The Rhyne Maidens

No it is not a spelling mistake, I am still pursuing some of the lesser-known creatures of the Westcountry, and we are still down on the Somerset Levels (where yesterday I showed you the Pollarded Dryads).

The rhynes are the drainage channels of the Levels. They are the reason why many of the fields have no fences around them: they have their own personal moats instead. When I first came to Somerset I was amazed to see gates standing on the edge of a field with no fence to either side: just a gate, across the entry which was the only point where there was no moat.

They are such a feature of the landscape that over the centuries they have become home to a kind of freshwater mermaid. Very timid, not often seen:

Three Rhyne Maidens
Three Rhyne Maidens
Sketch: Rhyne Maiden and Cows
Sketch: Rhyne Maiden and Cows

Unfortunately, the pun works better as a visual one: Rhyne is not spelt like Rhine, but like ‘reen’.

There is a little almost-related story I could mention here: I have never swum in any rhynes, they are big ditches and… very pondy… but I have swum in the River Sowy which is an artificial river across the Levels that is exactly like a big rhyne. A little pondy too, if I am honest, but I have swum there now and then. Here it is below, and on my other site, Cat-of-the-Day you can see my drawing of what was an amusingly memorable swim:

River Sowy
River Sowy



  1. […] of my Rhyne Maidens.  The initial sketches, and explanations of what a Rhyne is were in this post: but in the end I kept the concept and created a completely new image. Rhynes, I discovered, have […]

  2. chrystene

    The cow eyes are lovely

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