History of Apex Park
During the 19th and early 20th centuries this was one of a number of sites where local clay was extracted for brick and tile making, an important local industry at that time. A railway line to Burnham-on-Sea ran along what is now the north-eastern flank of the park.
The area that is now the car park was the brickworks at which the clay was made into various items such as bricks, roof tiles and pipes.
Four kilns operated on the site, each with a capacity for 2,000 bricks. the kilns were sited to the left of the brickworks (looking towards the lake) adjacent to the railway tracks. Running from the sea front, through Highbridge where it crossed the Great Western Railway, this line ran to Evercreech Junction where it joined the main line of the Somerset and Dorset Railway, which finally closed in March 1965.
Manufacturing ceased at Apex Park in 1966, bringing to an end the brick and tile trade in the Highbridge area.
The Construction of Apex Leisure and Wildlife Park
During 1969, Burnham-on-Sea Urban District Council acquired the land holding of Colthurst Symonds & Co, including disused and flooded clay pits, derelict buildings and kilns. The name Apex was the name of the previous Brick and Tile company on the site that was brought out by Colthurst Symonds. The Clay pits were required as balancing reservoirs for storm water drainage in connection with the Council's Main Drainage Scheme.
A scheme for future use of the area, commensurate with the long term planning interests of the Urban District and a policy of integration of the two towns Highbridge and burnham-on-Sea was prepared by the Surveyor's department and approved in principle by the council. The scheme proposed use of the site as Leisure park to link the two towns of Highbridge and Burnham-on-Sea and also to serve increasing numbers of visitors to the Urban District, anticipated when the M5 motorway was extended to Edithmead.
A Favourable tender was obtained from W.A.H. Crotty Ltd, a Cornish firm expert in handling of China Clay and in July 1971 Burnham-on-Sea Urban District Council accepted this tender. The Brief was to sculpture the clay into one large lake with shallow banks and to seed and plant the remaining areas.
In order to give the Contractors a good start the pits had been pumped out by the Council's direct labour organisation. This operation had proved interesting: The Highbridge Angling Association removed the fish and 49 Explosive Ordance Royal Engineers removed the bombs, mines and grenades - a submerged dump of unknown material was left by the Ministry of Defence during 1939 - 1945.
Crotty rapidly demolished, dug, moved clay, bulldozed, shaped and graded. They employed six men, all artists in this field, using back acting tracked digger, three six wheel drive Mercedes dump lorries and two adjustable blade bulldozers. In October they returned to Cornwall leaving a car park, pleasingly graded landscape that had buried all the rubbish, one lake and island (Crotty's Island). The Ground was then seeded and planted with 5000 trees by Richard Berry Ltd of Highbridge.
During 1972 Bovis Farr Ltd took possession of part of the site including the old railway land and commenced work on the major contract for drainage work in excess of £1,000,000 value, including main outfall pipe connecting the new lake to the adjacent river Brue, together with tidal flap that opened at every ebb tide.
The entire area now became a water park giving the public a wider choice of recreation than was before possible.
Do you have any old photos when this was still a working site with railway lines and brickworks?
During construction of the park?
Any of the park back in 1970's?
If you do - could you please send to me? It would be great to include them on this page.
Please reply to web Editor
Russ Chilcott Email; firstname.lastname@example.org
Map of the park in 1973
click on image to enlarge