ARCHIVE: LEVELS 18 – THE LANDSCAPE OF MY YOUTH

 

 


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The western end of the Somerset Levels – beneath the sea at Weston-super-Mare; 4 Sept 2014.

Not far north of the parts of the Somerset Levels where I’m usually to be found, these flatlands are cut by hard ridges of limestone – the Mendip Hills – that run away westwards down into the sea at Weston-super-Mare. 

This is the landscape of my youth, this is where I grew up, 60 and more years ago.

On the left is the dark limestone bulk of Worlebury Hill, behind which is hidden the seaside town of Weston.  Worlebury’s last gasp before disappearing under the muddy waters of the Bristol Channel is the little island of Birnbeck,which is attached to the mainland by a Victorian pier – apparently the only Victorian pier to incorporate an island, the others merely jutting out into the sea.

I can remember when this was a working pier, with penny in the slot machines, paddle steamers calling in to pick up daytrippers, and a lifeboat station.  But the whole pier is in a terribly derelict state now.  It has been closed to the public for years, and the lifeboat station has just closed too, due to it now being too dangerous for the lifeboatmen to get to their lifeboat.

And over on the far side of Weston Bay is the long limestone promontory of Brean Down, which had a temple on its crest in Roman times – and which has  a Victorian fort at its end, to guard the Bristol Channel and the approaches to Bristol and Cardiff.  This fort was brought back into operation amidst the fears of German invasion in World War II, but is now derelict. 

The Mendips’ very last gasps are seen in Steep Holm and Flat Holm, two small islands out in the Bristol Channel, but they are not shown in this picture.

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 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 .  All of these links will open in separate windows. 

Click onto to this image to see a larger version in a separate window – definitely recommended – and look at where the pier, after crossing the water, meets Birnbeck Island.  There is a tall building with a dark roof there, and a small slipway running down into the sea – this is where Weston’s lifeboat used to launch, to help those in distress on the sea.

Technique: D700 with 24-120 Nikkor lens at 120mm; 200 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the High Key 2 preset and adding a strong cyanotype tone.

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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THOUGHTS 8 – THE TIDE’S IN

 

 


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Weston-super-Mare, in Somerset, is my home town, and I often ramble on about the great heights of the tides along this coast, which are second in the world only to those in the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Watching the local news this morning, my thoughts are again pushed in this direction.  This week, 13.5 metre (44.2 foot) tides have quite literally come ashore in Weston, spilling over the sea wall onto the seafront but not causing extensive damage.  Low lying parts of Bristol, around the harbour, have also been flooded.

I have no pictures of these floods, but the one above gives some idea of what Weston routinely faces at certain times of year.  Its early October, and I’m up on the hill to the north of the town, looking south across Weston Bay towards the high peninsula of Brean Down.  This is high tide, and the bay is filled with rollers being driven towards the sea defences by a westerly gale.

Am I proud of these great tides, proud of they’re being second highest in the world?  I wouldn’t say proud, but this is where I’m from and, to some extent, this is a part of my background, this is a part of me.

(Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended )
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SOMERSET LEVELS 445 – FLAT 20A (MONO)

 

 


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Walking down Orchard Street in Weston-super-Mare on a very grey and damp morning, and glancing up to the right.

Other recent pictures from Weston are here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 . All will open in separate windows.

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

Technique: Z 6 with 24-120 Nikkor lens at 24mm; 12,800 ISO; jpeg created and processed in-camera from a raw file, using the Graphite profile; Orchard Street, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset; 3 Jan 2020.

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BIRDS 126 – FERAL PIGEON 2 (MONO)

 

 


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Feral Pigeons on a church roof.  It was a dark morning, and so (even at 3200 ISO) to a shutter speed of 1/40 second, which resulted in the blurring of the flying bird’s wings, which I like.

There is another image of these birds, and some more context, here .

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

Technique: Z 6 with 24-120 Nikkor lens at 120mm; 3200 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Graphite profile; Weston-super-Mare, Somerset; 3 Jan 2020.
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BIRDS 125 – FERAL PIGEON (MONO)

 

 


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Feral Pigeons on a church roof, under the dark overcast of a wet morning.

Feral (or Town) Pigeons are the descendants of the truly wild Rock Doves that in earlier times were widely kept in dovecotes for food.  They occur in a great variety of plumages, and are widely found in towns and cities.

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

Technique: Z 6 with 24-120 Nikkor lens at 75mm; 6400 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Landscape v2 profile; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Grad ND (EV-1) preset, and adding a moderate Coffee tone; Weston-super-Mare, Somerset; 3 Jan 2020.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 442 – EMPTY SHOP

 

 

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So, what the hell am I pointing my camera at now?  These are the windows of an empty shop, most probably a victim of both the current general downturn in UK retail, together the on going impoverishment of seaside towns.

These are the shop’s windows, with a white, wooden frame between them.  On the left a smaller window adjacent to the shop’s door, and on the right a larger window facing more out onto the street.  Because the premises are empty, the inside of the windows have been wiped with whitewash to deter curious eyes – there may still be things inside the shop worth stealing, or perhaps it is being refurbished.  Seen from the outside, presumably taking some colour from the sky, the whitewash appears bluish.

Then, on the right of the picture, the larger window reflects the terraced houses in the street, a white van, twin yellow “No Parking” lines and the sky’s dull, wet overcast.

