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!

Somerset Trails, Part Two

Last week we promised you part two of our Somerset Trails blog, and so here it is. If you are looking for more, check out Somerset County Council and the Long Distance Walkers Association.

A quick reminder of the last five:

  • Leland Trail: 28 Miles from King Alfred’s Tower to Ham Hill
  • The Monarch’s Way: 625 Miles from Worcester to Brighton via Bristol and Yeovil
  • The Coleridge Way: 51 miles from Nether Stowey to Lynmouth
  • South West Coast Path: 630 miles from Minehead to Poole
  • Mendip Way: 50 miles from Weston-super-Mare to Frome.

The River Parrett Trail: 48 Miles from Chedintgon to Bridgwater Bay.

This route follows the river from its source in Chedington Dorset up through the Somerset Levels to where it meets the sea at Bridgwater Bay. It is broken into six smaller sections for day walks and includes some stunning views and passes through lovely villages. Here is a map from Somerset County Council.

Liberty Trail: 28 Miles from Ham Hill to Lyme Regis.

This is the route of six rebels as they met up from villages in Somerset and Dorset. The rebels then made their way up to Monmouth to join the Protestant in the Rebellion of 1685. The route is aptly split into six sections ranging from three to six miles in length. There’s a leaflet filled with interesting stories about the rebels, available from Discover South Somerset.

Deane Way: 45 or 42 Miles from Taunton heading East or West.

  • West Deane Way 45 Miles from Taunton through the Quantocks
  • East Deane Way 42 Miles from Taunton through Sedgemoor.

These are two circular walks going east or west from Taunton, depending on which one you choose. West takes in the Brendon Hills. East goes through Corfe and over to the Blackdown Hills, reminding you that we are spoilt for options and countryside in Somerset. These routes are available from books in Tourist Information Centres.

Macmillan Way West: 102 Miles from Castle Cary to Barnstaple.

Part of the larger 290 mile Macmillan Way, this section breaks off at Castle Cary and heads through the Somerset Levels over to the Quantocks. This beautiful countryside walk has been put together to help raise awareness and money for Macmillian’s cancer relief fund. Find out more here.

The Strawberry Line: 10 Miles from Yatton to Cheddar.

This is a traffic free trail following the old railway line (which also means it is pretty flat so its bike, wheelchair and buggy friendly). Much of the route is recognised as a local nature reserve and connects a number of rural villages. The team behind the trail are hoping to expand it to a 30 mile route, eventually connecting to a larger 85 mile project known as the Somerset Circle itself consisting of: The River Avon Trail; The Bristol & Bath Railway Path; Two Tunnels Greenway; The Colliers Way; Norton Radstock Greenway; Five Arches Way; The Strawberry Line and The Festival Way.

Happy Somerset Trails

We are loving January thanks in no small way to the three wassails we visited in the last week. There is still time to get out and wassail if you haven’t already. Check out last week’s blog for more details.

One of our 2019 resolutions was to get out and see more of Somerset. To help us in this aim we have been researching walking trails. We found so many that this week is part one of a two part blog. The trails pass through or reside in Somerset and many can be broken up into day walks. So put those walking boots on, pull up your socks and here we go!

Leland Trail: 28 Miles from King Alfred’s Tower in Penselwood to Ham Hill near Yeovil.

John Leland travelled through South Somerset as King Henry VIII’s librarian. His job was to record all of the treasured possessions of the churches and priories. This walk is based on his accounts. It takes you through Castle Cary, North Cadbury, Queen Camel and over to Montacute. South Somerset District Council have produced guide breaking the walk into seven stages, if 28 miles seems a bit much. Find the guide here. This trail links to three others on our list (Monarchs Way, Liberty Trail and the River Parrett Trail).

The Monarch’s Way: 625 Miles from Worcester to Brighton via Bristol and Yeovil.

The escape route of King Charles II in 1651 can’t have been all bad as he managed to spend some time in Somerset. He covered the 625 miles in six weeks, the highlight of which would have been walking along the River Parrett to Hardington Mandville and East Coker before heading down into Dorset. For details here is a link.

The Coleridge Way: 51 miles from Nether Stowey and Lynmouth.

