It’s hard to imagine that large areas of Somerset were once covered in water – most of the Somerset moors are below sea level, hence why they are so prone to flooding. It wasn’t until Dutch engineers drained the levels back in the 17th century that we were able to farm the land as we do today.
Go back even further – some 200 million years – and it’s even harder to imagine a prehistoric dolphin-like reptile swimming in the waters close to where we now live.
You may have guessed that I am focussing on Street in this week’s column – a village well known around the world for the quality and sheer number of fossilised Icthyosaurs found nearby.
Today Street is a thriving village close to Glastonbury, on the slopes of the Polden Hills. A comparatively large village with over 11,000 inhabitants, Street welcomes 4.1 million visitors each year to retail outlet Clarks Village.
Street has great facilities, with its own Theatre (Strode Theatre, which is planning to welcome audiences safely back soon) and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Whilst Strode Swimming and Fitness is due to open on 12th April, Greenbank, the outdoor heated lido sadly won’t be opening again now until next year.
Surrounding Street, there are some fantastic walks. Street Parish Council has launched a series of maps of walks: https://street-pc.gov.uk/street-walking-maps/.
The Parish Council worked closely with the Friends of Street Library and Somerset County Council to design a new layout for the village’s Parish Rooms. The building was refurbished to accommodate the Community Library and extend the offices on the first floor, with much improved accessibility through the installation of a lift.
It would be amiss to talk about Street without mentioning the shoe business, Clarks, a major employer in Mendip since it was founded in 1825 by brothers James and Cyrus Clark, who began selling a slipper made of sheepskin offcuts under their family name.
Interestingly, the Clarks family are intrinsically linked to discovery of the prehistoric, scaley Iichthyosaurs, known as 'sea dragons'. The fossils were found in quarries local to Street in the 19th century and collected by a cousin of the Clarks’ founders. The Blue Lias from the quarries was used to build houses and factories during the boom period of the village, largely driven by the Clarks, a Quaker family.
At the end of last year, a big part of the Clarks business was sold to a Hong-Kong based private equity company, adding to the uncertainty of our current times.
The landscape in Street is most certainly changing – supporting our local businesses and communities must be a priority.
Please do get in touch if you have any questions – my Facebook page is: @Ros.Wyke, and my email is: [email protected].
Written by Cllr Ros Wyke, Leader of Mendip District Council
Please get in touch either on my Facebook page @Ros.Wyke or you can send me an email: [email protected].