double the amount raised the previous year, but prommers also said – the evening was fantastic and the band and songs were excellent. Marlens would like to thank the organisers, performers and volunteers for putting on such a good show, and the staff at Clevedon Community Centre for all their support.’

Clevedon Marine Lake is run by Marlens charity for everyone to enjoy year-round. Major fundraising events like Last Night of The Proms and the annual trio of Clevedon open water swimming events are essential to enabling Marlens’ volunteers to carry out cleaning, maintenance and improvements at Clevedon Marine Lake – which is why this amazing space is always ship shape for visitors.

Over the next year, sizeable chunks of money are required specifically for mud clearance from the lakebed, construction of six more benches, installation of a fourth mural to cheer up the wall, water quality testing during peak times, improvements to digital information and on-line donation and administrative support.

Everyone can do their bit to help the lake be it bagging and binning any rubbish created during visits, donating in the one of the boxes lakeside or becoming a volunteer.

Photo credit: Chris Emmerson

 

Happy crabbing

Crabbing can be an enjoyable way to introduce young children to the marine ecology when done responsibly, so here are some guidelines on good crabbing.

DO’s and DON’Ts

Don’t put too many crabs in one bucket. Stick to 5 per bucket.
Don’t store your bucket in the sun.
Don’t keep them all day long – return them to sea after an hour.
Don’t use a line with a hook on. Either tie a small amount of bait on or use an old pair of tights/bit of net to hold it in.

Do use crabbing bait like bacon sparingly and clean up any scraps.
Do add rocks and seaweed to the bucket to help replicate the crab’s natural environment and reduce stress.
Do hold your crab correctly – gently hold it either side of its shell or pick it up with one finger on top of the shell and one finger underneath – avoiding the claws.
Do remove any crabs which are fighting – male crabs tend to be more aggressive than the females.
Do remember to take all your equipment and rubbish home with you.

REMEMBER: People swim in Clevedon Marine Lake every day, so please consider carefully what bait you use. Ask yourself if you’d feel happy swimming near it? Raw chicken contains harmful bacteria such as salmonella and E. Coli so shouldn’t ever be used.