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Lilstock

Find out what the old Somerset words ‘vuz-pig' (pronounced vuuz'pig) and ‘galligaskins' (pronounced gyaal-igaas-keenz) refer to and what antics the RAF were practising over the old harbour ruins of Lilstock.

Welcome to the Lilstock hidden history Storywalk along the England Coast Path. This trail is designed to be like a skimming stone of interesting facts, myth, history and tales linked to this location. The walks are designed to be read aloud to family and friends and to embellish your experience of the area.

Route - from Lilstock car park this is a circular trail which starts at the beach then follows the cliff westwards before looping back inland past the hidden gem of Lilstock church.

To delve deeper into local history please visit Minehead library or Watchet Visitor Centre.

Length - 2 mile / 3.5 km, allow a couple of hours at an amble.
Access - gravel, stony on beach, headland trail with various terrain.
Directions - this trail begins at Lilstock car park. TA5 1SU What3words address ///invents.arena.wand 51.200208, -3.1871770
 
Chapter one

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘vuz-pig' (pronounced vuuz'pig) is a hedgehog and ‘galligaskins' (pronounced gyaal-igaas-keenz) are tough rawhide overalls for thatching.
Chapter two

Acland-Hood Estate

This trail has a mix of history, geology, local dialect words and interesting wildlife. The Storywalk really begins just along the track at the harbour which was abandoned in 1900 after a wild December storm devastated it completely.

The walk journeys west along the cliffs, where we will talk a little about the practice bombing range in the channel, the local geology and fossils before heading inland and stopping at Lilstock deconsecrated church.

As you walk towards the beach, look out for the roses growing in what was once the gardens of the old coast guard, customs office and wayfaring inn “The Limpet Shell'.

The photograph above was taken by The Reverend Derrick around 1900.
Directions - Walk along the path towards the sea, the next chapter will reveal at the beach. Note - refresh this page whenever the distance counter gets a little sleepy or use the 'help' button on the bar below. But as you walk perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect word ‘kitty bats’ (pronounced keet'ee baats) might refer to.
 
Chapter three

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘kitty bats' (pronounced keet'ee baats) are small leather lace up gaiters.
Chapter four

The Limpet Shell

The harbour and building ruins of Lilstock are well worth scrambling around as there is still much of the decaying infrastructure left. The harbour itself and lagoon is on your right along with sections of the harbour wall. Walk along a couple of dozen paces to see down into it.

In the late 1800s this would have been a bustling little port with warehouses and even a little inn for travellers called ‘The Limpet Shell'.

The photograph above was taken in the late 1800s at the skittle alley of The Hood Arms, Kilve and the photographer, the Reverend John Derrick, is seated at the back.

The harbour was first developed by the Ackland family in around 1820 to allow coal to be brought over from Wales for use in their lime kilns and on the estate. Pit props were eventually the main export along with the lime and by 1848 coast guards were resident, followed by customs officers less than a decade later. Warehouses followed not long after with their substantial remains under the cliff still accessible today.

In 1888 there was talk of building a canal linking Lilstock with the coastal town of Seaton in East Devon. But the canal was never commissioned and the storms on December 28th and 29th 1900, destroyed much of the harbour (along with neighbouring harbours along the coast). Lilstock was abandoned and although a postcard from 1907 apparently shows the harbour to still be accessible to boats it was never to become the bustling port it had once been.
Chapter five

Smugglers Lanes

The Ordnance Survey map above indicates the Somerset Coast line 1809 with Lilstock marked as ‘Little Stoke' (sitting directly beneath the word ‘BAY' in the map above).

Smuggling was big business as the port taxes for both incoming and outgoing goods were very high. In its heyday, between 1700-1850, many everyday items in high street shops were quite likely smuggled, the most common of which was tea.

If you study maps you'll see there are often ‘smugglers lanes' marked many miles from the sea. This is because contraband was brought inland as quickly as possible, whilst customs officers patrolled the coast. Smugglers had their safehouses, often with secret passages, false walls and locked rooms. It was often useful to claim ghosts inhabited such places, embellishing tales to scare people from exploring too closely and hide the presence of the illicit goods.

The legend of ‘pixie ridden' horses was rife around this time too. If your horses were hot and sweaty in their stalls in the morning when they should be fresh from a night's rest, then they had obviously been ridden by pixies in the night and surely not been conscripted into nefarious night time shenanigans!

