North Somerset Levels
The North Somerset Levels are the northern section of the broader Somerset Levels, separated from the wider expanse of the Levels by the Mendip Hills. They form a flat, coastal plain, and expanse of land which is largely at sea level.
The three principal rivers draining this part of the Levels are the River Banwell, River Kenn, the Congresbury Yeo and the Land Yeo. As across all of the Somerset Levels though, the landscape is cut through with innumerable streams and drainage ditches ('rhynes') and its rivers have been straightened and diverted to serve the purpose of draining the land, creating rich farmland from what was once a feverish marsh.
The water level management and maintenance of rhynes in the area are the responsibility of the North Somerset Drainage Board.
Towns and villages on the North Somerset Levels
The following are the principal towns and villages in the area
Wildlife and conservation
A number of areas of the Levels have been designated as 'Sites of Special Scientific Interest':
- Tickenham, Nailsea and Kenn Moors SSSI is an extensive site in the northern part of the Levels.
- Yanal Bog, a calcicolous mire near Sandford is designated for its plant communities, within which grow Black Bog-rush (Schoenus nigricans) and Blunt-flowered Rush (Juncus subnodulosus), two plant species rare in the south-western counties.
A number of plant species which are otherwise scarce or absent in Somerset are found in high concentrations on the North Somerset Levels, including Water Horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile), Rigid (Ceratophyllum demersum) and Soft (C. submersum) hornworts, Thread-leaved (Ranunculus trichophyllus), Common (R. aquatilis) and Fan-leaved (R. circinatus) water-crowfoots, Lesser Water-parsnip (Berula erecta), Tubular (Oenanthe fistulosa) and Fine-leaved (O. aquatica) water-dropworts, Tufted Forget-me-not (Myosotis laxa ssp. caespitosa), Skullcap (Scutellaria} and Fen Bedstraw. Water-violet (Hottonia palustris) is found here, mainly in the Nailsea & Tickenham areas, but also in scattered locations further south; this species is found nowhere else in the Bristol region. Water fern Azolla filiculoides has been introduced and has become widespread throughout.
Other plant species which are otherwise scarce or absent beyond the levels but found in high concentrations on the North Somerset Levels are: Flowering-rush (Myles, p. 210), Lesser Water-plantain (Myles, p.210-1), Frogbit (Myles, p. 210-1), Lesser Pondweed (Myles, p.212-3), Small Pondweed (Myles, p. 212-3), Hairlike Pondweed (Myles, p213), Opposite-leaved Pondweed (Myles, p.213) and Horned Pondweed (Myles, p.213).
Canadian and Nuttall's Waterweeds, plants introduced here, are now widespread throughout the levels (Myles p.211).
- Myles, Sarah: 'The Flora of the Bristol Region' (2000) ISBN 1-874357-18-8