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The Bussex Rhyne, the drainage ditch across which the firefight took place, survives in places as a shallow linear depression.
 
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The Bussex Rhyne
Historic Terrain

Kings Sedgemoor is bounded on the north by the Polden Hills while on the south lies the River Parrett. Within the moor there were two large islands of sand and gravel which can still be recognised today as they stand a few metres higher than the surrounding peat. The smaller island was Chedzoy, which contains a village of the same name. The larger was known as Zoy, with Westonzoyland on its western edge and to the east the villages of Middlezoy and Othery. Attached to the western end of zoy was another small area of gravel which formed an almost separate small island, Penzoy. On the moor there were also a number of much smaller islands called ‘batches’.

There had been limited drainage of parts of the Levels in the medieval period, including a significant area on the south side of the island of Zoy, but the Kings Sedgemoor, to the north of the island was in 1685 still largely unaffected by such works.

The major transformation of the landscape began in 1791 when, under the provisions of a private Act of Parliament for the drainage and enclosure of the moor, a major new drainage dyke known as the Kings Sedgemoor Drain was constructed between the river Cary and the lower reaches of the river Parrett. This drain, which has since been greatly enlarged and further embanked, and the subsidiary channels that feed it are still a dominant feature in the modern landscape. The land was then subdivided into allotments to the various people who held common rights in the moor, resulting in a rectilinear pattern of fields, some quite small, bounded by lesser drainage dykes. These dykes or rhynes as they are known locally replaced the old irregular pattern of rhynes. New straight droves, for agricultural access, and local roads also generally replaced the old trackways and new farms were constructed down on the former wetland where none had existed before.

The Bussex Rhyne was first mapped in detail from archaeological evidence in 1980. A more detailed reconstruction of the historic landscape of the battlefield, which also locates the Langmoor Rhyne and the upper and lower plungeons and possibly also the Pitzoy Pound, based on historic map evidence and archaeological evidence from aerial photographs was published in 2003. Excavation has also been conducted to establish the depth and width of the Bussex Rhyne.

Settlements & townships

In the 17th century the moor was intercommoned by a number of townships which surrounded the moor, although Paschall’s plan of the battle shows the 17th century perambulation of Chedzoy parish extending to the Bussex rhyne and Black Ditch. At Inclosure however the boundaries of the townships were reorganised to encompass parts of the former moor, the battlefield area beings divided between Chedzoy and Westonzoyland.

Land Use

In the 17th century the moor was too wet to cultivate and had been used as rough pasture shared by the adjacent communities. After Inclosure the land was only rarely subject to flooding but was still largely used as pasture. With the increased efficiency of more recent drainage works some of the land has now been turned over to arable but there still seems to be a much higher proportion of the old moorland down to pasture than is seen on the former islands, much of which were already arable in the 17th century. Sadly however most of the fields seem to have been cultivated at some time and the earthworks of ancient drainage rhynes and other features visible as earthworks in 1947 are now mostly levelled.

Communications

The major road system, mapped by Ogilby in 1676, ran through Middlezoy to the south east and Bridgwater to the north west of the battlefield, both crossing the moor on causeways. The former had been used by the royal army and the latter by the rebels. A causeway also linked Middlezoy through Westonzoyland to Bridgwater. However there were also lesser routes across the moor which were presumably poorly marked and will have been impassable in wet weather. One ran from the lower plungeon past Pitzoy Pound to Bridgwater, another to Chedzoy and a third via Langmoor Stone skirting around Chedzoy to the north, which was the route taken by the rebel army in their night attack.

 

   
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