Image above from Ordnance Survey Map 1809 - GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth - visionofbritain.org.uk
Directions - Walk along the path to the end of the harbour, the next chapter will reveal at the harbour mouth. As you walk perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect words ‘caniffly’ (pronounced kan'eeflee) and ‘smock faced’ (pronounced smauk'fae'usud) might refer to.
 
Chapter six

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘caniffly' (pronounced kan'eeflee) was to compliment or flatter someone; whereas ‘smock faced' (pronounced smauk'fae'usud) was only used to insult a pale faced and sickly looking man!
Chapter seven

Substantial Harbour

Towards the end of the harbour there are remains of a ‘lifting bridge' whose substantial metal abutments are still visible. This was likely a crane to assist the lifting of coal out of the boats and the pit props and lime back in, although all manner of goods including livestock and people would be travelling by sea.

Down on the shingle it is also easy to see the harbour wall extending onwards and seawards. At low tide there is a second avenue of constructed harbour stones which can be investigated when the water is low.
Chapter eight

Fossils

On the beach you will notice that many of the rock layers are rich in fossils of marine animals. In particular many different species of ammonite can be found, the most common being the usually highly flattened Psiloceras planorbis, which is found all along this foreshore.

‘Devil's Toe-Nails' can often be found loose on the shore here too, they of course have nothing to do with the devil but are fossilised oysters (Gryphaea), so do keep your eyes peeled. Larger marine reptile fossils have also been discovered including the bones of ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs.

There are firm restrictions on hammering and collecting of ammonites from the rocks along this coast. This is designed to preserve the specimens which would otherwise be destroyed by amateur collectors. However, loose reptile remains and other fossils can still be collected without issue, though if you spot something really interesting then it is important to let the Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton know.
Chapter nine

GPS Location

If you find your location accuracy dipping, then refresh this web page to give your device a little nudge. Alternatively, walk to the location and tap the 'help' button on the right of the locked bar below to open the next chapter manually.
Directions - Turn around to head west along the England Coast Path for the next chapter to reveal. Refresh this page whenever the distance counter gets a little sleepy or use the 'help' button on the bar below. But as you walk perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect word ‘papdish’ (pronounced paap'-deesh) might refer to.
 
Chapter ten

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘papdish' (pronounced paap'-deesh) is a cup or vessel for warming a baby's food.
Chapter eleven

Gunnery and Bombing Range

You probably noticed the second world war pillbox or concrete gun emplacement on the side of the path just a moment ago. This landscape is littered with remnants of military activity, as just to the left of the path here, at the edge of the field, there was once a twenty foot arrow. This was designed to be easily visible by low flying aircraft to assist with bombing practise in the Bristol Channel. The arrow has long been removed, but during World War II this whole area was reserved for military training as part of the exercises in preparation for D-day. Over to the west, where the tank ranges were located the original concrete buildings still pepper this landscape today.

The fixed wing exercises with dummy bombs ended in 1995 but floating targets have been used in recent years and are still visible in the channel today to train helicopter gunners from RNAS Yeovilton.
Chapter twelve

Fishing Weirs

Along the top of the beach, adjacent to the coast path are a series of wooden posts thought to be part of a medieval fish trap though they seem too high to have been much use. It is thought that they are more likely to have been part of an earlier harbour in addition to the stone structures you have just visited.

Lower down the beach from here there is evidence of fishing weirs which are visible at low tide. The mud here is treacherous and it is recommended that you do not venture out to them.

Remnants and dismantled walls of medieval fishing weirs are easily visible all along this coast and would have provided a regular source of food for residents and further afield. Many of the weirs had a net at the outflow where the last of the tide would be funnelled,
any fish which had swum up on the incoming tide, would then be filtered and captured as the waters recede.

The image above is of a putcher rack that was once located further up the Severn estuary along with a hedge weir. Putchers are an ancient wicker cone shaped basket designed to capture salmon by funnelling them and stopping them turning with the change of tide. Hundreds of putcher racks would be lined along the Severn and were still in use until 1995 but dwindling salmon stocks and the collapse of colonies meant the end of this tradition.

As you might expect an area between land and sea has many dialect words for marshy and muddy ground. These include clabby – wet and heavy soil; juggymire – marshy ground; queechy – wet, sodden ground and stog – to get stuck fast in the mud.
Directions - Continue along the England Coast Path but as you walk perhaps discuss what the seafaring term ‘barrel man’ might refer to.
 
