Volunteers are carrying out essential maintenance work on the Victorian pier at Swanage in preparation for winter weather.
In October 2020, the pier suffered a battering from Storm Alex when heavy rain and high winds brought large waves crashing over the pier causing substantial damage.
Andy Lang, senior piermaster, said:
“We are prepping for the winter, especially against the storms and the easterly winds which will come at some stage. This is the most important time of the year for us.”
Volunteers carry out vital mainteance to prepare the pier for winter weather
More extensive work
A team of up to a dozen volunteers have extended their preventative measures this year.
They usually take up sections of the decking to create blow holes for the storm water to pass through, to relieve the pressure on the rest of the structure. This year they’ve gone from forty to sixty.
Storm Alex a year ago caused extensive damage
“We have a laugh but we always get the job done”
“Without the volunteers there’s no pier, it’s as simple as that. We have a great team and a good work effort where we have a laugh but we always get the job done.”
Volunteers bring a range of skills – front of house skills at the ticket office and a broad mix of practical abilities in the maintenance team.
Volunteers bring a range of skills
National Lottery grant
In February this year the pier got a £469,800 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Capital Kickstart Fund.
Having been saved from collapse in 2019, it lost about £40,000 in revenue last year because of closures due to Covid.
The Pier got a major grant from the National Lottery
“More people than ever before”
By contrast this summer has been extraordinarily busy.
“The footfall has been massive. I think we’ve had more people than ever before, over a sustained period.”
But this came at a time when there were fewer volunteers, with people self-isolating, falling ill or just not wanting to come out and face the public anymore.
Senior piermaster Andy Lang (right) with maintenance volunteers
Lost some volunteers
“A lot of our volunteers are of an age where they are in a vulnerable category. We’ve certainly lost a handful permanently as a result but fortunately the vast majority have come back.”
It costs £100,000 a year to keep the structure of the pier sound. Visitors are charged £1.50 to go onto it, unless they are going to the Bistro or other commercial premises. But this year ticket staff had to contend with some unruly behaviour from visitors who didn’t want to pay.
It costs about £100,00 a year to keep the pier going
Not just a tourist attraction
“The behaviour was worse than usual – I don’t know whether you put it down to the Covid and the lockdowns or what – but generally visitors are friendly and really appreciate all we do and volunteers love meeting people from different places.”
The pier is not just a tourist attraction but also provides one of the best views of Swanage and the Old Harry Rocks. It also supports fishing, diving, boat trips and watersports and a regular boat service from Poole.
The Pier Trust is always looking for new volunteers to lend a hand
Half term activities
This week there are a number of half term activities, ranging from a Halloween Trail running all week, with lots of spooky creatures to find, through to a visit from Fun Science Dorset on Wednesday 27th October 2021 from 11am – 2pm. More details can be found here.
The maintenance work is expected to take about a fortnight to complete. The pier is open every day of the year except Christmas Day.
Victorian gem – Swanage Pier