Although Chica started life in Andalusia in Spain, most of her five years have been spent in Somerset UK. Somerset is large county (by UK standards) in the South-west of England which many people just drive through to reach the more popular holiday destinations of Devon and Cornwall. The exception being the annual influx of huge numbers attending Glastonbury festival every June.
Somerset has a wonderfully varied landscape encompassing the coast from the Bristol Channel to the Devon border, several ranges of hills of which the Mendips and the Quantocks are the largest; and here in the middle is a unique and fascinating area of wetlands known as The Somerset Levels. This is where Chica goes most days, so she’s inviting you to join her on her mornings walks.
The unmistakable silhouette of Glastonbury Tor sits at the edge of the northern part of the Levels, an area suitably known as The Avalon Marshes, and the nature reserves here are the closest to our home. The history and mythology of Glastonbury help to enhance the feeling of timelessness here. The Levels were once completely under water every winter but a part of an old wooden trackway constructed so people could travel across the marsh was found perfectly preserved in the peat soil, so perfect that it could be carbon dated to exactly 3806BC. The acidity of the peat soil acted as an excellent preserving agent.
In more recent times, the Levels have been drained using a network of ditches known locally as rhynes (pronounced ‘reens’) and the peat soil has been cut and used as a fuel and fertiliser to such a degree that it is now limited to a very small scale in order to preserve the unique ecology. More about the area to come but for now, here are the images from this morning’s walk at Shapwick Heath Nature Reserve, which is managed by the Hawk and Owl Trust.
If you have enjoyed this blog, please remember we are raising money for Spanish rescue dogs. We’ll be back in Spain to complete our walk on the GR7 in the autumn but, in the meantime, our charities are struggling to survive in the current crisis. If you can, please donate – details here