Britain at Low Tide: S2 E4 Severn Estuary

I love the River Severn, but I tend to stay way upstream, as it wends its way through Shropshire. Canoeing down under Ironbridge and over the Jackfield Rapids has to be one of my favourite things.

The Severn as we see it in this episode of Britain at Low Tide is a different beast altogether. Treacherous, changeable, fast and swirling. Hard to navigate, and hard to cross. But intriguingly, the challenge of crossing this natural barrier appears to have brought communities on each bank of the river closer together, rather than driving them apart. Even today, you can hear people on the Wye side of the river talk about ‘Forest Folk’ and ‘River Folk’; kinship with the water runs deep.

I cannot overstate how dangerous this stretch of the Severn is. The tides rush in. People can, and do, get caught out and die. To get permission to film, we had to have a hovercraft on standby to rescue us, just in case.

We also had to fortune to be guided by Frank Larkham, local skipper (and one of the few remaining people with the knowledge to pilot up river beyond Aust) and owner of the Wastdale and Arkendale wrecks. His knowledge of the tides kept us safe getting to and from these boats. Even so, it was tense. Please, please don’t be foolhardy and venture out into the mud yourself unless you know what you are doing, and take all the necessary precautions (if you don’t know what these are: DON’T GO). AND CHECK THE TIDES.

You can, however, continue to explore the stories in this episode from the safety of your armchair by following the links below

If you want to get involved with local archaeology safely, get in touch with the CITiZAN team, and find out what opportunities and events there are in your area:

If you want to know more about the archaeology of the tidal Severn, the Severn Estuary and Levels Research Committee is the place to visit — as ever, we could only scrape the surface of the fascinating history and prehistory of this region:

This episode is really all about crossing the River Severn, and this blogpost by CITiZAN’s Alex Bellisario covers much of the history of the ingenious ways people have done — or attempted to do — just that:

And Chris Witts, who shared his memories of the Severn Bridge Disaster with us (see WASTDALE AND ARKENDALE/SEVERN BRIDGE DISASTER below) wrote a whole book called The Severn Estuary Crossings


This video has fabulous vintage footage from the Huntely Film Archive of the Aust-Beachly Ferry in the 1930s:



I love tunnels, especially lost or abandoned ones, so I was gutted I didn’t get to do this story. Lucky Oliver!



Chris Witts has his own blog, and he tells the story of the Severn Bridge Disaster there in much greater detail than we could possibly do in the programme. I recommend reading it:

Chris has also written a book all about Severn crossings, called


St Twrogs really is a bit of a mystery, and I have struggled to find anything accessible to link to for further reading. But:


*With apologies for pronunciation. I think I should have been pronounced more like ‘Tur-rogs’, but consistency (and a lack of confidence in my own opinion at the time…) required me to fall in with Trogs…  



  1. Harry Wright · March 18, 2018

    I just want to say how much I am enjoying “Britain at Low Tide.” Your enthusiasm is almost palpable, and the fact that you avoid lapsing into ‘academia-speak’ makes it so much more accessible. You clearly love your subject. For many of us with a disability, “hands-on” archaeology is not possible, not least because of the inaccessibility of most sites, so programmes like yours are important. Thank you so much, and please can we have more!


  2. Lyz Harvey · March 19, 2018

    Another terrific programme, with all the useful links on this page . . . thank you!
    (and to all the team, too!)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s