Chapter thirteen

Dialect

The seafaring term ‘barrel man' referred to the man stationed in the crows nest high up the ships. He would be the first to report land or other attacking vessels and the ability to read other ships flags was essential.
Chapter fourteen

Oyster Catchers and Dunlin

Herring gulls, black-headed gulls, little egrets, herons and cormorants can all regularly be spotted on the shore at Lilstock feeding on marine life; especially on the many fish that live just off the coast such as cod, bass and eels. You might also see and hear oystercatchers, large black and white waders with a long orange bill (pictured above) which it uses to knock limpets and other snails off the rocks.
Chapter fifteen

The Common Limpet

The Common Limpet (Patella vulgata): have large dome-shaped shells and can live for 15 years or more. Important herbivores, they feed on the microscopic algae that covers the rocks. Their sandpaper-like tongue, called the radula, scrapes across the rock surface, with each sweep removing the fine algae and leaving a grazing mark on the rock. The radula is covered in many iron toughened teeth, which act like a file and is one of the toughest biological materials known to man.

Using their large muscular foot, limpets clamp tightly to the rocks at low tide to prevent drying out, though they do need to breath so have their shells ‘up' just a fraction. It is this gap which the Oystercatchers take advantage of by flipping them off with their beaks before eating the soft flesh inside.

Limpets return to their ‘roost' (the same spot) after feeding and as they settle down, they rotate the shell and grind it into the rock to produce a good fit. This is so abrasive it often leaves a scar on the rock surface.

The eggs hatch into planktonic larvae which live in the sea for several weeks before settling out for the shore. Interestingly all limpets start life as males and as the years pass they migrate up the beach, changing sex into females as they go!
Directions - Continue along the England Coast Path to the concrete building up ahead but as you walk perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect word ‘turmuting’’ (pronounced tuur'muteen) might refer to.
 
Chapter sixteen

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘turmuting'' (pronounced tuur'muteen) refers to the process of preparing the field or ground for planting turnips!
Chapter seventeen

Geology

The coastal geology of Lilstock is part of the same rock sequence that make up the much more famous Jurassic Coast of Dorset and is the most easterly section of a geologically important site of special scientific interest (SSSI) which runs west from here, past Watchet to Blue Anchor. The cliffs and foreshore are part of the Blue Lias formation (Lower Lias) deposited in the early part of the Jurassic made up of sequences of limestone, mudstone and shale.

The rock sequence has been subjected to much faulting and inversions of geological sequences over long periods, and the curves of the bedrock can easily be seen from the coast path.

The limestone layers form a regular block-like ‘pavement' which is interspersed with grey shales. These shales have a relatively high organic content and were derived from ancient plankton laid down in low oxygen conditions and are now the source of oil deposits.

Further west along the coast just past Kilve, metal steps take you down onto the beach by an important date marker for geologists. This GSSP (Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point) marker is an internationally agreed reference point on a stratigraphic section which defines the lower boundary of a stage on the geological time scale, in this case, the Sinemurian.

In simple terms, it is Greenwich Mean Time for geologists!
Chapter eighteen

Blast Shelter

The building in the field to your left was probably a shelter which either functioned as part of the bombing range in the Bristol Channel or for the tank ranges in the fields behind, although it is thought that the tank ranges were actually further to the west.

The image above is of the Queen Bee, a pilotless, remote controlled de Havilland airplane designed in the 1930s for target practice. The Queen Bee flew along this coast from Helwell Bay just shy of Watchet to the west, but was actually very difficult to shoot down. It was reported that gunners would often run out of ammunition before hitting the plane even once!

The tank training in the fields between here and Kilton (where the nissen huts and barracks were situated) were part of the training effort for D-day during World War II. There were targets which ran on rails and a large earthwork ridge which was bulldozed flat when the barracks and grounds were decommissioned.
Directions - Continue along the England Coast Path to the viewing station, but as you walk perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect word ‘mommet’ (pronounced maum’ut) might refer to.
 
Chapter nineteen

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘mommet' (pronounced maum'ut) refers to a litter of pigs.
Chapter twenty

Observation Tower

The observation tower was once used to coordinate the training of bombing runs of F-111's until the exercises ceased in 1995. They were targeting floats in the Bristol Channel and up to ten planes would train in the air together. More recently the range has been used to train the C-17 helicopter window gunners from RNAS Yeovilton. The yellow and black target floats are still visible a little off shore which suggests that practice is still undertaken.

