SOMERSET LEVELS PICTURE GALLERY 9 – POSTS 81-90

SOMERSET LEVELS PICTURE GALLERIES

I’m currently posting images from my large archive of photos from the Somerset Levels, an area not far from where I grew up that holds particular meaning and attraction for me.  These photos are being posted singly, with full text.

To make viewing of these images easier for those with little time to spare, I’m also posting groups of these images with minimal titles.  This is the 9th gallery – you can find the earlier galleries here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 . 

Clicking onto each image will open a larger version in a separate window: doing this often enhances the image.

81: Looking east along Tealham Moor Drove, southwest of Wedmore. A track covered with chippings, and with some puddles too, and out to the left the reality of life on the Levels in winter – water, and more water, and more rain forecast; Feb 2014.

82: Large flocks of Starlings roam the flatlands of the Somerset Levels in autumn; Oct 2019.

83: Moments of unease along a narrow farm road. Really large, living things moving slowly down the road past me, huge faces brushing up against the car windows and, catching sight of me within, shying away in panic. I have had the same experience with elephants, in Kenya, but that has not made me any the braver. Vast respect, always, is the name of the game. May 2019.

 

84: A dark, wet morning on the Somerset Levels, looking back up the road towards the village of Godney, on the horizon. On the left, the stump of a heavily pollarded Willow, crowned by a few new leaves but close to collapse; June 2019.

85:  The Levels?  What can I say?  I love the place.  I love the very basic, what-you-see-is-what-you-get simplicity of the place.  There is no advertising hype here, no marketing, no tourism, just a fairly featureless landscape, the local farmers, the occasional walker, photographer or birdwatcher and that’s it. And flat land, land at or just below sea level, that was underwater in the geologically extremely recent past – I’m talking of only a few hundred years ago – and which will be underwater again in due course, when the coastal defences along the Bristol Channel can no longer totally hold back the sea.  In Roman times, seagoing ships regularly crossed this area, inland to Glastonbury; June 2016.

86: Reflection in the river beside Ashmoor Drove, on Ash Moor; April 2007.

87: Early morning light along Tripps Drove, Godney Moor; Jul 2012.

88: Mute Swans over the northern edge of Tealham Moor, south of Wedmore; in the backdrop, higher ground that, until only recently, was part of an island in a vast complex of marshes and lakes; Mar 2014.

89: The view eastwards on Butleigh Moor, south of the Polden Hills; a bright and freezing morning out on the Somerset Levels given the piercing clarity of a strong infrared image;13 Jan 2016.

90: Winter, Tealham Moor, just before sunrise; Jan 2017.

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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