ARCHIVE: LEVELS 96 – SINGLE TRACK ROAD


Rural idyll – the morning drive to work across Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels south of Wedmore; 18 Nov 2016.

Sunrise tints the sky, and two cars face each other down on Totney Drove, the sole east-west tarmac strip across this dripping and glutinous area of lowland.  Driving here, we are below sea level.

The road is single track, someone will have to pull over or back up – but most of the drivers here are locals and usually they are very courteous – which only adds to the pleasure of visiting this little out of the way, backwater of a place.

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

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 195mm; 1600 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.



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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 94 – SMALL FORT BEHIND THE BEACH (MONO)


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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 93 – EARLY MORNING, LOOKING EAST, NEAR GODNEY


Looking east as the day starts.  A dark bank of mist blankets the countryside, as the early light touches the clouds.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera ASTIA/Soft profile; Godney, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wells; 19 Oct 2018.

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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 92 – FENCE AT A GARDEN CENTRE (MONO)


A photo from sometime ago, using a technique that now seems to me to be from another age.  The camera was a Nikon F6, a simply wonderful film SLR of great quality, and the last of the professional range SLRs that Nikon made prior to the market being taken over by digital cameras.  But the real point of interest here is the film.  Most of us – or perhaps the more senior of us … –  will have shot colour transparency film – colour slides, those little pictures in cardboard or plastic frames that could be looked at through a viewer, or far better viewed using a slide projector and screen.  But Agfa Scala was a wonderful, 200 ISO black and white slide film that could be push processed to 1600 ISO, 3200 ISO and beyond, and which was simply, well, exciting, to use.  Also, in those far off days, I used a tripod for shots like this, whereas in these days of excellent quality image stabilisation and image sensors that give very acceptable results at high ISOs, my tripod stays in the boot of my car.

Also, I avoid garden centres like the plague, but the former Willows Garden Centre was something quite different – it was just what I like, tatty around the edges; and it also sold good local produce; and it employed disabled people in a very basic, down to earth cafe that, amongst other things, could whip up wonderful, large Full English Breakfasts, and tea/coffee strong enough to make your hair stand on end, at the drop of a hat >>>> just the thing for very early, very cold winter mornings!

The picture shows one of the fence’s stout uprights, to which panels of withies – pliable Willow stems – are tied with string.

But, gentrification is occurring even on the Levels, and what has this tatty, much loved, down at heel garden centre become?  Well, its now an art gallery.  Yes, well, enough said.  And the food available is simply not what it was, and so I no longer call in there.  Well, that’s how it is.  Life moves on … and, as I’ve often quoted, “Time passes.  Listen.  Time passes.” (Dylan Thomas).

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

Technique: F6 with 80-200 Nikkor lens at 200mm; Agfa Scala monochrome slide film rated at 400 ISO; tripod; the former Willows Garden Centre, near Westhay, on the Somerset Levels; 8 Mar 2005.

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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 91 – THE SKY WARMS


Looking east along Tealham Moor Drove, the faintly seen track at lower left, as sunrise colours start high in the sky above the Somerset Levels.

Technique: it was DARK!  The human eye is a wonderful camera, able to see in low light levels, but it was clear that most things here were still heavily engulfed by the gloom.  And when I raised the camera to my eye – WOWEE! – even allowing the brightening sky to influence the reading, 25,600 ISO still only gave me 1/140th, wide open at f4.8 .  So, working handheld as always, image stabilisation helped, as did the fact that this camera is mirrorless, so that it has no mirror slap – there is more on mirror slap here.  Many photographers prefer not to use their lenses wide open due to reduced sharpness and definition, but I always go for it – if the light conditions demand it  (and also if I’m looking for as narrow as possible a depth of focus).  The bottom line being that its far, far better to be left with an image that is blurred and/or grainy, than to be left with no image at all.  This is a part of the great and ongoing debate about the respective importance of the technical quality of images on the one hand – sharpness, definition, colour rendition, white balance, etc. – and image content and atmosphere on the other.  I’m 101% with the importance of content and atmosphere.  Compositionally, the faint lines of the track and the much brighter, water-filled ditch lead the eye towards that single tall tree – and I’ve used this same composition, in this same place, before.

Click onto this post’s image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujifilm lens at 300mm (equiv); 25,600 ISO; Lightroom; 27 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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 90 – JANUARY, TEALHAM MOOR, JUST BEFORE SUNRISE


Tealham Moor, in winter, looking to the east.  This is winter: harsh and bleak.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 8,000 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Astia/Soft profile; Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wells; 27 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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 89 – THE VIEW EASTWARDS, BUTLEIGH MOOR (MONO)


The view eastwards on Butleigh Moor, south of the Polden Hills; 13 Jan 2016.

A bright and freezing morning out on the Somerset Levels given the piercing clarity of a strong infrared image.

A thin tarmac road arrows into the distance, guarded on its southern side by a line of pollarded willow trees.  Placing the sun behind the nearest willow prevents its dazzling brightness from obscuring the rest of the image.

This image is best viewed enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: D800 with 16-35 Nikkor lens at 16mm; 200 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Strong Infrared High Contrast 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.



SOMERSET LEVELS PICTURE GALLERY 8 – POSTS 71-80

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 8th gallery – you can find the earlier galleries here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

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

71: The bridge over the North Drain on Tealham Moor; the distant low hills were, until fairly recently, islands in a vast marsh; one day, as climate change continues, they will be islands once more; 2014.

72: The view southwest from Whitelake Bridge, looking towards the silhouetted Glastonbury Tor; 2019.

73: Sweets Tea Rooms on Westhay Moor – complete with tray of freshly baked rock cakes, and friendly local people; 2009.

74: Early morning mists rising, Queen’s Sedge Moor; 2019.

75: Cattle grazing at sunrise: a scene that was almost silent, save for the animals’ faint shuffling, and the subdued sounds of birds, running water and a light breeze; 2018.

76: Bad breath and bristles, a cow at Allermoor Farm; 2015.

77: Floating vegetation – arcing greens – on the dark water below the Jack’s Drove bridge; 2012.

78: A farmer and his wife, off to check their cattle as dawn breaks; Tadham Moor; 2014.

79: Daybreak and lights in windows: the day begins; Upper Godney; 2015.

80: Lapwings, a species of plover often found on the Levels’ wet grasslands; Tealham Moor; 2018.

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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 88 – SWANS OVER TEALHAM (MONO)


Mute Swans on the wing over the northern edge of Tealham Moor, south of Wedmore; 31 Mar 2014.

These great birds are flying low over typically flat and rough Levels pasture, with the characteristic shapes of pollarded willows – like huge lollipops stuck stick first into the wet ground – immediately behind them.

But further back is a sharp and immediate change in the landscape – much older rocks are sticking up through the flatlands’ wet clays and peats, and there is at once a hillside with houses, tidy fields and sheep.  This is the southern edge of the high ground around Wedmore.

This high ground gives the impression of an island set amongst the Levels’ wetness and, only some hundreds of years ago, not very long ago at all really, this is exactly what these high lands were.

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

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 1600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Yellowed 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.



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