A fright on Burnham beach

I simply adored Burnham beach. I had no plans to visit until a couple of weeks before I left, but then I found some photographs of the square lighthouse and I knew it would be perfect for sunset. The wreck on Berrow beach had to take a back seat yet again, but maybe one day…

I arrived in plenty of time, with more than 45 minutes until the sun set. There was plenty of room on the esplanade for parking and I started to gather my things together. Then I spotted a sign for toilets on the other side of the road. If you haven’t been out and about from dawn until dusk, then the significance may mean very little. I had been coping very well with the odd pub at lunch time and the odd shrub at other times, but this was an offer too good to ignore. I locked the car and crossed the road to the local church. The signs had disappeared, so I continued through the graveyard until I reached a busy road on the other side. There were no facilities and no more signs, so I walked back through the graveyard until I found someone I could ask. She pointed me to a path on the other side of the church, which came out a bit further along the busy road, but close to a pedestrian crossing and there on the other side was the object of my desire. All this had taken well over ten minutes, but at least I had found what I needed. Only they were locked. What I hadn’t been desperate for when I arrived had suddenly become very important indeed. A bit like listening to running water really…

I had no choice but to head back to the beach, now fifteen minutes late and the lighthouse was much further away than expected. Not only that, but I could now see there was a layer of sea mist and the sun was clearly going to disappear from view well before sunset. Stepping on to the sand, I spotted a sign saying no dogs were allowed on the left hand side of the beach. It didn’t mean a great deal until I was much closer to my destination and I ran across what I can only describe as a seaside puppy party. It was wonderful! Lots of local dog owners had gathered in the fading light to chat and play with their pets. I wish I could have lingered for a while, but I had to press on. Then I spotted some large lumps of concrete surrounded by pools of water. It was like a magnet. I must have been the only person on this beautiful beach at sunset to go “ooh, look at those stunning concrete blocks”. Fortunately I know what works for me photographically and with the puddles and some of the locals in the background, I managed to get a handful of images that are among my personal favourites.

Burnham Beach1

In the end I made it to the lighthouse with a few minutes to spare and managed to get the photograph featured at the top. What of the fright though? I had seen one or two images with the beam from lighthouses showing at twilight. I had noted the settings and thought it was worth a try. I waited and watched as one by one all the locals disappeared and eventually even the two fishermen in the distance could no longer be seen. I began with a few test shots and was just fiddling with the exposure when I noticed a man wearing a white cap shuffling between me and the subject. Now the lighthouse wasn’t all that far away and the beach was huge. It didn’t seem right that he should invade my personal space in that way and certainly not in the growing darkness. He did it again and then a third time. It was at that point that my brain started racing and as he was heading away from me (presumably to turn and come back again), I packed up my gear in a flash and headed for the relative safety at the top of the beach. The town was still twenty minutes walk away, but I reckoned that if I spotted him trying to follow, then I could hide out in the dunes.

As it turned out, I didn’t need to hide, although I had a very frightening walk back to the car. It did cross my mind that I had my mobile phone with me, but I didn’t know exactly where I was and help would likely arrive too late. Then I remembered my trusty torch, not brought along for the purpose of self-defence, but it might just save my life in an emergency. I am less than five feet tall with a bad leg and I can’t run. Why on earth didn’t I leave the beach when there were still plenty of people around? By the time I got back to some houses built on the edge of the beach, I was out of breath and in a state. Maybe the man regularly walked up and down along that strip of beach and perhaps I was the one who was in HIS way. Whatever the reason, I will certainly be more careful in future.

Burnham Beach4

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