I live on the edge of Somerset, in Bath, and travel to Taunton by train for my residency at Somerset College. There is something about train journeys; they give me the space to think, look out of the window and work if needs be. The dominant feature over the last weeks has been, of course, the flooding of the Somerset Levels – the track lies precariously in the middle of flooded fields and was finally engulfed too. The diversionary route via Westbury also travels through flooded fields.
The floods must be awful for the people living there, but as a traveller through the landscape they are fascinating, bringing an otherness, a mirrored finish to the landscape, sometimes framed with field structures, hedges and trees, sometimes completely submerged. In the gales the flooded fields are more like an inland sea with galloping white horses. I cannot imagine how difficult it is for the people cut-off from their homes and work. Everyday struggles must have become an epic: struggling to be heard; struggling to keep their lives, homes and work together.
However it is not the flooding that has inspired me, but the Somerset Levels themselves; the contrast between the disastrous flooding and the lush, vibrant landscape in spring and summer. The Somerset Levels and Moors are a unique and beautiful environment set in the centre of the county – they are unmistakenly Somerset, so I am choosing the Levels as my inspiration for warmth of belonging in Somerset. The Levels deserve protection, as do the people who live and work there.
Winter lays everything bare, I haven’t noticed the pollarded trees before.