Looking east along Tealham Moor Drove, southwest of Wedmore; 7 Feb 2014.
A track covered with chippings, and with some puddles too, and out to the left the reality of life on the Levels at this time – water and more water, and more rain forecast today and Monday.
The structure of this image has strong elements pushing in towards that large tree near top right. There is the track, highlighted by its pale chippings and reflective puddles – and then that great silver wedge of floodwater, starting at mid to upper left, and curving and narrowing across towards upper right. And, along with these pale items, the dark ridges of coarse grasses, and the horizon too.
The day was gusty, bleak, cold and inhospitable, with rain always a threat, but it was good to be there. I love, and feel at home in, the simplicity and truth of this working landscape, whatever the season.
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Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 70mm; 200 ISO; starting at Silver Efex Pro 2’s Cool Tones 1 preset.
SOMERSET LEVELS: SOME KEYWORDS
And finally – some keywords that will often be mentioned in this archive series:
Droves: to avoid crossing other peoples’ land when accessing their own, the farmers constructed a series of tracks, known as droves, between the fields. Some of these droves are now metalled roads and many persist as open tracks – all of which allow wonderfully open access to this countryside.
Rhynes: the fields are bounded by water-filled ditches – which both drain the ground and act as stock barriers. Hence strange landscapes – where fields appear quite unbounded, except for a gate with a short length of fencing on either side of it, where a bridge crosses the water-filled boundary ditch to provide access the field. These small wet ditches communicate with larger rhynes (“reen” as in Doreen), which in turn flow into larger drains, e.g. the North and South Drains in the Brue Valley. All of these waterways are manmade and, by intricate series of pumping stations and flood gates, all of them have their water levels controlled by local farmers, internal drainage boards or the Environment Agency.
Pollarded Willows: the banks of the rhynes were often planted with Willow trees, both to help strengthen the banks and also to show the courses of roads and tracks during floods. These Willows are often pollarded, i.e. their upper branches are cut off, which results in distinctively broad and dense heads to the trees. Pollarding keeps trees to a required height, while ensuring a steady supply of wood – more important in the past than now – for fires, thatching spars, fencing and so on.