The Somerset Levels and the Polden Hills is an area of southern England largely ignored by tourists and visitors intent on heading south as rapidly as possible via the M5 to Devon or Cornwall. This is a real shame as the area has such a unique and haunting natural beauty and is well worth exploring.
Somerset is a cradle of early English Christianity - note the plausible legend surrounding Christ’s supposed visit to Glastonbury under the care of Joseph of Arimathea, spawning Blake’s famous hymn ‘Jerusalem‘ – and of Battlefields that have changed the course of English history – Sedgemoor, Civil War 1685 and Westonzoyland, Battle for Europe 1940′s.
The Somerset Levels - a vast flat floodplain – were largely drained in the 1790′s enabling the area to be farmed and settled. Until then, the land was inaccessible in winter, hence the origins of the name Somerset – the Land of the Summer People.
The Polden Hills are a ridge of low hills, rising to less than 300ft at their highest point, extending from Glastonbury to Bridgwater and dominating the surrounding marshy Somerset Levels.
Back in February, I went to bed early whilst on a business trip to Singapore. In so doing, I missed the Grand Opening Night of the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort, hearing about it the next day en route for the airport. The climax of the opening was the ‘Wonder Full Show’ billed as ‘the largest light and water spectacular in Southeast Asia’.
‘Using lasers, searchlights, LEDs, video projectors and giant water screens to create stunning visual effects, Marina Bay Sands will present a breathtaking 360-degree sensory experience portraying Light and Water creating Life, choreographed to an inspiring original score. The soundtrack is performed by a 140-piece symphony orchestra’.
Fortunately for me, the Wonder Full Show was set to run ‘until attendance levels drop off’, which in Singapore means it could go on for quite a while yet! So I caught it again on my next visit in April. There are two free 13-minute performances each night at 8pm and 9:30pm, increasing to three at weekends.
I watched the spectacle from the other side of Marina Bay, close to the iconic Merlion which was shrouded in scaffolding and enclosed by a temporary 5-star suite; The Merlion Hotel. This ‘room’ is fully booked for each of the 32 nights in operation (yep … only in Singapore!). Great views across Marina Bay though!
Apparently the MBS Light and Water Show cost US$15m not that that’s a problem for the somewhat controversial Singapore IR, centred as it is on a giant casino. In February, it was reported that in nine months, the two IR’s (there’s another one on nearby Sentosa) had already contributed S$3.7 billion towards the City State’s GDP. Incredibly, this made up almost half of what tourism put into the economy during the same period; S$7.9b. No wonder this building project was controversial and no wonder the MBS owners are already thinking of expanding their operations in Singapore!