Life on the Levels

Flooding in the village of Muchelney

I spent the first two years of my life on the Somerset Levels. My mother’s grave is there. I still have friends and connections in the area, and it is heartbreaking to see the suffering of people and animals during the ongoing floods, surely the worst in living memory, now covering 25 square miles of my home county.

This is the place where Alfred the Great hid from the Danes in 878; where the Duke of Monmouth led the ill-fated “pitchfork rebellion” against James II in 1685; where Cecil Sharp was first inspired to begin his work as a folk-song collector in 1903.

It is an extraordinary, haunting landscape, heavy with the ghosts and myths of the past.

The recent photograph above shows one of the roads leading to Muchelney on the Levels – the village’s name means “Great Island” in Old English, and for the time being it is an island once again, completely cut off by the floodwaters.

It will probably be weeks before the waters recede, and when they do many will be returning to wrecked homes and damaged livelihoods. My thoughts are with them. These are some very moving photos of the current floods, taken by Matilda Temperley, who grew up in the area:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2014/feb/09/somerset-floods-living-underwater-in-pictures

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