I’ve often wittered on about how the Somerset Levels are an area of very lowlying land – in places (some of my favourite places) below the level of the high tides on the nearby coast. And I also go on about the fact that these flatlands have only relatively recently been reclaimed from vast areas of lakes and marshes. This is all very well to talk about as a concept, but recently I visited a place where the disparity between these lowlands and the vast amounts of water at a higher level in the Severn Estuary can be seen in stark reality – I hadn’t been there for years, so I took a trip down to Gold Corner pumping station which, since 1942, has stood tall and fulfilled its very important duties in a rather empty area between the villages of Burtle, Woolavington and East Huntspill.

What does this pumping station do? Well, it takes water from the lowlying Levels, and pumps it up around 8.5 feet into the much larger Huntspill River, which is an artificial waterway which channels it down to the sea, via the estuary of the River Parrett. The Huntspill River was constructed during World Way II to provide vast volumes of water for a nearby munitions factory, which has been closed since 2008 and is due for redevelopment.

And looking at this pumping station at Gold Corner, it looks rather mundane – just an old brick structure.  But there is one very small thing here that is striking – to me, incredibly striking – and that is the small white notice immediately to the right of the windows on the building’s left face – and here it is:



The Severn Estuary has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world.  In the spring and autumn especially, the tides along this low coast can rise up to 50 feet (15 m) above low watermark. And, as is shown by this unobtrusive little notice, without the various sea defences, these vast amounts of seawater would submerge this flat landscape, as they have done in the past. 

And take another look at the first photo here, where you can see that this little notice is high up above the road on which I was standing – I was looking up at this notice at quite an angle.  But then look at the distant water to the left of this building, which is much lower again than the road I’m standing on – this difference in height is better shown in the last photo here.

Standing beside this building, looking up at this little notice, and seeing the difference in water levels on either side of this little road, I suppose I felt humble in the face of the natural world – while also feeling very, very much at home in this landscape.


Standing beside the Gold Corner pumping station, I am on the edge of two worlds.  For looking seawards, i.e. towards the west, there is this view – of the vast amounts of water in the (manmade) Huntspill River.



Whereas looking in the other direction, i.e. eastwards out over the Levels, there is the clear disparity between the water in the foreground which is being retained by the pumping station’s dam walls, and the water running through the flatlands immediately beyond these walls, which is at a considerably lower level.  It is pumping stations and architecture like this, along with other facilities too, that keep the Levels intact as the (albeit often wet) farmland and moor/heath that we see today.

Click onto these images to open larger version in separate windows, and click onto those versions to further enlarge them.

Technique:  Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens; X-T2 with 10-24 Fujinon lens; Lightroom; Gold Corner pumping station, northeast of Woolavington on the Somerset Levels; 31 May 2019.


About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for many types of subject, 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.


  1. bluebrightly says:

    I missed this post….Yikes! What a tidal variation possibility!! Very interesting. Humility is good. (And i see your Levelslove in the third image).


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Love “Levelslove”, Lynn, and in this post you’ve chosen it very accurately. Yes, you don’t mess about with the tides around here and – sooner or later – these vast amounts of water will roll back in across the Levels.

      And, at the coast itself, because its an estuary (the Severn Estuary), the water contains much suspended mud, and the sandy upper reaches of the beaches mostly grade quickly down into very dangerous, thick mud, which those requiring more common sense often have to be rescued from, despite the large warning notices. I grew up on this coast. A


  2. paula graham says:

    Yea, pumping stations keep us dry and are VERY important for reclaimed land…now you could ask..why reclaim land in the first place!! I often do.


  3. Sherry Felix says:

    Very interesting. A little like Holland.


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