This panorama is taken from the dried up bed of the disused Somerset Coal Canal which was constructed in1794 to transport coal from the Somerset coal mines to the River Avon in Bath. It was one of the most profitable routes in the country carrying 100,000 tons of coal a year in the 1820s. It was superceded by the railways and closed in the early 20th Century. Much of it was drained for safety reasons and, over the decades has become a haven for a wide variety of grasses and flowers.
To the north-west is an Elder, a common hedgerow tree. Its name comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning 'hollow tree' because its pith is easily hollowed out to make peashooters and whistles. The old stems provide a hard, white wood which was used for carving articles like combes. The white flowers are used to make elder tea and cordial. The black berries can be made into a distinctive wine and are also used in jellies. Elders are the only trees which rabbits find distasteful.
The stinging nettle is a plant best avoided and a rare photographic subject but historically it was a useful resource for the poor. It was used to make nettle beer, could be boiled and eaten as a vegetable. The dried leaves were, and still are, used for making nettle tea and before cotton was imported, the fibres in the stem were spun and made into cloth.
Europe is generally agreed to be the birthplace of western culture, including such legendary innovations as the democratic nation-state, football and tomato sauce.The word Europe comes from the Greek goddess Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus and plunked down on the island of Crete. Europa gradually changed from referring to mainland Greece until it extended finally to include Norway and Russia.Don't be confused that Europe is called a continent without looking like an island, the way the other continents do. It's okay. The Ural mountains have steadily been there to divide Europe from Asia for the last 250 million years. Russia technically inhabits "Eurasia".Europe is presently uniting into one political and economic zone with a common currency called the Euro. The European Union originated in 1993 and is now composed of 27 member states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.Do not confuse the EU with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and dates to 1949. These two bodies share the same flag, national anthem, and mission of integrating Europe. The headquarters of the Council are located in Strasbourg, France, and it is most famous for its European Court of Human Rights. In spite of these two bodies, there is still no single Constitution or set of laws applying to all the countries of Europe. Debate rages over the role of the EU in regards to national sovereignty. As of January 2009, the Lisbon Treaty is the closest thing to a European Constitution, yet it has not been approved by all the EU states. Text by Steve Smith.