Imagining places

The normal road to work is closed; the M5 motorway must be reached by way of a diversion. If the official signs were followed, it would mean driving three miles in the opposite direction before turning on a road that would lead towards the motorway. Google maps takes me along roads I have walked many times on summer evenings before following a steep, narrow and winding lane to the A372 road below.

It is a diverting diversion. The view from parts of the descent is one that takes in many square miles of moorland. On a misty morning, there is a magical feel. The blue sky and bright sunshine lie above a blanket of whiteness that resembles some sea that has reclaimed territory that was once its own.

Descending into the mist, the seasons change; from a brightness worthy of a summer’s day into a thick greyness that could be in deep midwinter. The temperature drops and progress is slowed on a road that snakes its way towards Othery, a place that was once an island in the wetlands of the Somerset Levels.

Two A-roads cross each other at acute angles and in reduced visibility, there is a feeling of a need for caution lest someone bound for Glastonbury or Taunton come looming out of the gloom.

The mist comes now in pockets: greyness and brightness alternating. Weston Zoyland lies ahead. Here there is an opportunity for imagining things far more substantial than anything in the mists.

A sign announces, “The Battle of Sedgemoor – the last battle fought on English soil.” It wasn’t much of a battle, more a massacre. Among the Royal army, there were 200 killed. The rebels under the command of the Duke of Monmouth, local peasants seemed with pitchforks, suffered 1,300 deaths. After the battle, 320 were executed following the Bloody Assizes held by Judge Jeffreys; a further 750 were transported. Passing Weston Zoyland Church, where many prisoners were held, there is a chill moment in thinking about the fate that awaited them; some were hung, drawn and quartered.

Beyond Weston Zoyland, the road crosses the old wartime aerodrome. Stretches of the runway are still intact; airfield buildings stand in ruins. Both the RAF and United States Air Force flew from here, now nothing bigger than a microlight takes off.

It is odd how it is the places of violence stick most in the mind, battlefields, military installations. Those miles of road must have many happy tales to tell, but who puts happy moments into history books?

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