Cross the Quantocks and Exmoor in the footsteps of the famous Romance poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. We have walked parts of this route before and the scenery is worth any blisters. Find out more here.

South West Coast Path: 630 miles from Minehead to Poole.

The longest national trail takes in 12.5 miles of the Somerset coastline from Minehead to Porlock in Exmoor. It is an ambition of mine to complete the 630 miles, but the Somerset part makes a lovely day walk. Find details here.

Mendip Way: 50 miles from Weston-super-Mare to Frome.

As the name suggests this walk crosses the stunning Mendip Hills. The walk takes in The Bristol Channel at Weston-super-Mare, heads through Cheddar Gorge and into Wells before ending in Frome. Here is your link.

Somerset Resolutions 2019

It is the New Year, which means that it is time for setting resolutions, so here at Some Somerset HQ we thought we would share five of our goals for 2019:

Celebrate Somerset: Somerset Day 11 May 2019 Find out more here.

Set on the day that Alfred the Great it is believed to have gathered ‘all the people of Somerset’ to fight and win a battle against the Vikings, Somerset day is a celebration of everything this County has to offer.

However, while we are waiting for May (not wanting to wish away the year quite yet) we are going to celebrate in the form of a good old fashioned Wassail. We will share details of these events next week.

See Somerset: Walk, bike and explore the County. Maps for trails and routes.

There are 9,000 rights of way totalling 3,808 miles in this County and we are planning to get out and explore a few more of them over the year. Places like the lovely Sand Bay (picture above, which was taken on Boxing Day morning this year).

Eat Somerset: Foodie Festivals For Everyone

Whatever your budget or taste, Somerset has something for everyone with lots of great restaurants and cafes. This year we are looking to taste as much as we can by attending some of the festivals including:

Buy Somerset: Championing local and independent business.

We are planning to track down farmers markets, boutique stores and independent retailers, spending more time on our high streets this year.

Read Somerset: Blogs and books.

We are going to continue to read our faviourate blogs, magazines and books in around Somerset including:

  • Tom Jones. The Henry Fielding classic novel based in Somerset is on the list this year. Nick has started working his way through it. Coleridge is said to have argued that it is “one of three of the most perfect plots ever planned”. There have been a few more plots since his time so we will see if it still deserves such high praise.
  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The epic poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is worth a read if you haven’t already. It is said to have been written in Watchet. Read more here.
  • Somerset Cool: The coolest blog about Somerset around, they always uncover gems from around the County. Check them out!
  • Muddy Stilettos: The author of this blog is in the know about where to go in Somerset. Check them out!

Some Somerset Theatre This Christmas

It is almost pantomime season (some have already started), but before we get into shouting “its behind you” we thought we would take a look around at what other Christmas shows are on in theatres across Somerset. Here are five that we found for you:

13-15 December – Clevedon, Theatre Shop: Murder She Didn’t Write.

An improvised murder mystery, created each night based on audience suggestions, with a festive flavour. 7:30 pm, £12.00 per ticket. Recommended for ages 12+

13-15 December – Illminster, The Warehouse Theatre: David Copperfield.

The famous Charles Dickens novel has been adapted for stage and is performed by the Illminster Entertainment Society. 7:30 pm, £10.00 per ticket.

14-16 December – Bridgwater, The McMillan Theatre: Matricks, Tanyalee Davis, The Met Opera.

Bridgwater has crammed three shows in before the Panto starts (Dick Whittington this year). Friday 14th Dec Matricks: Believe the Impossible, Christmas Show is a festive themed magic show spectacular. Saturday 15 Dec Tanyalee Davis: Actual Size brings some stand up comedy to the town. Sunday 16th Dec The Met Opera’s La Traviata. Check out their website through the link above for more details on each show.

7-30 December – Taunton, The Brewhouse Theatre: The Wizard of Oz and the Snow Baby

Two shows are on this year at Taunton’s The Brewhouse Theatre, although it looks like seats are limited so book quickly. Firstly, a Somerset twist on the classic Wizard of Oz has been delighting audiences. For ages 2+ The Snow Baby is a truly magical children’s show.

