Lake Villages

Lake Villages

Meare and Westhay are small raised up bits of land on the low lying Somerset levels. Today this is mostly farmland drained through the use of river channels and rhynes, but back in ancient times the land was wet and boggy with islands poking through the water. The surrounding land does get wet in the winter but it is dry in the summer. Back in ancient times the land would have been wet throughout the year.

It is thought that people migrated from around the region to settle on the edges of Meare, Westhay and the other islands during the summer months for the abundant food and resources amongst the marshes. Since the peat landscape of the levels preserves wood, a number of ancient settlement features and artefacts have been discovered.

Discovered first, about a mile East of Meare lies Glastonbury Lake village. A a short while later, Meare Lake Villages were discovered just to the North and between Westhay and Meare. These lake villages show dwellings that were erected on mud mounds supported by sphagnum moss that were believed to be near to the waters edge. The lake villages discovered were in use around 250 BC to 50 BC.


The Lakes Villages


Between the island settlements the ancient people also built connecting trackways which were made of wood and ran over the marshy ground. The first one discovered near to Westhay and Burtle was known as the Abbots Way since it was thought to have been constructed at the behest of the Abbot of Glastonbury. But this turned out to be wildly incorrect as later dating methods put the track date back more than a thousand years.

Another, which was found to have been the oldest one in the region is known as the Post Track and another built over the top of it called the Sweet Track. Using a very accurate dating method it is known that the trees were cut down to build the track in 3806 BC. This, for a long time, was the oldest trackway in the UK, but has since been beaten by another in London.

Nowadays, there is not much to be seen where the lake villages lie under the earth. There is a reconstruction of the Sweet Track on its original path at the western end of Shapwick Heath Nature Reserve.

(content: S.Edwards)