ARCHIVE: LEVELS 95 – TYRANNOSAUR


Tyrannosaur (and Glastonbury Tor too) on the Somerset Levels; 18 Nov 2016.

Leaving home before dawn, I drove down to the Somerset Levels through filthy weather.  Wind, rain and sleet battered the car.  There was snow on the Mendip Hills and, during the night, the Priddy Good Farm Shop, up on the top of these hills at Priddy, had had its debit card reader blown apart by a nearby lightning strike – “We’re only taking cash today!”.

I was actually birding, the aim of this visit to the Levels was look at birds, not to take photos at all.  But – and there’s always a “but”, isn’t there? – just in case, I took a rock-solid photographic standby, a Nikon DSLR and telezoom.

And, not long after sunrise, on Tadham Moor, “just in case” paid off.  I was pulled off the road watching winter thrushes – Fieldfares and Redwings, always beautiful, always great favourites of mine – when a small van pulled into a farm gate ahead of me and two men got out.  One I would guess was the local farmer, and he had brought the other to drive a tractor which had been parked there overnight.  There was rain about, it was windy, my car’s windscreen was nothing like clean – and all at once the sun broke through the overcast and threw the men and their vehicles into silhouette – and I dropped the binoculars, grabbed the Nikon, and started firing through the windscreen.

I have other shots but this image grabs me.  The farmhand started up the tractor, raised the vehicle’s front loader – and suddenly a Tyrannosaur rose up before me and opened its ravening jaws.

And so, man and dinosaur – and below the beast’s upstretched neck, a far off tower on a steep hill – Glastonbury Tor – an iconic feature of Somerset’s wet flatlands.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 250mm; 3200 ISO.

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.



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