SOMERSET LEVELS 408 – TEALHAM MOOR (MONO)

 

 


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This image is best viewed enlarged – click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it.

I’m parked beside the little bridge that carries Jack’s Drove over the North Drain, on Tealham Moor, drinking (now lukewarm) coffee and staring contemplatively out over the flat landscape.  All is quiet but, as I turn back towards the car, I find that I am far from alone – which, in its way, adds to my overall enjoyment of the place, and of the moment too.

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens (needlessly) used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 240mm; 1600 ISO; jpeg created and processed in-camera from a Raw file, using the Monochrome profile; further processing in Lightroom;  Jack’s Drove, Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 13 Sept 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 407 – BESIDE SWANSHARD LANE (MONO)

 

 


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A fast drive down from Bristol to the Somerset Levels in the early morning, and then lots of coffee – trying to stay awake and focused – in the little layby in Swanshard Lane.  Inevitably, the cattle in the field on the other side of the River Sheppey are curious, and they come over to stare, shuffle around and murmur.  The only sounds are those of the river, the light breeze, some far off crows, and these inquisitive animals.

The shaded vegetation in the foreground is along the top of the far bank of this diminutive waterway, while the pasture further away, more out in the open, is lighter and slightly misty.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 140mm; 6400 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Portrait v2 profile; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Cool Tones 2 preset and adding a tone; Swanshard Lane, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wells; 23 Aug 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 403 – THE RIVER SHEPPEY, BESIDE ASH MOOR (MONO)

 

 


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Another early morning down on the Somerset Levels: I stopped the car along Hurn Drove and got out beside a little footbridge over the River Sheppey.  Fine tall trees on the river’s bank were reflected in its still waters, cows (as inquisitive as ever) came over to see what I was about, and beyond them the flatness of Ash Moor receded off onto the distance.

There are earlier pictures of the River Sheppey here: 1 2 .

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 10-24 Fujinon lens at 15mm (equiv); 1600 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Velvia/Vivid profile; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Sepia Landscape preset and adding a light Coffee tone; beside Ash Moor, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wells; 30 Aug 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS AT 400 – TIME FOR A LITTLE LOOKING BACK …

 

400 POSTS

Well, my 400th post about the Somerset Levels.  This feels like something of a milestone.  Questions arise.  What are the Levels?  What are they to me?  And why do I continue to visit and photograph them?

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And rather than post a new image, here are some pictures from my earliest Somerset Levels posts, eight years or so ago – I hope you like them.  Click onto them to open larger versions in separate windows.  LOL! >>> and two of them concern food >>> well, this is FATman Photos ……

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1 – The view eastwards along the North Drain from the Jack’s Drove bridge on Tealham Moor; 17 Sept 2010.  Early morning mists are starting to be dissolved by the rising sun, just after 7am.  I walked on up Jack’s Drove to the low bridge, which is a favourite place of mine – and this scene was unfolding to the east.  Canon G11 Powershot; 140mm; Silver Efex Pro.

WHAT ARE THE SOMERSET LEVELS?

In summary: the Levels are fens and wet lowlands that cover around 650 sq. km. of the county of Somerset.  In the UK, they are second in extent only to the fens of East Anglia.  They have only relatively recently been reclaimed from the lakes and marshes that formerly covered the area, and they have a rich history going back to Neolithic, Roman and Anglo-Saxon times.

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There is a good general source of reference here .

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And the link to my first Levels post – on 21 May 2011 – is here .   It also has much background information.

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2 – The Chapter House Steps in Wells Cathedral, Somerset; 7 Jan 2005.   Near the top right of this photo, the steps can be seen turning right into the Chapter House.  Straight ahead, through the illuminated doorway, is the bridge that allowed the clergy to come directly into the cathedral from their lodgings, rather than having to be exposed to worldly temptations by mixing with the townspeople.  Olympus OM-4; 21mm; Agfa Scala monochrome slide film, rated at 400 ISO.

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THOUGHTS

I was brought up on the edge of the Levels and cycled on their welcoming flatnesses as a kid – and then left my native Somerset for a long time, much of which was spent abroad.  And it was 25 years ago, in 1994, after my return to England, that I started visiting the Levels regularly once more – mostly for birdwatching but, increasingly, for photography.  I’m something of a loner, and this trait is increasing as I approach my 70th year – my psychological friend thinks I’m happy with my own company and, for me, photography is something mostly done toute seule – wandering with a camera, not straining things or anything, but just looking at anything and everything.

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And the Levels, at least the parts that I visit – between the Mendip Hills to the north and the Polden Hills to the south –  are wonderful for this.  There are never that many people around and, quite often, there are only quite muted, natural sounds – running water, the wind, birds, cows.  The Levels have a great simplicity, they have nothing to prove; in an age increasingly dominated by the relentless onslaught of hype, image, buzzwords and the mass media, I see the Levels as a great antidote to all of this rush and increasing complexity, a great antidote to the pace of modern life.

