Bride’s Mound to Crannel Moor

Blog post, May 10 2014

The Mill Stream, parallel to Mear Road outside Glastonbury. Note the ‘rhine’ turning off to the right.

Great Withy Drove

Great Withy Rhine, near to the Glastonbury Lake Village.

From Pomparles Bridge the river flows fairly straight across to the the Meare road, and then direct to Meare. At one time it flowed into Meare Pool. However, before it was redirected it flowed north rather than west, first of all towards Glastonbury and then out across the Levels and past the Glastonbury Lake Village.

The nearest you can now get to following it towards Glastonbury is by following the road around Bride’s Mound and then walking along Porchestal Drove, where it is easy to imagine the river over to your right. When you get to the outskirts of the town you meet the Mill Stream, a surprisingly large waterway where it follows the road to the west of Glastonbury leading to Coldharbour Bridge (on the Meare road). This has clearly been straightened out, but approximates to the original course of the Brue.

Under the bridge the river turns sharp left and heads straight for Meare (joining up with the modern Brue a mile or so downstream). It is interesting to note that in the rhynes running beside the road just here the natural flow is north, towards the Lake Village site. I followed the existing river anyway for a short distance (west), because the map shows a stream leading off to the right (heading north again) that looks like it follows a natural water course, rather than being a man-made rhyne, which would be straight.

Although effectively a drainage ditch, it does indeed meander like a natural river and also there is a ridge showing where the old bank used to be, so it was clearly once a wider water course. This I am sure is where the Brue used to flow. The picture above (left) shows the river with this old waterway leading off to the right. The picture above (right) shows Great Withy Drove and Rhyne, flowing past the field which is the Glastonbury Lake Village site. Great Withy Rhyne is similarly meandering in its course and with a ridge (with tufty grass growing on it in the picture) marking the line of an old river bank.

Beyond Great Withy Rhyne, medieval engineering works to the Hartlake River have obliterated traces of the Brue’s ancient course. The Hartlake used to flow into the Brue as a tributary, but now flows straight to Mere (‘Divisional Rhyne’), joining up with the modern Brue further downstream. It was here that I arrived on Upper Crannel Farm, wandering around wondering where I should follow next.

Here I met Phoebe Judah, who farms sheep at Upper Crannel and who had been struggling over the winter – much of her land had been under water for nine weeks, due to the Hartlake flooding. I later discovered that it is Phoebe’s sheep that sometimes graze the field behind my house, belonging to the Chalice Well Trust. She told me that she is a member of the local Drainage Board, and that she takes a great interest in the river system. She was to lend me a copy of Michael Vearncombe’s research into the history of the Upper Brue Internal Drainage Board.

She also sent me this document, that relates to the ’12 foot rhyne’ and ‘Fountain Wall’ that also carry the redirected Hartlake from the east towards her farm: