A BATTLE of the giants is underway in Minehead this weekend as heavyweights from across the country meet to contest the title of PartyPoker.com Britain's Strongest Man 2008.

Qualifying rounds started on Saturday and will last for three days, with the final events taking place the following Wednesday and Thursday, June 11 and 12.

Current strongman Terry Hollands, said: "This is the UK's toughest test of strength and Britain's strongest men are ready to rise to the challenges ahead.

"The people of Minehead have been really supportive and we will repay them by putting on the best show ever."

Muscles will be straining as anchors are dragged, cars flipped, huge granite Atlas stones lifted and the challengers wrestle on the beach.

Brenda Freshwater, landlady of the Old Ship Aground at Minehead Harbour where some of the events take place, said: "I was a bit surprised when the strong men asked for a few kegs of beer - I know they're big chaps but that's some order!

"When they explained that they wanted some kegs to toss about in the competition our brewery, Scottish and Newcastle, was happy to help."

Contestants are also on track to pull massive wagons at West Somerset Railway's Minehead Station.

General Manager Paul Conibeare said: "We're delighted to have the contest back - as train experts I suppose you could say chuffed - and I can guarantee we won't run out of steam!"

West Somerset Council's community and recreation portfolio holder, Cllr Neil Parbrook, added: "This is a great spectator sport and we hope everyone will come along to cheer the athletes on."

And chairman of Minehead Chamber of Trade Graham Sizer said: "We know the competition is great for the town so we have been actively promoting the event. As well as lifting weights, having the athletes here also provides a great lift to local trade, so we're really pleased to welcome the country's strongest men back to Minehead."

PICTURED from back is Old Ship Aground landlady Brenda Freshwater with BSM title holder Terry Hollings and event organiser Debs Burles.

With front, Cllr Neil Parbrook, event facilitator Mike Lewis, and West Somerset Railway general manager Paul Conibeare.