Exploring ancient landscapes
Quantock Hills, Somerset

I have spent the last few days in Somerset visiting some of the places that we will be photographing on my ‘On the edge of Exmoor’ workshop in May.

As someone who loves trees and ancient landscapes it has been a real pleasure to spend some time exploring the Quantock Hills and especially the area around Crowcombe and Nether Stowey. Here you will find the Drove Road, a Saxon Army route, or ‘herepath’. This ancient route has been used by farmers for centuries to move their livestock to market in Taunton.

The route, sunken in places, is lined with hedge banks, a unique system of earth banks and walls topped with beach trees. These were a commonly adopted system of marking boundaries in Somerset and Devon and you will find them all over the woods in the Quantocks.

They make great subjects for photography. The ancient beach trees grow close together along the tops of the mud banks and their roots spill over the edges allowing for some really creative compositions.

Despite the sunny weather when I visited (which is not ideal for woodland photography) I spent a happy few hours playing with compositions and generally soaking up the atmosphere of the place.

The beach trees have all been coppiced in the past so that their root system is much older than their branches. In spring when the beach leaves are new and a beautiful soft shade of green this will be an amazing place to explore.

Just along from the Drove Road is another ancient landscape with the slightly disconcerting name of Dead Woman’s Ditch – named after the murder of Jane Walford by her husband John in 1789.

Despite its grisly name the location is home to a beautiful area of sessile oaks who’s twisted and contorted shapes cover the hillside. These ancient trees have been coppiced for centuries with the wood going to produce charcoal. The practice of coppicing has given the trees their quirky shapes and the woodland its characterful feel.

The sessile oak wood fringes the edge of the Quantocks Common and is a fantastic place to explore. It is best visited for photography on a misty morning or a drizzly day when the weather will compliment the mood of the place and help with separating the various elements of this busy landscape.

Whilst I can’t guarantee the weather will be perfect for my photography workshop in May, I can guarantee you a fantastic area to explore with your camera.

To find out more about my ‘On the Edge of Exmoor’ Workshop please visit