20,000 - 10,000 years ago
10,000-3,000 years ago
3,000 - 1,900 years ago
100 A.D. - 1400 A.D.
1400 A.D. - 1700 A.D.
1700 A.D. - 1910 A.D.
1910 - 2000
2000 - Today
Sea-level rises and falls associated with the repeated growth and decay of ice sheets are recorded at various locations around Somerset. Read more...
Deposits from the last glacial period, the Devensian occur at several places around the County and provide evidence of the harsh climatic conditions of this time. At Brean Down, south of Weston-Super-Mare, sands, silts and breccias rest on a shore platform against an ancient sea-cliff. These sediments contain the bones of reindeer, bison, arctic fox and lemming indicating the existence of a tundra-like environment in the area. (Info from Natural England)
The area that is now Porlock Beach is five miles inland, and thickly wooded. Mesolithic people live and hunt the area. Read more...
Tree trunks from the time have been preserved in the marshy conditions that existed at the time and have been revealed as the sea has risen to erode them.
Around 10,000 years ago, water levels rose as the ice sheets melted, cutting off the UK from mainland Europe.
At the end of the last glaciation, 10 000 years ago, the sea level was much lower due to a vast amount of seawater frozen in the ice cap. Submerged tree stumps and bores drilled throught he seabed have shown that the Severn Estuary was a dry river valley. As the ice melted sea levels rose and by 6 000BC much of the present estuary had flooded.
As melt water was released by the vast ice caps of the last Ice Age, the increased sea levels submerged the lowlands of Somerset, creating intertidal mudflats and saltmarshes further inland then Glastonbury and Langport; both more than 20km from the present day coastline.
As the rate of sea level rise from meltwater declined it was outpaced by the growth of freshwater peat created in reedswamps. By 3 500BC freshwater wetlands had puched the coastline back at least as far as Brent Knoll and Chedzoy.
In the later Bronze Age and early Iron Age periods the sea once again submerged large areas of the floodplain. By 700BC saltmarshes extended as far as Godnet (just north of Glastonbury) and Langport.
In the Roman period the first sea and river defences were created. Many saltmarsh areas were reclaimed for agriculture and settlement. The coastline was pushed back beyond it's present line just south of Brean. The area south of Brent Knoll remained a saltmarsh where a huge salt making industry was created.
Sea levels continued to rise very slowly and before the end of the Roman period seawater finally overcame the coastal defences, submerging the land in the Axe Valley and all the area that is now the clay 'levels' along the present coast.
Romano-Celtic temple established on Brean Down
The coastal marshes were reclaimed from the sea by the Saxons using artificial flood defences to augment the natural dune barriers. By the Norman Conquest the coastline was very close to its present location or even perhaps a little further west in some places. The last big salt marsh, Brent Marsh, was reclaimed in the later 18th Century.
A major flood event - believed to be a tsunami - devastated large stretches of the Bristol Channel coast. Read more...
On 30 January 1607 a major flood in the Bristol Channel is believed to have killed around 2,000 people, destroying houses, villages and farmland all along the coast.
Flooding affected Somerset as far inland as Glastonbury, 14 miles from the coast.
Recent research suggests the flood was caused by a tsunami, but other evidence has been put forward to suggest it was caused by a storm surge, with original sources referring to the high spring tide and strong winds from the south west - classic conditions for a storm surge.
Burnham-on-Sea Round Tower lighthouse built
The west coast of the UK is struck by a devestating storm. Many coastal towns are battered by high winds and violent waves. Thousands of pounds of damage is caused. At Porlock Weir Shingle is thrown up on to the road, restricting access to the village.
On December 13th, 1981 a major storm surge up the Bristol Channel left a trail of damage along the Somerset coast, with Burnham particularly badly hit. Read more...
The storm that hit Porlock Weir in 1996 permanently altered the local landscape. Nigel Hester of the National Trust explains in the embedded video on this website the events that led up to the breach of the shingle ridge and the subsequent flooding of the fields behind. The National Trust are the adjascent land owners to Porlock Manor Estate.
The Somerset Coastal Change Pathfinder project is launched. Read more...
Defra announced the launch of the Pathfinder projects around the UK, including Somerset.
The project aims to explore new approaches to planning for, and managing, adaptation to coastal change in partnership with affected communities
Explore & contribute to the history of coastal change in Somerset from the Ice Age to the present day.
Discover how the coastline we know today has changed dramatically over the centuries, and continues to change.
The Somerset Coastal Change Pathfinder was a community-led project to help areas most affected by rising sea levels.
The project aimed to raise awareness of key issues around coastal change, and to give advice on how you can adapt to the changing environment.
A series of consultation events have been held in and around the key areas of Porlock Weir, Steart and Brean and Berrow members of the public have been invited to give input at these events and on this website.
Outputs from the project can be found throughout this website and two evaluation reports produced, one at the half way stage and one at the end of the project can be download here: Evaluation Report - June 2011 and Evaluation Report - November 2011
A blog has also been set-up which documents the activities throughout the project from the viewpoint of the project officer, find out more at: http://somersetcoast.wordpress.com/
Somerset Coastal Change Pathfinder, Somerset County Council, County Hall, Taunton, TA1 4DY | Tel: 01823 357337 | website by Tickbox Marketing