Journeys through the Summerlands

Introduction: Journeys through the ‘Summer Lands’: Real and Imaginary Sonic Excursions

Much of my time over the past 2 years has been spent wandering around the area of Somerset that the iron age inhabitants of the area knew as the ‘Summer Lands’, a section of the Somerset Levels bounded on one side by the Mendips and the Blackthorne Hills and running from Glastonbury to the sands of Bridgewater Bay. This area is home to the Avalon Marshes, the nature reserves of Ham Wall, Westhay Moor, and Shapwick. Reclaimed from old peat works they have been flooded and are returning to the a ‘natural state’ of reed beds and marsh – nature reclaimed by culture.

Underlying the whole area and giving it much of its character is peat. It rich darkness can be seen in the peat diggings and the heaps piled by the side of drainage rines. Formed over thousands of years it has provided fuel and fertilizeran produced the rich agricultural grazing land of the levels.  Over time peat has absorbed past traces of human life on the levels preserving them in its damp airless embrace. From time to time aspects of this past emerge and are rediscovered showing us the ways past peoples lived and moved through the landscape.

We now know that the  area is covered in hidden tracks. Pre historic and iron age people formed raised pathways from wood, such as  the Sweetway track at Shapwick in order to navigate across the marshlands. The straight pathway which runs through Shapwick and Ham Wall to Glastonbury was once one of the several railway lines that crossed the levels. The contemporary narrow roads which criss cross the levels are often subsiding and it seems about to disappear into the ground. The whole area is layer upon layer.

The pieces that follow are a sonic response to the area  made up of unprocessed field recordings and more composed and abstract pieces often incorporating and transforming field recordings. Some of these become sonic imaginings and responses to the traces of the ancient peoples who used to inhabit the levels

Pages for the individual tracks can be accessed via the menu on the right.