Poems: 'Lowlight on Burnham Beach' and 'Lugworms'; Trinity House and More About Lugworms

Updated on September 14, 2018
annart profile image

Ann loves to write poetry and stories. Current poetry about certain themes, e.g. Trains & English Counties, Poetry Month, Travel & beyond.

Burnham Lowlight

The Lowlight on the beach, Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset
The Lowlight on the beach, Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset | Source

Rôle of Lighthouses

Lighthouses are less important than they used to be, especially those on land or shoreline. Many have been decommissioned, their lights snuffed and turned into homes, museums or nostalgic landmarks. Trinity House is the body which decides the fate of each lighthouse.

My first poem is about the Lowlight on the beach of Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset. It was decommissioned some years back but has a fascinating history and draws visitors from afar because of its unusual structure. Nine sturdy wooden legs and a cubed wooden core enclosing a large light housing, stand on Burnham Beach.


Low & High Lights

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Lowlight at low tide, before its repaintHighlight, inland on Berrow Road, Burnham-on-Sea, SomersetFurther Navigational Aid on the curved beach wall
Lowlight at low tide, before its repaint
Lowlight at low tide, before its repaint | Source
Highlight, inland on Berrow Road, Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset
Highlight, inland on Berrow Road, Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset | Source
Further Navigational Aid on the curved beach wall
Further Navigational Aid on the curved beach wall | Source

Lofty Lowlight

Here I stand astride yellow, shifting, fickle sands,

peril-red stripe splits my torso, aligning with Highlight,

matched above on land, we both helped fishermen coming home.


Sturdy nine legs, monochrome, ‘neath window clear,

with all my might shone crystal throbbing, revolving light,

to guide wave-flung boats from harm, fishermen coming home.


Then came GPS, radar means they stumble less

upon the rocks and foaming crests of waters’ current power,

inching past craggy danger, following screen, the fishermen come home.


Times they change, now I’m not needed, Trinity House

says I’m superseded, also the Highlight, decommissioned,

left in others’ hands as long-reach tides bring cargo boats and fishers home.


Redundant yes, but I still stand high, new white and fresh red

paint have I, to please the visitor’s eye, striking symbol of the town,

a sight nowhere else seen in this land of sailors and fishermen coming home.


‘Race you to the lighthouse!’ cry the boys and girls,

adult alike. ‘Take a snap of me beside sturdy, thickset stumps.’

Camera clicks making semaphore blips, images sent to others staying home.


I’m the emblem of Burnham-on-Sea, seen on tea-towels,

crests and tea. Postcards show the red-striped me to send to Gran.

Spread the news to lure more friends to see the families coming home.


I survey softest sands and skies, feel cool waves,

hear seagulls’ cries, watch brave surfers ride the tides

where rivers and estuary meet, waters merge ebbing, flowing home.


Other side of marramed dunes, white Highlight soars

to the moons, a home for holiday folk wishing to dream, live

a lofty life, keepers where others have seen fishermen coming home.


Many love this place of mine, returning often, time to time,

strolling over rippled sand, wafts of tradition from brass band-stand,

fish and chips, whipped ice-cream van, all feeling they are coming home.


Marram Grass on the Dunes

From Dunes to Beach to Sea
From Dunes to Beach to Sea | Source

Trinity House, London

Trinity House
Trinity House | Source

Corporation of Trinity House

This is the corporation which controls lighthouses and other navigational aids at sea.

The Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond, is a private corporation governed under a Royal Charter. It was formally known as ‘The Master Wardens and Assistants of the Guild Fraternity’ or ‘Brotherhood of the most glorious and undivided Trinity and of St Clement’ in the Parish of Deptford Strond in the county of Kent. I always thought that Trinity House was a grand name but those outdo it in bucket-loads!

Trinity House is the official General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar. It has three core functions, being

  • responsible for the provision and maintenance of navigational aids, such as lighthouses, lightvessels, buoys and maritime radio/satellite communication systems,
  • an official deep sea pilotage authority, providing expert navigators for ships trading in Northern European waters and
  • a maritime charity, dispersing funds for the welfare of retired seamen, the training of young cadets and the promotion of safety at sea.


Funding, Founding & Masters

Trinity House’s funding for its services is derived from ‘light dues’ required of commercial vessels calling at ports in the British Isles, depending on their tonnage. Their maritime charity funding is a separate entity. The name of the guild derives from the Holy Trinity and St. Clement, the patron saint of mariners.

The corporation was founded in 1514 by Royal Charter granted by Henry VIII. There was concern over the poor conduct of unregulated pilots on the Thames and the Corporation wanted a licence to regulate pilotage.

Its first master was Thomas Spert, others being Samuel Pepys, William Pitt the Younger, the Duke of Wellington and Admiral William Penn (founder of Pennsylvania).

Winston Churchill was also associated with Trinity House. He was made an Elder Brother due to being First Lord of the Admiralty before and during World War I.

