Aller, Aller Hill, Countryfile, Durleazedrove Rhyne, Guthrun the Dane, King Alfred, Middlemoor Rhyne, Oath Hill, Pound Inn Aller, rhyne, River Parrett, River Parrett Trail, River Sowy, Sowy Throttle, The Draining of the Somerset Levels, Tilting Weir
To clarify: ‘rhyne’ is pronounced ‘reen’.
Last Friday was the first of the month, so was the day for Zoe and I to meet for a walk and pub lunch. My time to organise, and I had long had this one in mind, but had put off for a bit as it was said to be extremely muddy.
I was a little late to our rendezvous. My satnav took me on neither of the routes I had thought likely, but across the Somerset moors on single track roads and droves. I had been following a slow lorry for ages, unable to overtake it, when it just stopped. A brief toot on my car horn to tell them I was there produced an irascible reaction and the ‘loud assertion’ that they had the legal right to stop for 20 minutes, though they would only take a few minutes, but if I weren’t careful they’d take longer.
I texted Zoe to say I would be late and why, and when I looked up I saw this through my windscreen.
As they finished the particularly rude man came over and apologised. I think his companions must have had a word. We went on to have quite a civilised brief chat.
I was further delayed by; an old man whose delightful King Charles spaniel just would not obey him and move over; a kamikaze pheasant; and then a flock of swans. By this last I was on a normal road, but just had to stop for a photo.
A woman leaning on a fence watching them said that there had been as many as 50 swans there, and that this was just a few of them. I would have loved to have stayed longer just gazing – especially as we were on a bridge over a waterway – but I didn’t want to keep Zoe waiting any longer.
We met at Aller Church, which is, according to the notes, ‘the historic site where Alfred the Great and Guthrun the Dane signed a treaty to end the Viking rule in Wessex in AD 878’. (Oh yes, I’d been further delayed by the fact that the church is out in the countryside, well away from the village centre, which threw me.)
The walk turned out not to be at all muddy, was very flat, and in plan roughly a triangle. The day was sunny and cold, with at times a brisk wind. The first leg followed the Middlemoor Rhyne, down to the Sowy River.
Zoe is the arbiter of whether to walk by cows is safe, and she deemed this lot to be fine.
All waterways on the Somerset Levels and Moors are heavily managed.
It so happened that just a day or so later I saw on local social media a reference to, and an explanation of, tilting weirs. It comes at about 43 minutes into this BBC ‘Countryfile‘ programme.
We arrived at the River Sowy and crossed over.
Research since implies that this structure is named a throttle because it is indeed designed to meet this Wikipedia definition of the word. ‘A throttle is the mechanism by which fluid flow is managed by constriction or obstruction.’
(Why do people feel the need to vandalise such signs?
In fact the River Sowy is totally artificial. And recent. It’s a 7.5 mile (12.1 km) flood relief channel to take overflow. From the Somerset Rivers website: ‘Construction of the river commenced in the mid 1960’s with completion in 1972 and was designed to relieve the flooding of the River Parrett at Langport and Aller Moor. A pilot scheme to test the feasibility of passing water from the Parrett to the Kings Sedgemoor Drain was undertaken in 1951 with the construction of the Langacre Rhyne. This followed the lines of a similar relief channel recommended in 1853. After the floods of 1960 a new scheme was proposed but rejected as being too costly. However a revised scheme, the existing Sowy River, was approved in 1963.1
“References: 1. The Draining of the Somerset Levels – Michael Williams” I have this book. It’s fascinating.
This is the Sowy, looking west, our intended direction.
The River Parrett was just yards/metres further on from the Sowy, and we walked along its embankment. Sadly, it was impossible to get the two parallel rivers in one photo. The Sowy is just over to the right, and somewhat lower.
The Parrett meanders. Oath Hill to the right.
The notes said to cross back over the Sowy by a footbridge. We wondered, nattering as we had been, whether we had missed it, but a rather unexpected style of bridge hove into view in due course. As we went up the steps we reckoned it was the steepest part of the walk thitherto.
At the other side was a rather exaggerated waymark.
But we were pleased to be able to see the next one, even without arrow, as the route was far from clear. And, while the terrain here was not muddy, it was definitely boggy.
The ‘bridge’ over the rhyne there was decidedly dicey.
Behind the village is Aller Hill.
No wonder we had not been able to see the church for which we were meant to head.
Lunch at The Pound Inn in the village rounded off a pleasant morning, enhanced by those pretty puffy clouds which never seemed to put us in the shade.