ARCHIVE 262 – FLOODS ON TADHAM MOOR

 

 

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Floods on Tadham Moor, south of Wedmore, on the Somerset Levels; 20 Jan 2008.

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

F6 with Sigma 12-24 lens at 12mm; Fuji Provia 400X colour slide rated at 1600 ISO.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 248 – TADHAM MOOR (MONO)

 

 

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This image is best viewed at larger scale – click onto it to see a larger version in a separate window.

Looking south across Tadham Moor, in the cold dreariness of winter; 20 Jan 2008.

A field gate with short spans of wooden fencing on either side stands up above the floods: the rest of this field is bounded by only by water-filled ditches which are now totally submerged.

White objects at upper left are a herd of swans – in their element!

Slight convex bowing of the horizon is due to my pointing the wide angle lens downwards to include the near foreground.

F6 with 24-85 Nikkor at 24mm; polariser; Fuji Provia 400X colour slide, rated at 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Landscape preset.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 241 – THE FLOODED GRASS: MONO AND COLOUR VERSIONS

 

 

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These images are best viewed enlarged – click onto them to open larger versions in separate windows.

This is a shot of the tips of coarse marsh grasses protruding from floodwater in a field on Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 23 Nov 2012.  I recently posted this image in colour, when Gary Bolstad suggested that it might also look good in black and white – so here is a mono version, created and lightly toned in Silver Efex Pro 2.  The colour version is also presented again for direct comparison.

Presentation in mono certainly enhances the Minimalist qualities of this picture and, ro me, the addition of a thin black border helps it too.  So I think Gary is absolutely right.  Anyone got any views?

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 200 ISO.

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ARCHIVE 181 – FOLLOWING A SUGGESTION BY GARY BOLSTAD

 

 

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My previous Archive post showed grass sticking up through floodwater on the Somerset Levels.  The image is in colour, but my good and long-time blogging friend Gary Bolstad suggested that it might also look good in mono – and I intend following his advice.

However, I had quite forgotten that such a mono (if more abstract) shot of grass amongst floodwater has already been posted, and here it is.

The original text for this post was:

Marsh grass sticking up through floodwater on Tadham Moor; 23 Nov 2012.

This could be some character from a Far Eastern language, or perhaps a winged insect (head uppermost) taking flight.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 270mm; 200 ISO; converted to mono and rotated in Capture NX2..
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ARCHIVE 180 – FLOODED FIELD

 

 

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

The tips of coarse marsh grasses protruding from floodwater in a field on Tadham Moor; the Somerset Levels; 23 Nov 2012.

I’d had thoughts about cropping in more closely on this image, to better show the grasses, but I’m sticking with this version because I think that the surrounding negative space gives the image “room to breathe” – ie it is not cramped, and it gives more of a sense of the isolation and desolation that the floods have brought.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 200 ISO.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 139 – JACK’S DROVE (MONO)

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The single tracked and tarmaced, Jack’s Drove, two or three feet above the floods, runs northwards across Tadham and Tealham Moors, south of Wedmore; 7 Feb 2014.

Here is the recent extensive flooding of the Levels, which was nowhere near as severe in this area as further to the south.  Jack’s Drove is tarmaced and single tracked; when vehicles meet, one has to pull over to let the other pass.  These droves were originally laid out between the fields to allow farmers and their livestock to access their pastures without crossing those of anyone else.  Most of these droves are still unmetalled.

In the background, most of the moor is underwater.  In the right foreground, the water-filled ditch bordering the road is just starting to overflow onto the adjacent farmland.  Two trees grow beside the drove, probably planted here to strengthen the drove’s banks and to help show the road’s course during floods.

Using Silver Efex Pro 2, the image has been given the look of a Tin Type,  a type of photograph common in the 1860s and 1870s.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 70mm; 400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Tin Type preset.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 137 – THE END OF THREE OLD FRIENDS (MONO)

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Three Willows, at the end of things, on Tadham Moor; 31 March 2014.

I went down to the Somerset Levels yesterday.  The long spell of mostly dry weather that we have had after all of the rain and floods earlier in the year encouraged me to think that things would be better  – for better, read drier – down there, and I was proved right.  Where I was headed – Tadham and Tealham Moors – had of course experienced far less catastrophic flooding than areas not too far further south, although they were still underwater – but this “homeland” of mine seemed remarkably unaffected now that the waters have receded, save for quite a few fallen trees.

The thing is, the soil here is largely unconsolidated black peat, which is often moist or wet.  But lately, weeks of being submerged had turned it into something approaching blancmange or wet rice pudding, such that any trees leaning away from the vertical would have had a harder and harder time gripping into the soil, trying to keep themselves upright.

I don’t like seeing downed trees at the best of times, but the trio shown here affect me rather more than most.  For they are just across the road from somewhere that I call the Magic Carpark.  Why magic?  Well, this peaceful, serene and no-frills place helped me through some truly dark days sometime back, and it is certainly magic in my eyes.

And I’ve known these three trees since I first discovered this area of the Levels, 20 years ago.  And I have a photo of them in the prime of life from a little earlier – 1986 –  (in “Wetland – Life in the Somerset Levels” – ISBN 07181 2897 4).

Well, here is yesterday’s sorry scene.  The tree on the left, formerly the largest of the three, has been a stump for sometime – there is another photo of it here .  And there is a fisheye shot showing it here .

But as you can see, the next tree away from the camera has fallen a casualty to the recent flooding – already leaning towards the rhyne (the small waterway seen here; rhymes with scene), its roots have lost their grip on the mush around them, and the tree, roots and all, has toppled sideways, taking the edge of the adjacent tarmac road with it.

And the future does not look good for the third tree in the line, which is leaning precariously out over the rhyne, and which has gaping holes in its now hollow trunk.  It will sprout leaves this year, but its collapse cannot be far off.