6-15 December – Frome, The Merlin Theatre: The Nutcracker

Merlin Theatre Productions presents the Christmas classic, The Nutcracker. 7.pm, £12.50 per ticket (£8.50 concessions).

We are taking a Christmas Break from the blog and will check in back with you in the new year, and on that note HAPPY NEW YEAR!

You won’t believe where we hide our art in Somerset.

Somerset has long inspired artists and is the birthplace of some great examples of human creativity, skill and imagination. This is what I was thinking as I read the announcement of this year’s winner of the much coveted Turnip Prize*, the Wedmore parody of the National Turner Prize for Art. So we’ve decided to write about just some of the amazing works of art or celebrations of art around the County.

Everywhere in Somerset. Somerset Arts Weeks by Somerset Art Works (SAW).

Since 1994 SAW have been running the annual Countywide celebration of contemporary visual arts. It offers a brilliant way to see the County and explore the artists who call it home. So a date for your 2019 diaries is 21 September to 6 October and for any artists out there registration opens this month. Check out more about the event and what SAW do here

Portishead. Full Fathom Five Sculpture by Michael Dan Archer.

This is a piece of public art produced in 2007/8 as a Seafarers Memorial Sculpture. It consists of a sweeping series of granite pillars in a wave like formation. The pillars are inscribed with words from a poem and you can walk through the structure. The title of the piece comes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. More of Michael Dan Archer’s work can be found here: Link

Bridgwater. Willow Man Sculpture by Serena de la Hey.

The 40 foot sculpture made out of willow will be familiar to anyone who travels by the M5. It has towered over us since the beginning of the millennium. Although it has been restored since it’s first installation it is again deteriorating and it is not clear how the upgrades will be funded. We here are all hoping that it will be with us for years to come as it breaks up a tedious car journey with a bit of art joy.

Taunton. Somerset Space Walk Sculptures by Pip Youngman.

The Somerset Space Walk is a true scale model of our Solar System with the planets placed along 22 km of the Bridgwater to Taunton Canal. We love the mix of science and the great outdoors in this jewel of Somerset public art. The size and distances are proportional to our solar system, which makes it all the more impressive. To find a map for the walk and more details follow this link

Bruton. Hauser and Wirth, Art Centre.

Hong Kong, London, LA, New York and…Bruton. Hauser and Worth have well and truly ensconced themselves in Somerset with this popular exhibition space and art centre. Exhibitions, immersive artists-in-residence programmes and a unique location on a working farm make this an interesting place to visit and take in some art. Between 1 December and 2 February there is an exhibition called ‘Levelling Traditions’ bringing together nine artists to interpret themes of rural life and traditions. Link here.

Which of these have you visited? If you know of any others, let us know. Some important ones we haven’t even mentioned include Victoria Art Gallery & the Artists Studios (both Bath), Hestercombe House and OSR Projects who curated the amazing Od Festival between East & West Coker this year.

* Won this year by Collie Wobbles (a plastic collie dog on a block of jelly). Find the news story here.

The Advents of Somerset

We have our advent calendars ready for this weekend and are all set to begin the count down to Christmas. This got us wondering what interesting advents Somerset has to boast about. It turns out quite a few, but here are five we enjoyed finding out about this week:

The autobiography, 1576.

Thomas Whythorne was an English composer born in Somerset. He lived between 1528 and 1595 and is thought to have penned the earliest known surviving autobiography. A book titled “booke of songs and sonetts with longe discourses sett with them”. So it may not be a catchy title, but we can still claim the Somerset first!

America’s first “bestseller”, 1682

Mary White was born in Somerset and lived there until her family moved to Salem, Massachusetts. In 1675 during King Philip’s War, Native Americans kidnapped Mary where she was ransomed and released. Some years later she wrote about her experience of thriving on the fear of Native Americans. The book became a bestseller and was reprinted four times. She is considered to be the first bestseller of American literature.

