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Somerset Levels

The Somerset Levels were once covered by the sea. There are even rumours of a tsunami, in 1607, when the Bristol Channel over flowed and submerged 200 square miles of land, according to a BBC news item in 2014.

It was reclaimed from the water during the seventeenth century and a network of ditches, known locally as ‘rhynes’ continue to drain the land – although it can be overwhelmed, as it was during the floods of 2014.

The Levels now sustain both dairy and arable farming, as well as a rich selection of wildlife, especially birds.

Ham Wall
Ham Wall, the destination of the cyclists featured in Murder on the Levels, is a wetland nature reserve on the Levels, near Glastonbury, with an old railway track running through the centre, now used for cycling and walking.

Bittern, great white egret, bearded tits and hobby falcons are treasured visitors, alongside congregations of starlings that rise en masse in winter, swooping through the skies in a spectacular murmuration.

From Murder on the Levels
“She followed the cyclists’ route through corkscrew lanes beneath a broad blue spring sky filled with blackbird song, head whirling with plans for packaging, marketing, future outlets and exotic new chocolate flavours.

Beyond an open gate, clumps of sedge and willow lined the placid waters of a stream. Moorhens ducked in and out of overhanging branches and a pair of geese honked in the distance.

She fiddled with the satnav, turned the car and set off, soon rewarded by miles of green fields stretching out as far as she could see, criss-crossed by drainage rhynes.

She put her foot down on the accelerator, watching out for more treacherous bends hidden by withy, and soon found herself on the single road to the village.

The surface was smooth, newly laid, the road recently raised several inches to combat any future flooding. The fields of pasture nearby were bright with spring green and grazed by contented cows.”

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