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You might say that I’m getting back to Nature and I suppose I am, but it must be stressed that the Levels are not a natural landscape, they are an artificial, drained and farmed landscape. They certainly contain natural creatures – willows, skylarks, roe deer and (xxxxx!!!) horseflies to name a few, but that is not the same as being totally natural places – but then, in the Anthropocene (google it!), very few places remain actually “untouched”.

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3 – Meadow at Allermoor Farm, on Aller Moor, south of Wedmore; 24 May 2009.  The meadow itself is a pale, yellow-green haze – a friend said that she could almost smell the air scented by the thousands of blossoms.  The sunlit branches of the tree, just starting to come into leaf, seem to be reaching out over all of this late spring colour.  Nikon D700; 300mm; 400 ISO.

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4 – A busy morning in the kitchen at Sweets Tea Rooms, on the Blakeway between Bleak Farm and Turnpike House, on Westhay Moor; 25 July 2009.   Note the still warm rock cakes on the tray-  absolutely delicious!  There are three tearooms in this area and this is the one I know best – friendly owners, excellent, simple food and drink, toilets, parking – and an intriguing Peat & Science Museum in the adjoining building.  Nikon D700; 24mm; 1600 ISO.

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5 – Irate bull, Westhay Moor Drove, northwest of Lower Godney, in the Brue Valley; 28 Oct 2009.  This bull was in a field along Westhay Moor Drove and, as I walked along the drove towards it, I could see at once that he resented my presence.  As a first show of strength, he did what I’ve seen large animals like Eland and Buffalo do many times in Kenya – he turned sideways on to show me just how big he was.  He didn’t have any trouble impressing me.  His hind quarters were lean and strong, in the peak of physical condition and,  if he had his way, I knew that those powerful hind quarters would soon be driving his front end ferociously towards me – and his front end was an enormous, bludgeoning battering ram of bone and muscle, that would be guided on its course by two, very irate eyes.  However, feeling halfway secure – mainly because he and I were separated by a fence, a gate and a water-filled ditch (albeit the gate was only secured by a single rope), I continued along the drove and drew up level with him, whereupon he advanced right up to the gate, giving me the most malevolent of glares.  Not being able to resist the photo – and also being not a little out of my head – I knelt down in front of him and focused on his right eye to get this shot.  He kept pushing the gate but the rope held firm – and I’m still here to tell the story.  I like this picture.  His whole mien radiates malevolent bad temper, right on the edge of unstoppable violence.  His right eye is sharp, as is all the wonderfully tangled hair on his face, and I have rarely seen a glare of such malevolence.  Nikon D700; 400mm; 800 ISO.

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6 – A Cottage Special served up in the Cottage Café, Burnham-On-Sea, Somerset; 29 Apr 2010. Though I’m prone to slightly high cholesterol, I’m a complete sucker for a full English breakfast, as long as its not too greasy. I don’t eat many of them but they are amongst my favourite meals, with the taste combination of bacon, eggs and grilled tomatoes often being more than I can possibly put into words. This particular breakfast was a slight disappointment because the beans had been poured over the fried bread, demolishing much of the latter’s superb taste and, especially, texture. But just look at the locally made sausages, the slightly blackened tomatoes …. the black pudding …two eggs …. the lean rashers ….…. DO I EAT IT OR GET DOWN AND MAKE LOVE TO IT!!!???  The Cottage Café’s breakfasts are in general superb, possibly due to all of the ingredients being fried together in same large frying pan, which makes everything extremely flavoursome. Since we first started going there over a year ago, this eatery has moved up market – so what used to be the Belly Buster has now re-invented itself as the Cottage Special!  And, quite apart from all that gastronomic gush, I like this as a picture.  Canon PowerShot G11; 400 ISO.

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7 – Pollarded Willow in the mist, Tadham-Tealham Moor; 8 Aug 2003.  Originally in colour, I’ve reduced this image to low contrast and misty monochrome, so that it more resembles a pencil drawing than a photograph.  Olympus OM-4; Fuji Velvia 50 colour slide; Silver Efex Pro.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 395 – ANIMAL 9 (MONO)

 

 


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Mother and calf; Tadham Moor.

The Animal series looks – usually fairly closely – at a variety of creatures:

Farm cats: see this link for the first image of these photos and much context; there are other images of these cats from this series here 2 3 4 5 .

Roe Deer: 6 .

Cattle:  the first image, 7, has context;  8 .

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it.

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Neutral v2 profile; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Film Noir 3 preset and adding a light Coffee tone; beside the Magic Carpark on Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wedmore; 12 July 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 393 – EARLY MORNING 5

 

 


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Early morning, Tealham Moor.

Once more, in-camera processing.  The image looks rather flat, but I’ve deliberately left it in the Neutral profile (to which, since I shoot Raw files, my camera is permanently set) to stay with the rather low contrast, quite misty, early morning light.

Other images in this Early Morning series are here: 1 2 3 4 .

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

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 800 ISO; jpeg created and processed in-camera from a Raw file, using the Camera Neutral v2 profile and in-camera cropping; further minor processing in Lightroom; Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wedmore; 9 Aug 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 387 – ANIMAL 8

 

 


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Driving across Godney Moor, glancing out of the car window and, momentarily, looking straight into his eyes.  And so to very slowly and quietly backing the car up to get opposite him, and to taking several shots out of the car window – while all the while being grateful for the water-filled ditch between us.

