Not the Norfolk Broads!

Stephen Moss in front of his on screen presentation at Strode Thare in Street, Somerset.


The Avalon Marshes was recently described by Stephen Moss on Radio 4’s Today programme as one of the best new places to see wildlife in the whole of the country. Well, the weekend of 4 / 5 June proved a brilliant opportunity to celebrate what makes the area so special. Not just in terms of its wildlife, but also its landscape, heritage and the people who live, work and visit here. We may not have the official status and funding of the country’s designated areas but we have benefitted over the last 4 years from Heritage Lottery funding through the Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership scheme.

On Saturday 4 June more than 180 people enjoyed a day of talks, presentations and films at Strode Theatre in Street telling the story of the Avalon Marshes. Chaired by Stephen Moss it included talks on water level management by Phil Brewin, pre-historic archaeology by Richard Brunning, the monastic landscape by John Allan, the history of the peat industry by Mike Woodhead, the creation of the nature reserves by Simon Clarke, and people and wildlife by Chris Sperring. It also included part of John Betjeman’s nostalgic film from the 1960s on his trip through the area along the former Somerset and Dorset railway.

On Sunday 5 June the sun shone setting the scene for the Avalon Marshes open day organised by Natural England. After a day inside it was a chance for people to get out to enjoy the area and see what has been achieved with Heritage Lottery funding. More than 300 people, including many families, enjoyed activities at the Avalon Marshes Centre with tractor rides on to Shapwick Heath, bird box making, pond dipping and, perhaps best of all, tours of the newly constructed Romano-British and Anglo-Saxon buildings, which were brought vividly to life. There were also guided walks at Catcott and Westhay, and activities at Ham Wall.

Feedback from both days was extremely positive; from people new to the Avalon Marshes and those who knew it well but who had discovered something new. The Avalon Marshes is a unique landscape with huge potential for the future. As one person commented from the Saturday event it is developing into a very special place for people, wildlife and heritage, but one that is quite distinct from areas like “The Norfolk Broads”.

Combined image: Image 1 shows people at the 'Hills to the Levels' project stand and participating in the Avalon Marshes Open day 2016 . Image 2 shows an Anglo Saxon king re-enactor sat with a raven in the reproduction Anglo Saxon Long Hall at the Avalon Marshes Open Day.


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