So, the end of three old friends.  But I was a geologist a life or two back, and that mindset is still very much with me, always will be with me.  I know that nothing endures, nothing stays the same, with the passage of time – not the greatest of mountains, nor the sprightliest of trees.  But still, as these three decay, or when their carcasses are hauled away by the local farmer, I shall remember them.  And miss them.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor ar 70mm; 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Strong Infrared Low Contrast preset.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 132 – TEALHAM MOOR DROVE, LOOKING EAST (MONO)

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Looking east along Tealham Moor Drove, southwest of Wedmore; 7 Feb 2014.

A track covered with chippings, and with some puddles too, and out to the left the reality of life on the Levels at this time – water and more water, and more rain forecast today and Monday.

The structure of this image has strong elements pushing in towards that large tree near top right.  There is the track, highlighted by its pale chippings and reflective puddles – and then that great silver wedge of floodwater, starting at mid to upper left, and curving and narrowing across towards upper right.  And, along with these pale items, the dark ridges of coarse grasses, and the horizon too.

The day was gusty, bleak, cold and inhospitable, with rain always a threat, but it was good to be there.  I love, and feel at home in, the simplicity and truth of this working landscape, whatever the season.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 70mm; 200 ISO; starting at Silver Efex Pro 2’s Cool Tones 1 preset.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 131 – THE VIEW NORTHWEST ACROSS TEALHAM MOOR, AND MEMORIES OF MRS OLDFIELD

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The view northwest, from Tealham Moor towards Brent Knoll; 7 Feb 2014.

The road westwards across Tealham Moor stands a couple of feet proud of the floodwaters, which are nothing like as deep here as they are on the Levels further to the south.  These floods have been here for more than three weeks and, after such a time submerged, all of the pastures under these waters are dead.  Farmers are looking at producing more pastures and crops next year or the year after next.  But this at least this freshwater flooding brings far less devastation than would have occurred if this area had been swamped by the salty waters of the sea, as it used to be.

The pollarded Willow is still alive but, with its trunk now hollow and leaning, and its roots trying to grasp footholds in the perpetually soft and wet soil, it has not long to go.  More about pollarding can be found here.

The hill in the distance is Brent Knoll, a well known landmark to those travelling on the M5 motorway, near Burnham-On-Sea.  Not long ago, this low hill was an island in the brackish waters and marshes that covered all of this flat landscape, and the Romans built a fort and lookout post on its summit. 

Fifty or more years ago, grandparents of an old friend used to live in the lee of this hill, and the grandmother – Mrs Oldfield, I can still see her face now –  frequently saw the ghost of a woman in her house.  Being cantankerous as we oldies can sometimes be …  she arrived home one day to find the ghost sitting in her favourite armchair and, in a fit of temper, told her to go away and never come back – and that’s exactly what the ghost did. 

My friend and I tried to photograph the ghost one night, with the camera on a tripod and looking through a doorway onto a bed where she was often seen.  Our results were ambiguous, although with hindsight I think they owed more to bungled technique than to any supernatural presence.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 80mm; 400 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 129 – THE PRIME MINISTER SPEAKS, AT LAST

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As regular readers of this blog will know, the Somerset Levels are dear to my heart.  I grew up amongst them and, having returned from various wanderings, I visit them frequently.  I love their calm and quiet simplicity.  The area where I’m most often found – on Tadham and Tealham Moors – is rough and often untidy agricultural land between the Polden Hills to the south,  and the high ground around Wedmore to the north.  Its somewhere between Glastonbury and the muddy waters of the Bristol Channel.

On an initial visit 20 years ago, I remember saying to the owner of the single shop in Westhay (which has now closed) that there weren’t many people about – only to be met with the unforgettable “There are never many people around here.”.

And so it usually is.  Some farmers of course, and a few walkers and birdwatchers, but the world mostly bypasses these decidedly damp and often bleak flatlands – and that suits me just fine!

But now, quite startlingly really, the Levels are national news, because as Somerset weathers record-breaking weeks of heavy rain, vast floods have taken hold.  In the past of course, the Levels were renowned for their watery nature.  Seagoing ships could get in as far as Glastonbury in Roman times, and King Alfred The Great hid from the Vikings in the marshes of his Somerset homeland – before emerging to defeat and make peace with these Scandinavian pagans in AD 878, and so begin his founding of the kingdom of England.

But many hundreds of years of land reclamation and flood defences have dried the Levels out, and areas that were trackless, marshy wastes as recently as 300 years ago are now agricultural.  This (relative) dryness is precarious however.  Some of my very favourite areas are below sea level, several metres below the high tides that come in to the coastal resorts of Weston-super-Mare and Burnham-On-Sea – only the networks of sea, river and flood defences keep these vast amounts of salt water from rolling on inland, as they regularly used to do.

But Somerset is in the grip of unprecedented rainfall, and more is forecast.  All of the newspapers are concentrating on the Levels to the south of the Polden Hills, where some communities have been cut off for over three weeks.  The crisis has escalated, there have been questions in parliament, a government minister has visited the area and been angrily heckled and jeered – and the Prime Minister has finally made all necessary resources available.

Here are some pieces from today’s Western Daily Press, a local newspaper, including the front page (above), and the Prime Minister’s article (below).

As I say, the areas currently in the news – Muchelney , Thorney, Burrowbridge, etc. – are off south of the Poldens, whereas my stamping ground lies, shadowed from the media’s glare, to the north.  I was last down on the Levels for the advent of a storm just before Christmas – you can find those posts here: Storm1, Storm2, Storm3, Storm4 – and its maybe now time to a look around Tealham and Tadham again, to see how they’re faring.  A single picture in the WDP suggests “very wetly” ……
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