An exploration of a disconnected river:
the Brue and the Axe in Somerset.
A5 Paperback, 258 pages including black & white maps. 24 pages of colour photographs also included.
Published October 2015.
Reprinted with corrections and additions (now 270 pages), February 2018.
Special price for copies bought from this website: £10.00
A free copy of Conversations with the River Spirit will be sent to anyone ordering this book.
Front cover picture: Looking back towards Glastonbury Tor, from South Moor beside the River Brue. Watercolour, Gillian Booth.
'The River - an exploration of a disconnected river: the Brue and the Axe in Somerset'.
The river is disconnected literally, in that during the middle ages the Brue was redirected and is no longer joined to the River Axe as it once was - in other words the source and the mouth are disconnected from each other. It is also disconnected metaphorically, in the sense that (for the author) it has become an allegory for the natural world as a whole, and we as humans are so often disconnected from the natural world (and from ourselves and each other), this being the root cause of the ecological crisis that now threatens to overwhelm us.
The book's format comes in two parts. The first is based on a walk from the source of the Brue above Bruton, along the river as far as Glastonbury, and then following the old course across the moors, to join up with the River Axe; finally along the Axe to its mouth at Uphill near Brean Down. The walk took five days and took place over midsummer last June.
The second part is the history of the river, and of its human context. This includes Glastonbury's medieval abbey, which had a huge effect on the river with drainage works and straightening or 'canalisation'. It also includes the Lake Village in the Iron Age, the Celtic Church in post-Roman Britain, the Saxons and Abbot Dunstan, King Alfred and the Peace of Wedmore with the Danes.
In more recent years there is also the history of flooding at Bruton, the ill-fated Victorian Glastonbury Canal, the introduction of large-scale pumping and modern drainage, and most recently the sometimes heated debate between proponents of intensive farming and nature conservation.
The text is illustrated by a section of colour photographs that cover the length of the original river course as it looks today. There is also a series of maps that show the dramatic changes that have taken place over the centuries
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Introduction: Making Friends with the River
Day One: Alfred’s Tower to Bruton
Day Two: Bruton to Baltonsborough
Day Three: Baltonsborough to Godney via Glastonbury
Day Four: Godney to Lower Weare near Axbridge
Day Five: Lower Weare to Uphill near Brean Down
Introduction: The River, the Canal, and the Drain
2. Glastonbury and the Iron Age Lake Village
3. Before the Romans Arrived...
4. Roman Occupation
5. Celtic Christianity
6. Glastonbury Abbey and the Arthurian Landscape
7. Seven Holy Islands
8. Glastonbury as one of the Holy Islands
9. The Kingdom of Wessex
10. King Alfred and the Unbinding of the Chrisom at Wedmore
11. Dunstan and the Benedictine Rule
12. Glastonbury and Wells
13. The New Cut: Glastonbury to Meare Pool
14. When was the River Diverted?
15. The End of the Old River Brue
16. A Transition in Land Ownership: 1400-1600
17. Somerset Levels in the Seventeenth Century
18. Floods at Bruton
19. Glastonbury Canal
20. District Drainage Boards
21. World War Two and the New Regime of Pumping
22. Farmers and Conservationists
23. The Present and the Future
Extracts: from the picture section