World War II pillbox in the sand dunes behind the beach at Sand Bay, north of Weston-super-Mare; March 2007.
Here are the western extremities of the Somerset Levels, where they run down under the waters of the Bristol Channel, near Weston-super-Mare.
The coast and tidal areas at Sand Bay are very flat and there was concern in World War II that this might constitute a viable and relatively undefended invasion area for German forces. Hence the line of these squat, 70 year old pillboxes – tiny military strongpoints – that still command wide fields of fire across the totally exposed foreshore from their positions on the tops of the low dunes behind the beach.
The great masses of vegetation in the foreground of the photo contain strong, pale leading lines that direct the eye up the sandy path towards the pillbox, with its two blank “eyes”. This leading line effect is enhanced by the tall, wind-blasted bush on the skyline, which seems to lean towards the structure.
Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.
Technique: OM-4 with 21mm Zuiko lens; Fuji Provia 400 colour slide film rated at 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Push Process N+2 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.