I started this Levels’ Animal series with portraits of farm cats: see this link for the first image in this series, and much context; there are other images of these cats from this series here 2 3 4 5 .  Then came a picture of a deer 6 .  Next there are some recent pictures of cattle: 7 .

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further – certainly recommended.

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 3200 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Standard v2 profile; Godney Moor, on the Somerset Levels west of Wells; 19 July 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 380 – ANIMAL 7 (MONO)

 

 


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A summer’s morning down on the Levels, and after a lot of early morning photography I was relaxing with hot coffee and a sandwich in a spot on Tadham Moor that I know as the Magic Carpark.  I’ve given it this somewhat strange name because, many years ago now, being in this little, quiet place helped me through terrible times in my life, and I’ve been coming here ever since.  And, after I’ve downed the very last of my very special Belgian beers, this is where my ashes will be scattered.  A wonderful and eminently simple little place.

On this particular morning, in the field next to the rough track that leads off south from the Carpark, there was a herd of cows, largely motionless, along with their calves.  And the more I looked at these cows, and at the morning’s light washing over them, the more I was drawn to them.  And so, putting down the coffee and picking up the Z 6, I walked slowly and quietly down the rough track towards them.

Arriving next to the cows, I kept very still and quiet and just looked at them.  Most were unconcerned by my presence, but this one, who had been lying down beside her calf, stood up to look at me, and advanced a few paces – and I was very glad of the water-filled ditch – the rhyne – that lay between us.  But, keeping silent and motionless paid off and, slowly raising the camera, I carefully started making images of this very placid scene.

I started this Levels’ Animal series with portraits of farm cats: see this link for the first image in this series, and much context; there are other images of these cats from this series here 2 3 4 5 .  Then came a picture of a deer 6 .

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 330mm; 800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Neutral v2 profile; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Cool Tones 1 preset; the Magic Carpark, Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 12 July 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 378 – MOMENTS OF UNEASE

 

 

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Driving eastwards on Hearty Moor, driving towards the rising sun.  A farmer in a huge 4×4 stopped, looked down at my little car and me, and announced that his cows were on their way down the road towards me, but “just pull over to the side and you’ll be fine!”.

Well, a narrow – in fact single track – road, there was nowhere else to go.  And so to really large, living things moving slowly down the road past me, to huge faces brushing up against the car windows and, catching sight of me within, shying away in panic; and in one unnerving instance, one of their significant bulks trying to squeeze through the little gap between the car and the hedge …

Well, you say, they were only cows, but I have two takes on this.

First, and on the positive side, I used to take paying guests on safari in Kenya, and often used to stop my vehicle in front of an advancing column of elephants, telling everyone to be very quiet and to keep still, and to let the elephants bear down upon us and flow around the vehicle like water around an island in a stream – once, one took even some greenery that had become entangled in our front bumper and ate it.   These were truly wonderful experiences, the great beasts moving slowly past us, the noises, the smells – it was said that an elephant can smell each individual occupant of a vehicle and remember the smell too!  BUT I was younger and less sensible then >>> although my hand was always on the vehicle’s ignition key, and I was in a larger, safari vehicle rather than my little car!  And having been studied for many years, the elephants of Amboseli Game Reserve were very used to people.  Although, even then, getting too near a big bull was really not a good idea.

But second, on the negative side – and much nearer home too – a cow broke out of its field near Bristol a few years back, panicked and ran off down the road.  And when confronted by a small car like mine, it ran up over the bonnet and roof in its panic, killing the driver.  And so to moments of unease on Hearty Moor, though still managing to fire off a few frames.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 10-25 Fujinon lens at 36mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Provia/Standard profile; Hearty Moor, east of Glastonbury on the Somerset Levels; 24 May 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 331 – A SHORT WALK BESIDE A FARM

 

 


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I take pictures of the Somerset Levels and, by and large, they are more or less scenic – I’m trying to portray/celebrate Nature, natural things.  But its certainly true that one of the things that attracts to the relatively small area of the Levels that I habitually infest is its unkempt, real and unprettyfied nature >>> quite in character for me, I suppose!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

This is real, working, agricultural country, warts and all.  There is no provision here for the tourist trade, and outside of the few commuter villages, no gentrification either.  This working countryside has with real working rubbish/refuse/trash – in some places quite startling amounts of it – along with functional but sometimes ramshackle buildings, and that’s all just fine by me.

And so to a short walk, and some photos, beside a farm on Little Moor – off to the west of the Tealham and Tadham Moors that I usually visit.

Clicking onto each image will open a larger version in a separate window, and clicking onto that image will further enlarge it >>> worthwhile, really, because these pictures contain a lot of detail and texture.

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens; 3200 and 6400 ISO >>> it was a dull morning!; Lightroom; Little Moor, southeast of the village of Mark, on the Somerset Levels; 12 Apr 2019.
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