The Somerset Levels
The Levels are a sizable area that stretch further south than our Wells & Area Map may suggest. The ground is only a few meters above sea level and an extensive network of ditches and rivers help to drain the land of excess water. Indeed some areas can be frequently underwater after heavy rains. This is an area that is perfect to explore on bicycles as the flat landscape makes for easy riding. There are many small pretty villages here including Wedmore where the Saxon King Alfred signed a peace treaty with the Danes in the 9th century.
In 2001, the Willow Man appeared near Bridgwater next to the M4. This landmark is our version of the Angel of the North.
The Avalon Marshes is an area within the Levels rich in history and wildlife. Meare Fish House built in the 14th century is located on what would have been a small island in this fascinating area. This is the last surviving monastic fishery building in England. This facility provided a place for salting fish and drying. Not far away are the nature reserves of Shapwick Heath, Ham Wall and Westhay Moor. This is where starlings come in huge numbers during the winter season. You can find more about the starling murmurations here. Shapwick Heath is also the place to view a reconstruction of the Neolithic Sweet Track, the original wooden trackway dating back to 3806BC, discovered by peat diggers in the 1970s. Reconstructions of a Roman villa and Anglo-Saxon long hall can be seen just along the road at the Avalon Marshes Centre
There are many unusual buildings dotted about the Levels including the Ashton Mill, south of Cheddar. This mill tower built of stone dates back to the 18th century. The sails no longer turn but it is fully kitted out with all the machinery used for grinding corn.
Burrow Mump is a mini version of Glastonbury Tor. On top of this 24 metre high hill sits the church of St. Michael. This natural mound would have been an isolated patch of high ground with the marshy or even flooded Levels. It saw much action during King Alfred's time during the 800s and again during the Civil War in the 1640s. (There is a separate entry for this on the Attractions page.) Close to Burrow Mump is a monument to Alfred on Athelney Hill.