More than just cheese in Cheddar!

As we alluded to last week, we went to Cheddar at the weekend to celebrate my birthday and found five wonderfully Somersetty treats to share with you.

Cheddar is set in the Mendip area of the county.  It is home to attractions like Gough’s Cave and Jacob’s Ladder, but we went a bit more low key for our day out.

The Gorge Walk.

Online or printed maps are available from the National Trust for The Gorge Walk. The National Trust own the land in the Gorge, but access to the walk is free.  There are a number of other walks that cross The Gorge Walk, so you might find you stumble across parts of it.  From The National Trust’s little shop in Cheddar you can pick up a printed map (donations welcome).

The Gorge Walk is not for the faint hearted!  Although it is only three miles, there is some pretty steep climbing and descents that will mean you earn your cream tea when you finish. Your efforts will also be rewarded with some stunning views across the Mendips, towards the Somerset coastline, and into the Gorge. We would not recommend this walk after lots of rain as it could get very slippy.

The Cider.

There is plenty of cider being made in and around Cheddar. For a selection of them check out The Cider Barn just down the A371. We picked up a bottle of Legbender Dry, from Rich’s Cider, based in nearby Highbridge.  They have a shop in Cheddar where you can buy all things cider.  For more information on Rich’s Cider, follow this Link, 

The Cheese.

Cheddar is, of course, synonymous with cheese.  And where else could be more perfect for a cheese picnic than Cheddar?  Half way through the walk described above, the scenery opens up and gives you the plenty of lush grass with stunning views to munch on your cheese sandwiches. We recommend stopping in the Original Cheddar Cheese Company farm shop on the high street. Not only does it sell some fabulous cheese but it has all the accessories you can imagine (including little cheese cool bags, to keep everything in tact on your walk).

Cream Teams.

There are plenty of cafes and gift shops nestled along the side of the main road. All of them are independent, without a Starbucks or Costa in sight. We enjoyed cream teas and toasted tea cakes from Simply Gorgeous, who were very generous with the cream and even warmed our scones.

Top of the Gorge Festival

One of the things that caught our eyes was Top of the Gorge Festival, 14 to 16 June 2019, organised by the National Trust.  It is billed as a carnival of outdoor adventure. There will be a pop up camp site, and activities including trail running, mountain biking, climbing, caving, walking, archery, food foraging, campfire cooking and star gazing. We think this is a great celebration of Somerset and its beautiful countryside.

We loved it in Cheddar so much that we will be heading there again soon. Top visiting tip: get there early for good parking!

A few of our favourite Somerset things

This weekend is my birthday and to celebrate I am going for a walk with my family in the Mendips. We plan to take some pictures and report back on our findings on all things Cheddar next week.

For now, we thought we would share five reasons that we love Somerset (never too late for a Valentines card to your county!) It is pretty bleak every time you turn on the news at the moment, so here is a blog respite with some things to be grateful for.

The Landscape

We are spoilt for choice with our recognised Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty including the Quantocks, Mendip and Blackdown Hills. Not to mention the National and Country parks such as Exmoor, Ham Hill and Ninesprings.  Somerset boasts its fair share of lowlands as well thanks to the Somerset Levels & Moors, which contains 32 Sites of Special Scientific Interest.  We are also blessed with historic cities, towns and villages dotted around the county meaning there is always something and somewhere new to explore.

The Heritage

Somerset’s heritage is quite astonishing, and we never stop learning about what makes our county tick, through the unique activities or places that remind us why where we live is so important.  Carnival was invented in Bridgwater!  The Museum of Somerset (Taunton) and the Rural Life Museum (Glastonbury) expertly capture our county’s social, environmental and political past.  Halsway Manor hosts a rich tapestry of Cecil Sharp’s collection.  The West Somerset Railway and Yeovil Railway Centre evoke the power of steam from times gone by.  Our orchards contain totally unique apples that can only be found in that orchard.  Once a year, we stand in the middle of our local orchards, in the dark, singing at bits of toast hanging from trees.  The list is endless.

The Smarts

We have some pretty impressive brain power here, despite the reputation for being dumb yokles. Some of the smartest technology comes from companies based in Somerset. Our Aerospace industry is a core part of the South West sector which has around 800 companies and supports 98,000 jobs.

The Arts

Somerset has one of the finest collections of village halls for rural touring of theatre and music you can find.  Our big theatres, including: The Brewhouse (Taunton), The Octagon (Yeovil), Theatre Royal Bath present a rich diversity of live performance, meeting everyone’s interests.  Somerset hosts the biggest live performance festival in Europe, on a farm (Glastonbury Festival) and smaller ones such as Fanny Hatstand, or PigPen are popping up.  Every year, local venues big & small, become galleries for some of Somerset’s most inspiring visual artists.  And Somerset is home to some of the region’s most dynamic storytellers, whose knowledge of local myth & folk stories is second to none.