Other recent pictures from Weston are here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 .

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

Technique: Z 6 with 24-120 Nikkor lens at 24mm; 12,800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Portrait v2 profile; Weston-super-Mare, Somerset; 3 Jan 2020.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 441 – CROSS STREET

 

 


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One of the narrow sidestreets in the older part of Weston’s town centre that I find so attractive.  Streets from my boyhood, I suppose.

Traffic coming up towards the camera is told very firmly by the large white arrow to turn right.  The twin yellow lines down either side of the street ban all parking and, near the camera, are in real need of repainting.  What else?  Well, the bags of refuse on the narrow pavement on the right; two vehicles parked very tightly in on the right further down, and the view right down this narrow street to the parked car at the far end.

Other recent pictures from Weston are here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 .

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

Technique: Z 6 with 24-120 Nikkor lens at 24mm; 12,800 ISO; in-camera production of jpeg from the raw file, using the Somber profile; Cross Street, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset; 3 Jan 2020.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 440 – WALKING WESTON’S STREETS 7

 

 

A seaside town, in the winter

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Weston-super-Mare, my home town, on the coast where the Somerset Levels run down into the Bristol Channel – the local, somewhat muddy, version of the sea.  Following a recent reunion with age-old friends there (here), I’ve been visiting Weston again, and walking streets echoing with things remembered – sometimes only half-remembered –  from over half a century ago.

Weston is a seaside town and, like seaside towns the UK over, it is experiencing something of an economic downturn – the era of the family seaside holiday in uncertain British weather is long past, due to cheap holidays in warmer and far more reliable, foreign climes.  So, there is to Weston something of the cheap and cheerful, a – to me, anyway – rather attractive tattiness at the edges, that makes walking here with a camera a pleasure – a definite feeling of not knowing what will appear next.  The Ghost of FATman Past perhaps?  Well, if he gives me half a chance, I’ll photograph him …

And so in Nov 2019 to pictures taken with an open mind – pictures which are, for better or for worse, in the main quite different from the preceding 400+ that I’ve posted of the Somerset Levels.  Some of them may be a little obscure / far out / radical / unexplained /  I don’t know… but I did mention photographing with an open mind, which means looking, on the spur of the moment, at anything and everything …    But, whatever, warts and all, I hope you’ll like (at least some of) these images.  (Click onto them twice to enlarge them)

Earlier posts in this series are here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 .

A short history of Weston is here.
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Well, as I told you, Weston’s tatty at the edges >>> which makes it decidedly interesting!  Here, the grassy roof in particular gets to me …

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But as well as being tatty at the edges, Weston has many very desirable and expensive properties, with many very well-heeled retirees – and so to that pillar of Our Green and Materialistic Land, the Estate Agents

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Parking meter – or space alien?

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And just who said the west of England isn’t a centre of culture???  Its just a question of which culture you mean …  So perhaps to an unsettling fact then, that most of my formative years were spent here >> I am, in part, certainly a product of this town.  I have lived in various places, perhaps the most valuable of which, in terms of Life Experience, were 12 years in Kenya – many of those 12 years having been towards the end of my adolescence (this latter phase of Life now having been found to continue to age 32 or so) >>> but Weston will always be my home town, and very much valued as such.

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And finally, punk on Weston’s Grand Pier; somehow very appropriate …

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PEOPLE 386 – SELFIE WITH FATHER CHRISTMAS, SNOWMAN AND WARNING ABOUT WET FLOOR

 

 


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Down a dull sidestreet in a seaside town, and this last vestige of overhyped festive cheer – still warm and bright despite early January’s gloom, drizzle and inescapable realities.

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

Technique: Z 6 with 24-120 Nikkor lens at 48mm; 12,800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Flat v2 profile; Weston-super-Mare, Somerset; 3 Jan 2020.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 439 – WALKING WESTON’S STREETS 6

 

 

Autumn on drain cover

Weston-super-Mare, my home town, on the coast where the Somerset Levels run down into the Bristol Channel – the local, somewhat muddy, version of the sea.  Following a recent reunion with age-old friends there (here), I’ve been visiting Weston again, and walking streets echoing with things remembered – sometimes only half-remembered –  from over half a century ago.

Weston is a seaside town and, like seaside towns the UK over, it is experiencing something of an economic downturn – the era of the family seaside holiday in uncertain British weather is long past, due to cheap holidays in warmer and far more reliable, foreign climes.  So, there is to Weston something of the cheap and cheerful, a – to me, anyway – rather attractive tattiness at the edges, that makes walking here with a camera a pleasure – a definite feeling of not knowing what will appear next.  The Ghost of FATman Past perhaps?  Well, if he gives me half a chance, I’ll photograph him …

And so in Nov 2019 to pictures taken with an open mind – pictures which are, for better or for worse, in the main quite different from the preceding 400+ that I’ve posted of the Somerset Levels.  Some of them may be a little obscure / far out / radical / unexplained /  I don’t know… but I did mention photographing with an open mind, which means looking, on the spur of the moment, at anything and everything …    But, whatever, warts and all, I hope you’ll like (at least some of) these images.  (Click onto them twice to enlarge them)

Earlier posts in this series are here: 1 2 3 4 5 .

A short history of Weston is here.
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Looking up on the High Street: demise of the seaside holiday, and the economic plight of so many seaside towns

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 Looking into a trendy bar

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Rainy morning: umbrella in car

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