ARCHIVE: LEVELS 34 – MURKY DAWN, TEALHAM MOOR (MONO)

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Dawn, mist and murk at the western end of Totney Drove, on Tealham Moor; 27 Nov 2014.

This Thursday past the Somerset Levels threw something new at me.  I’d set off from Bristol well before dawn and, as I crossed the Chew Valley and the Mendip Hills, had soon started encountering fog.  This dense murk thickened as I approached the Levels but that was to be expected and all was still fine – I was on familiar back roads and, even if I had to proceed slowly, I still knew where I was.  And then the road ahead was blocked by roadworks – the local council frantically making good drainage systems before what we hope will not be a winter as bad as the last one.

And so to backtracking, following diversion signs – and then I passed a left turn that I knew I should have taken – and promptly became totally lost and disorientated in darkness and dense fog.  This was a distinctly unsettling experience.  After all, I’ve been reading maps for most of my life and have a good sense of direction.  I drove on, I suppose for 30 minutes, recognising none of my surroundings at all.  At one stage, a huge tractor, covered in rotating lights, drove by, irresistibly reminding me of the alien spacecraft in Close Encounters of the Third Kind – what am I on???

Anyway, it was just after this that I was passing the entrance to a small lane – when there was a sudden hint of familiarity – I swerved into it, drove down a road I thought (hoped!) I knew – and was immensely relieved to emerge out onto the western edges of Tealham Moor.

Driving on south down Kid Gate Drove, I got to the western end of Totney Drove and, immensely relieved, left the car’s sidelights on and got out.  Walking along Totney Drove, I looked back westwards, and here is that view – mist and murk on the western edges of Tealham Moor, at dawn.  And was it murky?  Yes it was – I was shooting at 12,800 ISO with image stabilisation activated and the lens wide open.

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 70mm; 12,800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Low Key 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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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 11 – LOOKING EAST, TOTNEY DROVE (MONO)

 

 


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Looking eastwards along Totney Drove, a single track, tarmac road on Tadham Moor.  Tall Willows are silhouetted by the sunrise, and water-filled rhynes (ditches) flank the road on either side.  The distance is shrouded in fog, but the ghosts of cattle can just be made out in the background on the left.

This archive presents some of the pictures that I’ve taken on the Somerset Levels over many years.  More context can be found in the first post in this archive – 1 – and also in my first Somerset Levels post, from 2011 – here .  Further posts in this archive are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 .  All of these links will open in separate windows. 

Click onto the “early morning” tag (below) to see more images from the early hours of the day.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Tin Type preset; Totney Drove, Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 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.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 462 – TOTNEY DROVE, FROST-COVERED, IN JANUARY

 

 


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The single track tarmac of Totney Drove, covered in frost, as it makes off eastwards across Tealham Moor.  A bitterly cold morning, just around sunrise but with no sign of the sun: wet, misty  flatlands reach off to the horizon.

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); 4,000 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Astia/Soft profile; Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wells; 27 Jan 2017.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 456 – SUNRISE, TOTNEY DROVE

 

 


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A misty morning on the Somerset Levels: Totney Drove, a single track, tarmac lane makes off eastwards across Tadham Moor.

Click onto the “early morning” tag (below) to see more images from the early hours of the day.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 181mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera ASTIA/Soft profile; Totney Drove, Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wells; 19 Oct 2018.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 423 – TOTNEY DROVE (MONO)

 

 


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Morning commute in the countryside: high speeds down narrow lanes.

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

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in APS-C format at 450mm; in-camera processing of raw file, starting at the Graphite profile; further processing of the jpeg in Lightroom; Totney Drove, on Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wedmore; 9 Sept 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 314 – LOOKING EAST, TOTNEY DROVE (MONO)

 

 


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Looking eastwards along Totney Drove, a single track, tarmac road on Tadham Moor.  Tall Willows are silhouetted by the sunrise, and water-filled rhynes (ditches) flank the road on either side.  The distance is shrouded in fog, but the ghosts of cattle can just be made out in the background on the left.

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

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 .

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Tin Type preset; Totney Drove, Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 287 – DAWN, TEALHAM MOOR

 

 

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The view across Tealham Moor, with the first faint flush of sunrise starting to warm the cold dawn light.