It there is training in progress while you are enjoying the Storywalk, then feel free to take a snap and upload to the Storywalks Facebook Page and we'll update the Storywalk, or just a picture on the helipad would be fun.
Chapter twenty-one

Legends and Lore!

There is a North Somerset legend saying if your hand itches rub it on wood and you will receive money, but if it is your left hand which itches then you will lose or pay out.

Rub it on wood
Sure to be good
Rub it on knee
Sure to be
Rub it on brass
It'll come to pass


Along this coast you will pass lots of bramble, known locally as brimble and a great habitat for wildlife. But bramble was once a much sought after commodity for use as cord. The making of brooms would often use a bramble twine to tie the tough bows from the broom bush to a hazel shaft. The broom makers would cut a length and then strip the spikes off the bramble by running their hands quickly down it. You can imagine how rough and tough their hands would have been to strip the spikes off!

The common broom bush which naturally grows on scrub land was traditionally brought into the wedding home whilst in flower. Its scent is also said to have properties which can calm and tame wild horses and dogs.

Take a moment to look at the bird life in the bushes, goldfinches are regulars here and often flock around the teasels. Their Irish name is ‘an lasair choille' meaning ‘flame of the forest' or ‘light of the woods'. The collective noun for goldfinches is a charm.
Directions - Turn in land and follow the track to Park Farm but as you walk perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect phrase ‘cobblers curse’ (pronounced kaub'lurz kuus) might refer to.
 
Chapter twenty-two

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect phrase ‘cobblers curse' (pronounced kaub'lurz kuus) referred to the extreme of worthlessness.
Chapter twenty-three

Deer Parks

Deer parks date from the Norman Conquest. Historians estimate that there were once over 3000 deer parks in England, Scotland and Wales, some extending to thousands of acres. They were usually associated with castles and great houses, such as those at Dunster and St Audries. Most were created between 1200 and 1350 and lasted until the Civil War of the 1640s, when they were changed into agricultural land or became part of country estates.

The 1886 and 1902 Ordnance Survey maps show a substantial bridge over the road between the Quantocks and St Audries, near West Quantoxshead. This was put in specifically for deer to pass into the park at St Audries, although it was destroyed in 1940. Whilst it allowed horse-drawn traffic to pass underneath comfortably, it was too low for larger, modern vehicles.

A couple of fields across to the west from here is a map reference ‘deer leap' this will be a remnant from deer parks of this period still retaining their name and use long after the parks have gone.
Chapter twenty-four

Cider

There are over 156 varieties of apples with a specific connection to Somerset but sadly over 50% of Somerset orchards have vanished in the last 60 years. Most orchards are of cider apples which are often bitter to taste before their brewing. Old orchards would have tall well spaced trees, which would require special fruit picking ladders to prune and collect the produce. These taper at the tips to nestle against branches easier and can be seen in the old image above of a Somerset orchard circa 1890.

On twelfth night, the wassailing festivities begin in earnest across Somerset where the ‘old man of the orchard' (the oldest apple tree) is serenaded. Fresh bread is placed in the branches and shot guns are fired over the canopies to scare away the spirits. Today, with new orchards in many villages across Somerset, the wassailing has become a wandering affair as the ‘old man' is sought out at each orchard in turn. The ceremony is all about thanks for the recent harvest, and hope for the harvest yet to come.
Directions - Continue along the track and then bear right at the road junction. Hidden in the woods just along on your left is St Andrew’s Church. But as you walk perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect word ‘cockle’ (pronounced kauk'l) might refer to.
 
Chapter twenty-five

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘cockle' (pronounced kauk'l) refers to a ripple of water caused by the wind.
Chapter twenty-six

St Andrews Church

This tiny church, now grade II listed, was part of the Springston Parish and connected closely with Kilton a short distance to the west. Almost now hidden by trees the church was deconsecrated in 1980. Left abandoned it was listed as derelict in 1989 and at the time, the church commission thought it was not worth the cost of keeping it maintained but rather than leave it a danger they planned to level it. This greatly saddened the local Reverend Rex Hancock of the United Benefice of Quantoxhead. The building was located within his parish and since the church was not prepared to pay for the essential repairs, he dipped into his own pocket and paid several thousand pounds to finance the necessary repairs.

