SOMERSET LEVELS 129 – THE PRIME MINISTER SPEAKS, AT LAST

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As regular readers of this blog will know, the Somerset Levels are dear to my heart.  I grew up amongst them and, having returned from various wanderings, I visit them frequently.  I love their calm and quiet simplicity.  The area where I’m most often found – on Tadham and Tealham Moors – is rough and often untidy agricultural land between the Polden Hills to the south,  and the high ground around Wedmore to the north.  Its somewhere between Glastonbury and the muddy waters of the Bristol Channel.

On an initial visit 20 years ago, I remember saying to the owner of the single shop in Westhay (which has now closed) that there weren’t many people about – only to be met with the unforgettable “There are never many people around here.”.

And so it usually is.  Some farmers of course, and a few walkers and birdwatchers, but the world mostly bypasses these decidedly damp and often bleak flatlands – and that suits me just fine!

But now, quite startlingly really, the Levels are national news, because as Somerset weathers record-breaking weeks of heavy rain, vast floods have taken hold.  In the past of course, the Levels were renowned for their watery nature.  Seagoing ships could get in as far as Glastonbury in Roman times, and King Alfred The Great hid from the Vikings in the marshes of his Somerset homeland – before emerging to defeat and make peace with these Scandinavian pagans in AD 878, and so begin his founding of the kingdom of England.

But many hundreds of years of land reclamation and flood defences have dried the Levels out, and areas that were trackless, marshy wastes as recently as 300 years ago are now agricultural.  This (relative) dryness is precarious however.  Some of my very favourite areas are below sea level, several metres below the high tides that come in to the coastal resorts of Weston-super-Mare and Burnham-On-Sea – only the networks of sea, river and flood defences keep these vast amounts of salt water from rolling on inland, as they regularly used to do.

But Somerset is in the grip of unprecedented rainfall, and more is forecast.  All of the newspapers are concentrating on the Levels to the south of the Polden Hills, where some communities have been cut off for over three weeks.  The crisis has escalated, there have been questions in parliament, a government minister has visited the area and been angrily heckled and jeered – and the Prime Minister has finally made all necessary resources available.

Here are some pieces from today’s Western Daily Press, a local newspaper, including the front page (above), and the Prime Minister’s article (below).

As I say, the areas currently in the news – Muchelney , Thorney, Burrowbridge, etc. – are off south of the Poldens, whereas my stamping ground lies, shadowed from the media’s glare, to the north.  I was last down on the Levels for the advent of a storm just before Christmas – you can find those posts here: Storm1, Storm2, Storm3, Storm4 – and its maybe now time to a look around Tealham and Tadham again, to see how they’re faring.  A single picture in the WDP suggests “very wetly” ……
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About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.

5 Responses to SOMERSET LEVELS 129 – THE PRIME MINISTER SPEAKS, AT LAST

  1. bananabatman says:

    An very educational post Adrian, which will hopefully help people understand the situation on The Levels. I haven’t been out there recently, so will be most interested to hear what you find when you visit.

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      I went down to Tadham and Tealham Moors last week, Dave, entering the area from Highbridge, rather than risking the far more cross-country route that I usually take. The main road in from Highbridge was fine, but problems, i.e. accumulations of water, started to appear as soon as I got onto more minor roads.

      There was a lot of water on these two Moors and little traffic about, but things were not anything like as bad as the much publicised areas to the south of the Polden Hills. Out on these Moors, the road were up out of the water, with water all around.

      Thanks for your good thoughts, Dave. Adrian

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  2. krikitarts says:

    I sincerely wish you and your fellows a kinder turn to the weather tribulations that have been haunting you and that something can indeed be done to protect your beloved lowlands. More fallout from the relentless global warming?

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    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Thank you, Gary, that’s good of you – but the forecast for the coming week looks like rain and still more rain. If I can get near them, I intend going down to look at the flatlands this week – a newspaper photo from the Tadham-Tealham area shows simply a road, with water all around. Adrian

      Like

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