In 1566, it was Queen Elizabeth I’s Seamarks Act which enabled Trinity House to, ‘at their wills and pleasures, and at their costs, make, erect, and set up such, and so many beacons, marks, and signs for the sea… whereby the dangers may be avoided and escaped, and ships the better come into their ports without peril.’

The present Master of the Corporation (now an honorary title) is the Princess Royal, Princess Anne.


Ensign of Trinity House

Ensign of Trinity House is a British Red Ensign defaced with the shield of the coat of arms (a St George's Cross with a sailing ship in each quarter)
Ensign of Trinity House is a British Red Ensign defaced with the shield of the coat of arms (a St George's Cross with a sailing ship in each quarter) | Source

Piles of Sand = Lugworms!

This second poem is inspired by the squiggly piles left on the beach by local fishermen digging for lugworm bait for their hooks. It looks as if there are huge beach moles, digging upwards, making way for homes beneath.


Lugworms

Piles of sand worms at low tide,

those are the ones which didn’t hide.

You see, men dig to find lush lugs

and leave their sand-traces to look like bugs.


Lugworms, meant for juicy bait,

used to stop a long, long wait

before fat fish bite on the line.

Thank you, lugworms, that one’s mine!


Serious fishermen dig all day

trying to make their efforts pay.

For with a mound of these they try

to land much bigger fish - to fry!


Poor old lugworms, deep in sand

don’t realise their fate’s at hand.

They don’t know they’ll soon be up a

fish’s mouth, both meant for supper.


What does the lugworm need to do

not to get into such a stew?

Bury his head down, down in the sand,

further, to beat the fisherman’s hand.


So spare a thought for the lowly lugworms

which make a great meal in fish’s terms;

just look at the piles of squiggly sand

and hope, deep down, thrives a lugworm band.


Fish Bait

Lugworms
Lugworms | Source

What is a Lugworm?

The lugworm or sandworm is a large marine worm. Its coiled castings are a familiar sight on a beach at low tide but the animal itself is rarely seen except by those who dig the worm out of the sand, usually for fishing bait.

In the UK the lugworm is commonly called blow lugworm and rarely exceeds 130mm, about 5 inches.

Wikipedia says

‘A lugworm lives in a U-shaped burrow in sand. The U is made of an L-shaped gallery lined with mucus, from the toe of which a vertical unlined shaft runs up to the surface. This is a head shaft. At the surface the head shaft is marked by a small saucer-shaped depression. The tail shaft, 2 to 3 in (5.1 to 7.6 cm) from it, is marked by a highly coiled cast of sand.

The lugworm lies in this burrow with its head at the base of the head shaft, swallowing sand from time to time. This makes the columns of sand drop slightly, so there is a periodic sinking of the sand in the saucer-shaped depression. When it first digs its burrow the lugworm softens the sand in its head shaft by pushing its head up into it with a piston action. After that the sand is kept loose by a current of water driven through the burrow from the hind end by the waves of contraction passing along the worm's body. It weighs 2 to 5 oz (57 to 142 g). Lugworms also have hairs on the outside of their bodies that act as external gills. These can rapidly increase its uptake of oxygen.’

What wonders lie beneath our sands!


Sandy Beaches

Burnham and Berrow to its north both have wonderful long sandy beaches. They are beautiful to look at but sadly have a sinister side. Much of the beach at low tide is treacherous as there are quicksands and mud.

Notices warn visitors and bathers but not all heed the advice and there have been tragic incidents.

Nevertheless, the beach offers beautiful views, lighthouse history, driftwood and miles of walks, a haven for people, dogs and horses, all of which love to use the beach for exercise. Its views across the estuary are wide and airy and its sunsets beyond spectacular.

If you visit, be sure to take a walk at low tide, look around you and take in all that this wondrous place has to offer. You might even see the lugworm mounds!


Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Ann Carr

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      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        3 months ago from SW England

        Yes, they do have a certain fascination, I suppose because they offer such important help and are often works of art too. It's always good to go in search of some; considering they all do the same job their variety of amazing.

        Thanks for popping in today, Dianna!

        Ann

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 

        3 months ago

        I have always had a fascination about lighthouses. After reading this, I am more determined to take a tour one day up north to see a few.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Hello Mike! Thank you and I'm so pleased you like the poems. I had fun writing this.

        Ann

      • mckbirdbks profile image

        mckbirdbks 

        4 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hello Ann - Well, shiver me timbers and heave-ho with the lugworms. Lots of fun information about the use and non-use of lighthouses. Your poetry is wonderful.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you very much John.

        I've never heard of sand pumps before! They don't stand much of a chance then, do they?! Thanks for the input.

        Ann

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        4 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Very informative and a wonderful read, Ann. Love both poems and learning about the role of Trinity House and lugworms. Here the fishermen employ sand pumps to suck the worms out of the sand so it probably doesn't matter how deep they dig.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Linda, thank you very much. Glad you enjoyed this.