The single track Totney Drove, covered in frost, ice, and tyre marks, makes off eastwards towards the trees of Tadham Moor in the distance.  This thin strip of tarmac is at best uneven, but between the two nearest trees it bulges slightly upwards where, on a little bridge, it crosses a manmade waterway known as the North Drain, which empties water from this sodden landscape into the nearby River Brue.  This tiny bridge has metal railings on either side, and glint of the North Drain’s waters can just be seen to either side of them, near the left and right edges of the image.

The striking shape of the tree is the result of being cut back by mechanised shears mounted on the farmer’s tractor.  Adjacent to the drove, within reach of the cutters’ teeth, its profile has been cut back to a sheer vertical, but beyond the cutters’ reach – higher up, and on the side away from the road – it blossoms out in more natural fashion.

More context about this bitterly cold, early morning visit to the Somerset Levels can be found here, and there is another pre-sunrise image here.

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

X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 8,000 ISO; 27 Jan 2017.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 251 – THE VIEW EAST ON TADHAM MOOR (MONO)

 

 

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The view east on Tadham Moor, south of Wedmore; 29 Aug 2013.

Looking across these flat, damp and often drab lands.  The single track road, Totney Drove, arrows eastwards straight as a die.  For this is not  some rambling little country lane from “Merrie England” that wanders delightfully here, there and everywhere – this is a relatively recent roadway, perhaps only 200 years old, that was laid down over what had hitherto been trackless wilderness, so that farmers could reach their newly constructed fields.

And back in those days of course it was a rough track, with only horses, carts, livestock and people passing along it.  Far more recently, it has been chosen for the motorised age, and given a thin coating of tarmac, if little in the way of foundations – stand beside this little road as a heavy vehicle passes by and the ground will shake and  dance around you – whether you’re drunk or not.  Which always leaves me with a great sense – and a valuable sense I do think – of the fragility and impermanence of all things.

Click onto the image to see a larger version is a separate window.

D700 with 12-24 Sigma at 12mm; 400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Silhouette EV + 0.5 preset and adding a tone.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 213 – TOTNEY DROVE, LOOKING WEST (MONO)

 

 

Totney Drove, looking west
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Totney Drove, looking west from the junction with Jack’s Drove, on Tadham Moor; 30 Oct 2014.

The main road east-west across Tadham Moor.  Well, I say “main road” and this drove does have a tarmac surface, but it its only single track in width.  Drivers are in the main courteous, pulling off into field gateways or onto the often perilously soft verges to let oncoming vehicles pass.  Perilously soft?  Well, make a mistake here and your car slides down into the deep ditches full of mud and water that, although unseen in this picture, border the road closely on either side.

And on the right are a couple of field gates – nothing more than the metal gate with short wooden fences to either side to prevent cattle scrambling around outside the outsides of the gateposts – with all other boundary duties left to the ditches brimming with mud and water which, once in, cows certainly can’t get out of unassisted – it will be a job for the farmer and his tractor.

And on the left a tree cut by a tractor’s brutal mechanised shears.  Facing the road, the shorn side of the vegetation is vertical up to the blades’ highest reach, while away from the road the natural spread of the tree remains.

And cows too, far off, lost in the vignette’s mist.

Click on this image to see a larger version that shows far more detail and that opens in a separate window.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 1600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Antique Plate II preset.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 168 – LOOKING WEST ALONG TOTNEY DROVE

 

 

Looking west along Totney Drove, on the Somerset Levels
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Looking west along Totney Drove, on Tadham Moor; 14 May 2014.

This image is starting to blur into soft areas of colour, its on its way to providing an impression of what was there, rather than hard, sharp, in focus facts.

The great banks of blossom look like huge yellow tubes laid out across the landscape, as they recede into the distance on either side of the very slightly undulating, grey road. 

And the large, dark trees – which provide greens and faint yellows – arch over the road to form a tunnel, at the end of which our destination appears hazy and very faintly blue.

Half closing my eyes, squinting through my eyelashes, I enhance the effect and see the image as only consisting of converging stripes of yellow and grey, below great, dark, rolling and rounded masses of green.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 400 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.
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