SOMERSET LEVELS 155 – SPRING FLOWERS, WILLOWS AND WAR

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A pillbox, a relic of World War II, beside the River Sheppey in Upper Godney, southeast of Wedmore; 27 May 2014.

A Somerset Levels scene.  Pollarded Willows alongside an unseen river in the background, yes, and a meadow bright with spring flowers in the foreground, yes again.  But in the middle?  In the middle is a small military strongpoint, a firing position built some 74 years ago to spray lethal rifle and machine gun fire at invading German forces.

It never ceases to amaze me that I was born only five years after the end of the appalling horror and carnage that was WWII.  Now that I am in my 60s, five years seem like no time at all.  That war is only a memory now and the remaining veterans become fewer each year.  And yet I was so nearly embroiled in it – as were the Somerset Levels.

For these open flatlands – along with very many other areas in southern England –  were thought to be good terrain for German Panzer tanks rushing inland and so, after the retreat from Dunkirk in 1940, anti-invasion defences were hastily thrown up.  The first line of such defences were along the coast – like the pillbox that featured in this blog’s first post, at the back of the beach at Sand Bay, near Weston-super-Mare.  A little further inland, defences were also concentrated around the railway lines which follow England’s southern coasts.

And further inland, as on the Levels, there were the Stop-lines, long arms of small defensive positions like this one, strung out across southern England and often guarded by water – as in the diminutive River Sheppey in this instance – on one side.  The door to this little fort can be seen towards the right – the opposite side from which it was thought the initial attacks would come.

How effective these thin defences would have been against speeding tanks backed up by Stuka dive bombers is an open question, but the main purpose of these lines was to cause temporary delays, to allow troops to regroup and civilians to get out of the combat zones.

Perhaps this is an unusual picture for me.  I usually try to give my images impact, but this one simply shows something that it is there, an unusual aspect of the Somerset Levels that I want you to see.  I rather like the combination of the brickwork’s pale salmon pinks with Nature’s yellows and greens.  Looked at in terms of graphics, this is a rectilinear mass of pinks, with internal rectilinear textures, set at the junction between darker greens in the backdrop and yellows and paler greens in the foredrop.

And an unexpected ending to this post???  Well, my words here owe a great deal to Dorset to Gloucestershire (Exploring England’s Heritage), (ISBN 0 11 300028 6), a fascinating paperback that I bought back in the 1990s.  Looking on Amazon UK to see if its still around, I find that used copies can be acquired for as little as 1p + postage – but that an American outlet is offering a new copy for over £2,000!!!!!!!!  This truly is a bizarre world.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 180mm; 1600 ISO.
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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.

12 Responses to SOMERSET LEVELS 155 – SPRING FLOWERS, WILLOWS AND WAR

  1. What a great place and a fabulous photo!

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  2. Meanderer says:

    An interesting post, Adrian. It made me think of beautiful, wild, places being disrupted by man-made and / or derelict buildings or objects. Sometimes these old buildings or features begin to merge with Nature, becoming a part of it. It made me think about run-down barns and old lead-mining works in the Yorkshire Dales, and also of pylons and wind turbines.

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    • Adrian Lewis says:

      I’m not too sure we have too many wild places, this island is far too overcrowded and forever getting more so. I feel privileged to have known more empty and wild places. I don’t mind old structures in the landscape, they’re just a part of it. And the pylons striding across the Brue Valley (mentioned in my recent “Sentinel” post) are a fact of life – I don’t think I resent them – something’s got to carry the power, after all – they just intrude into landscape photos.

      I think wind turbines are beautiful in their own way, tho I don’t know how noisy they are to live next to. But we need power, and I do get concerned by the way in which there are always protests about any proposed schemes to generate it – atomic, wind, tidal, solar, fracking, you name it. My cynical side sees people concerned about the effects on the values of their houses – will those people be the first to complain when the lights go out??? If we can just make hydrogen from water on a commercial and reasonably green basis we’ll be away! Hope I haven’t offended you! Probably have >>> you can tip your lunch over me but I’m going to eat mine … 🙂 …

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      • Meanderer says:

        I’m not offended by anything you have written here. My own thoughts on power are that we ALL need to think about what we use. Homes should be kept warm and dry for the very young, the elderly, and the ill, but the rest of us need to think about wearing more clothes indoors and turning our heating off or down. Houses should be built with excellent insulation and older houses should be brought up to standard – and so on.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Robert says:

    As a child, I remember playing in buildings of this ilk along the coast in England.

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    • Adrian Lewis says:

      And so do I – in those far off days, I seem to remember regarding these solid, silent and empty structures with a feelings of awe and nervousness. Good to hear from you – thanks! A

      Like

  4. a very nice picture!

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  5. RobynG says:

    Excellent composition Adrian! Enjoyed the post! Have a great weekend!

    Like

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