        Ann

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        4 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

        This is entertaining and educational, like all your articles. I love the poems, especially the first one. The photos are interesting, too. I enjoyed learning more about Burnham very much.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, manatita. I'm glad you got so much from this. The first was intended to be nostalgic, the second a lot lighter so I'm glad it worked!

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you Flourish, for your kind comments. Glad you enjoyed this.

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you Gypsy. I hope you had a happy 4th July.

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, Jackie and a belated happy 4th to you too!

        Ann

      • manatita44 profile image

        manatita44 

        4 months ago from london

        Ann,

        You reminded me of what Peggy does for Houston. Your informative and historical pieces are done in a similar vein, meaning that they can be quite helpful and educational. The Lighthouse piece seems to have found another use for itself. Great!

        I will remember if I visit. I find these places very beautiful. Anyway, I do believe that I used something similar to lugworms for fishing too. They tended to like soft, muddy, swampy areas.

        The second poem is lighter, gentler … sweeter. Lol.

        I love smooth sandy beaches and have found them in Bali, Hawaii and Phillipines, as well as here in the UK. Excellent write!

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        4 months ago from USA

        This is the first I’ve ever heard of lugworms. Someone who can write a poem about a worm truly must be talented. It’s not an easy task! I particularly enjoyed the alliteration in the first poem.

      • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

        Gypsy Rose Lee 

        4 months ago from Riga, Latvia

        Thank you this was fascinating. I love lighthouses. Hope you have a Happy 4th!

      • Jackie Lynnley profile image

        Jackie Lynnley 

        4 months ago from The Beautiful South

        I always enjoy your poetry, even about worms!

        Happy 4th!

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        What a great comment, Rinita! Thank you.

        I love playing with different rhythms and styles of poetry and I try to match them with the subject. Sometimes it works, sometimes not!

        I appreciate your support.

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you for your lovely comment, Elijah. I'm so glad that you enjoyed this.

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Glenis, thank you for such kind words. I'm flattered that you like that poem so much. I was indeed trying to evoke the past and also convey the 'recycling' of the lighthouse.

        I have had some luck with poetry competitions in the past. I'll see if there are any local ones so thanks for the suggestion.

        Lighthouses do have a romantic element, don't they, maybe because they offer help and develop characters of their own. This one is certainly a one-off!

        Wishing you a great week,

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        bill, your comment has me grinning like a Cheshire Cat. I love that you say I have my own voice. I say that because I'm never sure a) that I have one and b) that it's recognisable. So thank you, my lovely friend!

        You've no idea how much I appreciate your enduring support.

        When I write these pieces I love the background research because I learn so much. I'd seen the lugworm mounds over the years but never knew the ins and outs of them. Quite cute really; I feel rather sorry for them!

        Enjoy.a productive week but make sure you have some leisure! All work and no play... (No, you're never dull!)

        Ann

      • Senoritaa profile image

        Rinita Sen 

        4 months ago

        I cannot decide which of the two poems I like better. They are so different in aesthetics, rhyming, and formation, it is hard to imagine they come from the pen of the same person. True testimony to your versatility, Ann. The trivia was a really good read, too.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        4 months ago from The Caribbean

        Great poetic tributes to the lighthouse and the lugworms. Your poems show that there is much to reflect on in meaningful areas of life which we are tempted to overlook. Good reading!

      • The0NatureBoy profile image

        Elijah A Alexander Jr 

        4 months ago from Washington DC

        Such well written informing information I didn't now about lighthouses nor lugworms. it is always a pleasure to read your work although I don't always comment. Thank you, Ann.

      • Glenis Rix profile image

        GlenR 

        4 months ago from UK

        Lovely poems, Ann. Well done. I especially liked Loft Lowlight. It is so evocative, it makes me want to head for the coast (and what better time than now, in the midst of the heatwave?) You have made really good use of a range of poetic devices. I think the poem is worth submitting to a competition. Interesting info about Trinity House. I love lighthouses - have always felt there is something intrinsically romantic about them.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        4 months ago from Olympia, WA

        I have never heard them called that...great looking worms. Fishermen would salivate over those beauties.

        Great info on lighthouses. I just love your articles, Ann. Besides the fact they are well-written, they are always so informative, stamped with your own personal voice.

        Well done as always, dear friend!

        May your Monday be all that it can be

        bill

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Hello Peggy! Thank you for the kind words; I'm glad you enjoyed this. I learnt about lugworms too as I had no idea how they functioned.

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        4 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, Eric. I had fun with this but then it's familiar to me and we are a seafaring nation so it's in my blood!

        Ann

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        4 months ago from Houston, Texas

        You have worked a lot of information into this article along with your wonderful poetry. I enjoyed learning about this lighthouse, Trinity House and lugworms. Thanks!

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        4 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        As always delightful. We don't have big coast worms. Very interesting and a plethora vocabulary worthy.

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