The Somerset Levels
The unique and beautiful landscape of the Somerset Levels and Moors can be found stretching between the Quantock and Mendip hills in central Somerset.
The Somerset Levels are cut in two by the Polden Hills which run parallel with the more northern Mendip Hills. A handful of rivers and numerous smaller waterways also cut across the Levels which results in a unique landscape, over-flowing with numerous varieties of rare bird and plant species. The area is arguably the most important inland wetland landscapes in Britain.
The area is steeped in history, boasting the discovery of the ‘Shapwick Hoard’ – the second largest haul of Roman silver coins ever found, over 9,000 in total. It is also the homeland of King Alfred the Great and the legends of King Arthur still resonate through the area. The Levels were the location of the Glastonbury Lake Village, an Iron Age village, situated on a man made island. There are also remnants of settlements and hill forts that were built on the natural ‘islands’ of slightly raised land, including Brent Knoll and Glastonbury Tor.
The Levels also boast wonderful local traditions such as willow growing and eel fishing. A visit to the Willows & Wetlands Centre at Stoke St Gregory will explain more about the traditional industry of weaving and hurdle making and the cultivation of ‘withies’.
The Avalon Marshes
is a particularly beautiful wetland area, formed as a result of digging out peat over the centuries. The area is home to the world’s oldest known wooden trackway and many ancient lake villages. It also boasts a vast array of wildlife such as otters and wading birds and it is one of the best locations to see starling murmurations. This incredible spectacle can be viewed every year between Autumn and February. The starlings gather in their thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, and form into black sweeping and swirling shapes in the sky.
The Levels are well served by footpaths and cycle routes as well as outlets for local crafts and produce. The River Parrett Trail winds its way through the heart of the Levels and Moors encompassing some ecologically sensitive areas and some of England’s richest pasture land. The 50 mile trail follows the river from its source in Dorset to the mouth at Bridgwater Bay. The Trail crosses the Liberty Trail near Haselbury and Ham Hill, where it also meets up with the Leland Trail.
Often overlooked, this part of Somerset offers visitors the chance to relax and unwind; to view some unusual species of plant, bird and animals – all under a wide expanse of sky surrounded by tranquil waterscapes.