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Views of the Harbour Master

Wells-by-the-sea lit by gas, and boasting of a very fine stone quay and commodious harbour. A large proportion of the inhabitants are employed in the fisheries of the great mussel and oyster beds which lay outside the harbour. The trade of the Port is of importance in the exportation of grain, malt and the importation of coals, tiles and deals. The harbour formally much better than at present, has sustained injury from the accumulation of sand, (continually shifting), considerable improvement have, however, of late years been accomplished by the Harbour Commissioners.

The above paragraph was taken from a report in the harbour archives dated 1839, however the reference to the shifting sands could be taken from more recent times as the sands are continually moving, as in 2013 with the tidal surge which transformed the beach, Knock and Bob Hall Sands with long established sand dunes, which were an important habitat for nesting birds, being destroyed and lost overnight. The Outer Harbour ridges and dunes on Bob Hall Sands, apart from being an important area for birds, also provide a natural sea defence during spring tides and northerly winds.

These Outer Harbour ridges and dunes and the vast salt marsh are of great importance to the Port, not only because of the ecosystem, nesting birds etc, but also because of the value it provides as a natural sea defence. The Harbour Commissioners have tried to protect and influence the movement of shifting sands and erosion within the Harbour for centuries, by building training walls, placing of fagots and damming the creeks and this tradition continues, so much so, that the present day Commissioners are exploring schemes for the protection and possible restoration of the West frontage of the salt marsh. This is to help with the erosion which is slowing occurring and the reasons for this are many, one being as the channel widens more fetch in the prevailing south-west winds is driving across the channel and dispersing across the marsh edge. Speed/swell restriction warning signs have been erected to try and reduce boat wash which can have an effect on the eroding marsh. The salt marsh and harbour is well protected with many designations from SSSI to Ramsar site but I personally feel it should be allowed to be enjoyed by all and I am not in favour of restricting the access to the salt marshes as being tabled by some more recently. Again personally I feel the public enjoying the salt marsh for recreational purposes does not represent a major problem whether this is bird watchers, wildfowlers or walkers, all should be allowed to enjoy the large area of this natural wilderness, where not many decades past the marsh was used for grazing of sheep.

Do you know who is representing you on the Harbour Users Advisory Committee? The group/committee meet twice a year to discuss and advise on harbour matters. Also they can suggest what they as users feel we should focus more on, or should be doing. They are advisory and have no statutory powers or control of budgets or revenue, that is the responsibility of the Commissioners, however if you feel you are not represented or have a proposal to nominate either yourself or another for the committee, please pass on your suggestions in writing to the Harbour Office. These can then be raised at a meeting of the advisory group.

Finally I and all the staff feel very privileged to have the opportunity to work and help preserve this beautiful harbour on your behalf.

Robert Smith MBE
Harbour Master

A Message from the Chairman

First of all, as the new Chairman of the Harbour Commissioners, let me introduce myself, I have had associations with Wells Harbour for the past 45 years: sailing, swimming, water skiing, cruising and generally messing about in boats. I became a Commissioner five years ago so am now more familiar with the commercial side of the harbour though have never yet been to sea in a fishing boat - I hope to remedy this. I hope as Chairman I will do justice to the position that my fellow Commissioners voted for me to undertake. Tony Pannell, the outgoing Chairman, will be a hard act to follow. On behalf of the Commissioners and myself I would like to thank Tony for his years of excellent leadership.

Let me start by welcoming all new and old harbour users to the Port. We, the Commissioners, are here to ensure all stakeholders are catered for and we do listen to your views so feel free to let us have your appropriate suggestions.

Last year the harbour team not only maintained our beautiful Port by painting railings, filling pot holes, replacing mooring lines, dredging the channel to ensure safe passage to both the outer and inner harbour etc, they have managed to build a new facilities barge for the use of visiting craft, construct a new buoy and boat store in the compound and implemented the first stage of our car park design which has improved the facilities for the fishermen. This year we expect to undertake phase 2 of our car park improvements and hope to offer an enhanced area for gillying with eco-friendly crab lines and a discreet area for motorcyclists.

I am always impressed by the willingness of the staff to go beyond the call of duty to make sure our Port is the success it is. Much of what they do goes unnoticed by the public but their presence was notable on Triathlon day. The work started very early in the morning and went on into late afternoon and was all done voluntarily. We truly have a wonderful team.

Yet again the Beach Patrol team did sterling work during the summer months. We hope that the young people who undertake this work enjoy the experience and know that their endeavours are appreciated. Your Harbour Commissioners all do their duties on a voluntary basis and give their time freely so on your behalf I thank them too.

In the past many of you have enjoyed Harbour Day and I am pleased to announce that we hope that 2017 will see another of those fabulous events. They take at least 12 months to organise and need an independent cash flow so hopefully it will happen.

Following the floods in 2013, we recognised a need to protect our beautiful iconic Harbour Office. Flooding will happen again and we need to act as soon as possible. We have looked at raising the defences but can't guarantee their effectiveness so we are looking at extending our building using stilts to raise us above the water and opening up the ground floor of the present building to allow tidal surges through. This planning is all in the early stages and when we have more details, you, our stakeholders, will be consulted.

The Wells Harbour Maritime Trust, the Commissioners charity, goes from strength to strength giving young people the opportunity to enjoy water based activities. It is satisfying to see the people of Wells supporting the charity with gifts and donations. Grateful thanks to you all.

A final word of true appreciation to Robert, our Harbour Master and Louise, our Administrator for their unflagging dedication to care, maintenance and enhancement of our Safe Haven - the Port of Wells.

Joan Price
Chairman