The Avalon Marshes, part of Somerset’s Levels and Moors, has a unique character of its own. Glastonbury Tor is the dominant landmark but the wider landscape has a more subtle character, which our Heritage walks and Cycle routes will help you explore. Here are some other ideas:
The network of ditches, rhynes, drains, rivers, pumps and clyces is vital to the Avalon Marshes; it prevents flooding, irrigates the land for farming and is vital to wildlife. Gold Corner is at its hub with huge pumps housed in an Art Deco building, which features previous high tide marks. From it the mighty Huntspill River, particularly good for Pike fishing, heads straight to the sea. In Roman times this area was covered in a network of saltwater creeks and was exploited for its salt. Find out more about the Huntspill River.
Tealham and Tadham Moors have an open and evocative character. There are no hedges and few trees. Instead it is an area of “wet hedges” (ditches and rhynes) and large skies. The best way to experience the moors is to cycle through it on the public droves. As you leave the moors on the west side notice how the landscape changes. There is a slight rise in the land, rhynes give way to hedges and trees start to close in the views. Here you are leaving the peat “moors” and entering the clay “levels” which stretch to the sea.
“Isle” highlights the history of the landscape; Wedmore really was once surrounded by water! It is now an attractive area with good views over the Avalon Marshes to the south and Axe valley to the north. The historic, stone-built, village of Wedmore has a range of shops and other facilities. Follow our Wedmore, Wetlands and Sand walk and you will get fine views and see the contrast between the more intimate landscape of the “Isle” and the wider open landscape of Tealham and Tadham Moors.
The nature reserves of the Avalon Marshes were created from an industrial landscape of peat extraction, which is still shaping the landscape today. These areas have their own character and interest; where the final clay layer is exposed you are looking back almost 10,000 years to the end of the last ice age. The best way to explore this peat landscape is by bike. Cycle from the Avalon Marshes Centre along the old railway track, through the nature reserves. Turn south from Sharpham crossing and Sharpham Drove takes you into the land of peat.
The nature reserves are a glimpse into the past landscape of the Avalon Marshes, especially the vast reedbeds which existed during the Stone Age. Follow the Sweet Track Trail at Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve and you will see some of these reedbeds and their progression to carr (or wet) woodland. What followed was huge raised peat bogs or mires. Whilst these have been largely drained a few small areas of mire remain, including that at Westhay Heath National Nature Reserve.
On the western side of the Isle of Avalon lies the town of Glastonbury. Steeped in history and folklore, it attracts people from all over the world. In contrast the eastern side of the Isle is a rural landscape of small fields, orchards and the old oaks Gog and Magog! Contrast the regular landscape of ditches and rhynes with the small hedged fields of the Isle, and wonder who built Ponter’s Ball, the ancient earthwork which protected the Isle.
The Eastern Moors mark the gradual transition from former marsh to dry land. Cutting across them is the natural causeway, which links the Isle of Avalon with West Pennard, and the canalised River Brue carrying water from the eastern hills to the sea. Study an Ordnance Survey map and you will notice the contrast between the blue lines of ditches on the marshes and the black lines of hedged fields on the higher land. The village of Baltonsborough has an attractive group of old buildings set around a fine church.