This week a dead cow floated along the River Parrett and came to rest amongst the shopping trolleys under Bridgwater’s famous town bridge. Later that day it floated away. And then came back again on the next tide. For Bridgwater Town Council Leader ,Brian Smedley, who was in the middle of guiding a party of tourists from Bristol Civic Society around the town, this was the last straw. But when he contacted Sedgemoor District Council they told him to contact the Environment Agency. Then when he contacted the Environment Agency they said they wouldn’t remove it as it wasn’t a flood hazard and would probably just float away. It did. But then floated back. Then he contact Somerset County Council who, apart from not having any money to do pretty much anything at the moment, also totally denied all responsibility. For a couple of days a dead cow has been floating up and down our river. But for a year or more a couple of dozen discarded shopping trolleys have also come to characterise Bridgwater at low tide. And no one seems to want to do anything about that either. So on deeper investigation Cllr Smedley discovered that in fact the river bed from shiny sea to Blake Bridge on Broadway is in fact designated responsibility of the Crown Estates. Finally finding the responsible party he wrote to them to sort it out at once. The actual letter is attached herein but the first draft, recovered from the Town Hall recycling centre, you can find reproduced below…
Dear Mrs Q
I’m really sorry to bother you but there’s this dead cow floating up and down our river and getting stuck in our shopping trolleys and it all looks a bit unsightly – which I’m sure you wouldn’t want.
Now, I’ve tried to get the local councils to shift both cow and shopping trolleys but no-one will do it and all say it’s someone elses job. However, this morning, as I was putting on my waders and about to go down into the river with my mates Barry and Dave to see if we could dig the things out before the Bore came in and drowned us, I discovered that in fact this is YOUR job.
Well, ‘Crown Estates’. But that’s you isn’t it?
It seems that our river is in fact your river and so these shopping trolleys (and this cow) is in fact yours. So please , please , please can you fix it to come down here and help clear them all out for us??
I admit that you might want me to apologise for a few things before you agree to come and do this, so here goes.
I do apologise for declaring the Duke of Monmouth the rightful king back in 1685 and the subsequent rebellion and that battle of Sedgemoor. However, thanks for sorting us out with all those transportations, executions and military occupation. At least after James II no-one in your family visited us for the next 300 years.
I’m sorry that your Great Granma Queen Vic felt compelled to draw the blinds of her train every time she passed through Bridgwater station. We do the same in Taunton , but that’s only to stop ourselves being dazzled by the eye-splitting opulence on show. And of course the gold pavements made from the wealth looted from the rest of the county.
I’m also terribly sorry about the fact that Bridgwater was the first town to petition against the slave trade because i do know that it was the Royal Family of the day that set up all those companies that so depended on the business.
Oh and I better apologise for the various rowdy strikes by our brickworkers and in particular the one in 1896 when you had to go to the expense of sending the Gloucestershire Regiment here to sort us out by bayonet charging us off our streets.
It’s of course a shame that we had to elect that Vernon Bartlett bloke as our MP back in 1938 when your Government was doing such a good job in appeasing Hitler that we had to vote the opposite way. I’m sure if it had continued unopposed and Fascism had taken hold then the Duke of Windsor would have made as fine a Governor General as Adolf had hoped.
Now I am aware that you did personally come to visit in 1987. We still have the plaque on the town hall wall. And this was in fact accompanied by a mass panic cleaning programme by Sedgemoor District Council, sprucing up the Railway Station and anything else you might see on your visit. It would of course be great if you could come again just to encourage them to maybe have another go at cleaning up the place.
Oh and I’m sorry that we had that Princess Di down here to open our great new swimming pool the Sedgemoor Splash because I know she wasn’t your favourite, but at least the local Tories demolished it back in 2010 so now not even the plaque remains.
So, I’m convinced that I’ve made a great case for you to come on down and help us dig out these shopping trolleys and random bovine floaters (Ha!’Heffer was it thus’) from what we have now conclusively determined to be your river bed and therefore your responsibility.
I have the shovel at hand. A spare pair of wellies. My mates Barry and Dave can be available, well, pretty much most days, or if not they’ll likely as not be in the Fountain – which I would say is as good a base as any for Operation ‘GetTheShoppingTrolleys(andCow)OutOfTheRiver’ and we all look forward to your visit.
Oh and sorry for the Peasants Revolt back in 1381, we didn’t mean to chop the heads off ‘both’ poll tax collectors.
Oh and for pulling down your castle, that could have been a really really good tourist attraction by now
Oh, and for having a statue of a Republican in our town centre. But Robert Blake was actually born here and of course he didn’t actually sign the death warrant of Charles Ist. Although admittedly he probably would have done if he hadn’t been at sea kicking the Royalists out of Ireland. So, forgive and forget yea?
Oh, and for that awful John Pymm bloke who started the civil war in the first place. But then he was from Cannington really and at least Charles II had him dug up , hung and thrown into a lime pit. That’ll learn him.
Yours humbly in servitude and a nice red checked shirt
Your Loyal Borough of Bridgwater
(see Royal Charters for reference)