Somerset Levels & Moors
The Somerset Levels and Moors are one of the most important inland wetland landscapes in Britain, if not the world.
The Levels stretch along the coast and are a clay belt about 6 metres above sea level whereas the Moors are inland flood plains only about 3 metres above sea level.
This quiet and distinctive landscape is valued as a place to relax and unwind. It is home to a diverse range of wildlife including wading birds, curlews, bitterns, otters, dragonflies and an abundance of wildflowers. In winter over 80,000 water birds gather across the area and often flocks of thousands of starlings can be seen swirling in the skies at dusk before coming to roost in the reed beds.
After the last glaciation period ended 10,000 years ago, sea levels rose rapidly. The Levels and Moors were under water until ca. 4500 BC when peat deposits began to form in salt marsh, fen and raised bog environments. Significant archaeological finds have been made locally, due to the excellent preservation properties of the peaty soils. Most famed amongst these are the Iron Age Lake Village, discovered near Glastonbury, and an ancient wooden causeway thought to be around 4000 years old.
In a few places, isolated outcrops of higher land rise abruptly from the flat land and were once islands in the flooded plains.The most dramatic of these are: Glastonbury Tor, Brent Knoll and Burrow Mump. Villages with "zoy" in their name were also once islands such as Chedzoy, Middlezoy and Westonzoyland. Near the latter, the last battle on English soil, the Battle of Sedgemoor, was fought in 1685 and the outcome was even influenced by the particular terrain.
The area is full of heritage and local traditions including willow growing and eel/elver fishing.The Willows & Wetlands Centre at Stoke St Gregory explains about the cultivation of 'withies' and the traditional industry of weaving and hurdle making.
The Avalon Marshes is a stunning wetland created from areas that have been dug for peat in the past. It is now home to otters, water voles and a host of other wildlife, as well as a tranquil and beautiful place for people to enjoy.
The River Parrett Trail leads through the heart of the Levels and Moors. This 50 mile trail follows the river from its source in Dorset to the mouth at Bridgwater Bay.