The Reverend Hancock referred to the church as having ‘a unique character who might have stepped out of a Trollope novel'. The Reverend Hancock was also known to conduct the local Watchet Town Band in renditions of the Dambusters March at garden fetes. He passed away in 2012 and is buried in Porlock, not far west along the coast, his body was laid to rest first to the sound of a hunting horn and then followed by the Dambusters March.
Chapter twenty-seven

Ash Trees

Even Ash I thee do pluck,
Hoping thus to bring me luck
If no luck thee brings to me
I wish I had left thee open the tree.


(medieval - anon)
The ash tree is common in Somerset with a mature specimen arching over the gate here at St Andrews. Younger specimens abound in the surrounding woods also, although Europe has been beset by the ash dieback disease (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus). The current projections from the Woodland Trust (Spring 2020) are that ash dieback fungus will sadly kill 95% of UK ash trees, and along with it a unique ecosystem of insects, moths and spiders.

Historically ash has been a much sought after versatile timber, it is both light and strong and coupled with its capacity to be steam bent, it was once the timber of choice for Spitfires and is still the timber used to make bespoke furniture and Morgan motorcars today.

The land you are standing on and to the north of the church was once a medieval settlement or hamlet. In Ireland and Scandinavia individual ash trees would be hailed as guardians of settlements, with the Anglo-Saxons preferring ash for spear and shield handles.

Allegedly ash keys were often carried to ward off witches, and bundles like wands have been found on Anglesey dating from the first century. The Luttrell Arms in Dunster (pictured) has been known to burn 'The Ashen Faggot', on Christmas Eve which is a bundle of twigs bound with seven green bows, as each bow cracks and snaps in the heat of the fire, sending up sparks, it is custom to cheer and take a drink.

The well known saying,

If the oak is out before the ash, then we shall surely have a splash.
If the ash is out before the oak, then we shall surely have a soak.


Apparently this saying has been tested against records going back a hundred years and found to be the other way around!
Directions - Walk back to the road and turn right (to double back on yourself for a short distance) but continue along the road down hill to the next junction where the final chapter will reveal. But as you walk perhaps discuss what the old Somerset dialect word ‘muggard’ (pronounced muug'urd) might refer to.
 
Chapter twenty-eight

Dialect

The old Somerset dialect word ‘muggard' (pronounced muug'urd) refers to someone who is sulky or displeased.
Chapter twenty-nine

Lilstock

To end this walk I think it is interesting to note that this landscape has had many iterations of communities leaving their marks as they lived and passed through. Initially, Lilstock was recorded as Lytel-Stoke or Lulestock (Domesday Book) and rendered at one time as Little Stock or Little-stoke as mentioned before. Its name is said to have originated from stoc being the farm of Lylla and his people.

Today the landscape is mainly arable farmland, but the scars of these previous inhabitants can still be seen, in the curve of ditches, the stones of the old harbour and the scatter of broken military buildings. To the east Hinkley Point C is well under construction signaling changes still happening within the cycle of this land.
Chapter thirty

The End

This brings us to the end of this Storywalk although there are many others of these along the Somerset Coastline to enjoy. Feel free to post a picture on the Storywalks Facebook of your family or group enjoying the trail.

These trails have been researched and written by C Jelley and Dr Helen Blackman 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.
Chapter thirty-one

Directions

Turn left along the track which will lead you back to Lilstock car park where our Storywalk began.

For Storywalk app service issues and enquiries - Storywalks contact

For Somerset public rights of way issues - Somerset County Council
Chapter thirty-two

Acknowlegements

1 - Lilstock Pier - Photograph - Somerset Heritage Trust - The Reverend Derrick Collection - A/DWH/28/1999/316

2 - Skittle Alley - The Hood Arms - Photograph - Somerset Heritage Trust - The Reverend Derrick Collection - A/DWH/152

3 - Ordnance Survey Map 1809 - GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Lilstock in West Somerset - Vision of Britain

4 - Ammonite - photograph - Christopher Jelley

5 - Putchers on the Severn Estuary - Photograph - Anon

6 - Oystercatcher - photograph - Nigel Phillips

7 - Common Limpet - photograph - Nigel Phillips

8 - The Queen Bee Launch - Anon

9 - Orchard - Photograph - Somerset Heritage Trust - The Reverend Derrick Collection - A/DWH/144

10 - Lilstock Church - Photograph - Christopher Jelley

11 - The Ashen Faggot at the Luttrell Arms Hotel - Photograph - Somerset Heritage Centre - A/DWH/39 - The Clement Keely collection
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