The Produce

If you have ever visited one of Somerset’s farmers markets you will get a taste of the produce that is made on our doorstep, and it doesn’t disappoint.  There are over 100 producers who attend the markets, where you can find items from specialist breads to meat, fish, dairy, vegetables and fruit. That aside, Somerset is known for its cheese and cider, and it doesn’t get much better than that. So get some cheddar and a pint of scrumpy and raise a toast to Somerset, why we love our county!

Half term in Somerset

It’s the time of the year when teachers breathe a massive February sigh of relief, and parents look for Things To Do With the Kids.   It’s a popular time to leave the UK, maybe to get a bit of late winter sun, or take in some skiing.  But if you’re staying around Somerset (or maybe visiting our county from elsewhere), there’s plenty to do nearby.  We’ve found five places to keep you, and the kids, entertained.

 

16-23 February; the egg theatre, Bath
One of the jewels of Somerset’s theatre scene, the egg is the place to go to see some of the best productions created for children & young people.  Over half term, there are three shows on offer including ‘Star Flower’ for ages 5yrs +, The Ladybird Detective Agency for ages 6m-4yrs and an exciting looking Hansel & Gretel for ages 5yrs+.  Click here for more info.

 

16-24 February; Museum of Somerset, Taunton
As usual, the brilliant Museum of Somerset has got loads on over half term.  ‘The World Before Yesterday’ is an interesting looking photography exhibition of the work of Stanley Kenyon; an exhibition on the legacy of Somerset and the First World War tells some amazing stories from 100 years ago; a trail following in the footsteps of Somerset’s own John Haning Speke (he discovered the source of the Nile) and Castle Day – activities inspired by the building itself.  And there is so much more.  You could probably spend a week here!  Have a look right here for more information.

 

19-21 February; Fleet Air Arm Museum
Fancy a bit of helicopter engineering fun?  Learn how a helicopter’s blades work by making your own helicopter spinners and testing them from the Concorde gallery.  No booking necessary, although you’ll need to buy a ticket to the Museum.  Have a look here for more information.

 

22 February; The High Sheriff celebrates Somerset: and you’re invited!
Yes, Somerset has a Sheriff.  And he has a sword.  He doesn’t have a badge, or chase around after Robin Hood.  But he is marking the end of his year in office by reviving the traditional High Sheriff Concert.  This time, it’s at Wells Cathedral, and there is a FREE family event in the morning, before a ticketed gala event in the evening which features, among others, Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons reading TS Eliot’s poem ‘East Coker’.  Look for @celebratingsomerset on Facebook & Twitter, or visit here for tickets.

 

23 February; Glastonbury Occult Conference
Perhaps not for little ones, Glastonbury Town Hall plays host to a weekend celebration of ritual, ancient mystery, magic, and a divine giraffe (among other things).  Have a look at the website for more information, including ticket prices.

 

Whatever you decide to do, have a great half term.

The Snowdrops of Somerset

As February is the last month of winter it brings with it the appearance of snowdrops. Until some research today I had not realised just how popular snowdrops are, but I can see why. Whether you find them at the side of the road or in a secret woodland, these little flowers are always a treat to see.

Somerset has certainly picked up the mantel of celebrating the end of the cold and welcoming these first flowers of the year. There are many festivals and events across the County to celebrate this single little flower, so I could not resist dedicating this blog to five that I found.

Shepton Mallet. Snowdrop Festival.

On 16th and 17th February Shepton Mallet will be hosting its snowdrop festival. It is organised by the not-for-profit Shepton Mallet Horticultural Society with the aim of planting thousands of bulbs and restoring the Allen family memorial in the town cemetery. It is billed as being a festival for the whole community with poetry and photography competitions, talks parades and much more.

 

Exmoor, Wheddon Cross. Snowdrop Valley 2019.

This one tends to top everyone’s snowdrop bucket list, including BBC’s Country File. Open until 3rd March the aptly named Snowdrop Valley is opening up access to its carpet of snowdrops. Due to high demand and limited parking there is a park and ride running from 9th to 24th February.

 

Wells, Bishop’s Palace. Snowdrop Celebration Weekend.

The Bishop’s Palace has a weekend dedicated to celebrating everything about the snowdrop. On 23rd and 24th February drop by between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to enjoy the flowers and various craft stalls (note, there is an entrance fee).

 

Chard, Forde Abbey. Snowdrop Weekends.

Every Saturday between now and 24 February the Head Gardener is leading the tour of the gardens and its snowdrops. There is a warm cup of tea and slice of cake on offer as well. Tickets are £10 and the walk starts to 10:30 a.m. For more details follow this link.

 

East Lambrook Manor Gardens. Festival of Snowdrops.

Finally, check out East Lambrook Manor Gardens on the 7th and 9th February at 2:00 p.m. where there are free talks and tours of the snowdrops around the gardens.