The old Somerset dialect word ‘dew snail' (pronounced jue' snaa'yul) is a long black slug. If you were to rub the dew snail on a wart and then impale the slug upon a blackthorn spike then the wart would diminish and die along with the snail!
The angle-twitch is also known as the angle-dog which you will know as the common earthworm!
Reeds and Dune Slacks
Reeds and teasels were once managed on an industrial scale across Somerset, the latter for the wool industry as part of the carding and then fulling processes. The teasels in the photograph (Dipsacus fullonum) growing wild around the dunes today are the escaped ancestors of this industry, although the favoured species of teasel had thicker curved tips akin to velcro. Somerset grew acres of teasels which were exported across the globe.
The spiky teasel burs, once essential in the textile industry, are first placed in a flat wooden frame to be drawn across the cloth by hand, teasing and pulling the nap of the cloth. The process was industrialized in Victorian times in ‘fulling mills' where three thousand teasel burs were installed in rolling drums called gigs.
There was even a ‘teasel man' who would journey between mills expertly tuning the gigs to have a neat and even output. Teasels were eventually replaced with a metal equivalent which, if not properly used, could easily rip the felt apart. Today it is still common for artisan felters to use teasels in their craft.
The Somerset dialect word ‘mote' (pronounced moa'utt) is a strand of reed or corn which is good to use as a drinking straw. Many rushes were put to service in times gone by, whether for thatch, floor covering or for lighting. They grow in profusion in the west country and today line the ditches and rhines of Somerset.
Pictured is the feathery rush, (Phragmites australis) common across the world and known locally as shalders (pronounce s' auld airs). Once harvested commercially for thatch, today they are left uncut and provide an ideal habitat for the specialist wetland bird, the reed warbler.
Power of Still Water
Somerset has many legends and lore associated with water which are mirrored across the world and in different societies. These stories are often cautionary tales to keep children away from water – they tell of creatures who live in the weeds and grab children's ankles and pull them down into the deep mud to smother them with brackish love.
But water wells in Somerset were often attributed with healing powers too, and many have a specific leaning towards curing ailments of the eyes. A drop of water from St Agnes well in west Somerset would cure cataracts and even glaucoma. The Somerset dialect word ‘dimpsy' refers to the evening gathering dusk, but the phrase ‘they've got a case of the dimpsies' suggested a person was either blind or on their way to losing their sight.
The waters here have obvious regenerative qualities judging by the variety of species, but they do need nurturing and protecting so they will be here for generations to come.
This brings us to the end of this Storywalk although there are many others along the Somerset Coastline to enjoy. Why not post a picture on social media of your family or group enjoying the trail and tag us with @storywalks @ecpsomerset or #ecpStorywalks.
These trails have been researched and written by C. Jelley and have been made possible by grant funding from the England Coast Path scheme, managed by Somerset County Council and the Rights of Way team. With additional input and guidance from Dr H. Blackman, Dr M. Ward, Dr A. Halpin and N. Philips.
Directions - Take the path to the right of the sign board which weaves through the dunes, past reed beds and ponds. Then take the right fork at the first post, followed by a right again at the second. This will lead you back to the car park where our trail began.
For Storywalk app service issues and enquiries – Storywalks contact
For Somerset public rights of way issues – Somerset County Council
Images – in order of display
1 – The Nornen on Berrow Sands – photograph – C. Jelley
2 – Ash keys – photograph – C. Jelley
3 – Reynard the Fox, illustration – Ernest Henri Griset – public domain
4 – Sea buckthorn – photograph – C. Jelley
5 – Marsh orchid – photograph – C. Jelley
6 – Sir Charles Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak – Wellcome Collection – https://wellcomecollection.org/works/jc2q4g6n
7 – Evening primrose – photograph – C. Jelley
8 – Oil beetle – photograph – C. Jelley
9 – Birds-foot trefoil - photograph - Somerset Wildlife Trust
10 - The Nornen and Hinkley C construction – photograph – C. Jelley
11 – The Nornen – photograph – Anon
12 – The Burnham-on-Sea lifeboat men – Anon
13 – Dune ends – photograph – C. Jelley
14 – Lugworm casts – photograph – C. Jelley
15 – Dragonfly – photograph – C. Jelley
16 – Teasels in Berrow Dunes – photograph – C. Jelley
17 – Rushes in Berrow Dunes – photograph – C. Jelley
Directions - take the path to the right of the sign board which weaves through the dunes, past reed beds and ponds. Then take the right fork at the first post, followed by a right again at the second. This will lead you back to the car park where our trail began.