Australia’s first novel, 1831

Henry Savery was born in Somerset (and who can blame him). Through misadventure and some highly questionable moral judgments he began trading forged bills of credit. The law caught up with him and sentenced him to be hanged. However, owing to some good connections he managed to change the sentence to transportation and a day before he was due to be killed he departed for Australia. While there and during further misadventure he started to pen the crime novel, Quintus Servinton: A tale founded upon Incidents and Real Occurrence and although it received favourable reviews in its day, it is now noted for its historical value over its literary merits.

The Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference, 1869.

Edward Thring was the Headmaster of Uppingham School who wrote to a few of his colleagues and asked them to his house to discuss setting up an annual gathering of headmasters. The institution he founded is still running with around 280 schools affiliated to it. Edward was a son of Somerset, being born in Alford. He is recognised as a pioneering educator, and a quote attributed to his philosophy is “honour the work and the work will honour you”.

The three speed bike, 1901.

Before the three speed hub came along we were stuck in two speeds and forget freewheeling down the hills on one of those things! That was until Henry Sturmey of Norton sub-Hamdon got to tinkering. He and James Archer invented the Sturmey-Archer three speed hub for bicycles. He gave the sole rights to the Raleigh bicycle company and we have never looked back (mostly because it makes the bike wobble).The three speed bike, 1901.

And before you go…

…did you know that the words to the song Danny Boy were written by a barrister and lyrist born in Portishead? It is true; Fredrick Weatherly wrote the song in Bath in 1910, set to the Irish tune Londonderry Air.

If you would like to ask a question, suggest a topic or even submit your own Somerset five things, please get in touch.

Wassee Zayin in Zumerset Dialect? (9 November to 16 November)

This week we thought we would take a break from sharing events after all the excitement of fireworks and horror movies to find and share some of our faviourate examples of Somerset dialect in culture.

King Lear by William Shakespere

In the tragic play written in 1605 Shakespere writes one of the personas of Edgar in a Somerset dialect. “Chill not let go, zir, without vurther ‘cagion.”

The Guest, a Drama of the Monmouth’s Rebellion in the Dialect of Somerset by J.A. Garton.

A play written in 1932 that is entirely in Somerset Dialect. “Pretty fair, zur, thank ‘ee, mussen grumble’s no.”

Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore.

A romance of Exmoor, this classic novel written in 1869 and set in the late 17th century is an epic tale of feuding families and dramatic landscapes. “Hot mootton pasty for twoo trav’lers, at number vaive, in vaive minnits!”

Adge Cutler and the Wurzels

The Somerset hit makers took Top of the Pops by storm with the songs full of Somerset dialect. “Don’t Tell I, Tell Ee”.

The Sorcerer, Gilbert and Sullivan

The comic-opera kings Gilbert and Sullivan set their third collaboration in a fictional Somerset village called Ploverleigh. “Eh, but oi du loike you!”

The Gun Powder Plot Thickens in Somerset (2 to 9 November)

This week we have a rundown of five connections between Somerset and the Gun Powder Plot of 1605. Not only that, we’ve found some local fireworks/bonfire nights connected to each. Its going to be a blast!

Nether Stowey: Birthplace of the Antagonist.

Nether Stowey’s Robert Parsons was a Catholic Priest. As a vocal campaigner for restoring a Catholic crown, Parsons was reputed to be one of the influential figures behind inspiring Guy Fawkes and his conspirators to plot.

Although there are no fireworks displays in Nether Stowey, 30 minutes down the road at Wiveliscombe they have a bonfire and Guy night being hosted at the Recreation Ground. This Saturday 3rd November, Gates open at 6:00 p.m. for bonfire, food and bar, with the fireworks starting at 7.00 p.m. Tickets £5.00 on the night. Find out more.

Bridgwater: Continuously celebrating Fawkes’ failure.

The origins of the famous Bridgwater Carnival can be traced back to the Gun Powder Plot. Since then it has gone on to break records and is recognised internationally for the parade of colourful floats, burning of squibs and merrymaking.

Friday 2nd November from 7:00pm sees the start of the Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival weekend with a grand firework display. The carnival starts at the same time the following day. Details for Bridgwater Carnival and Bridgwater Fireworks.

Ilchester: First recipe for gun powder.

The first recorded recipe for gun powder in Europe (it had been used previously in China) was documented by Ilchester’s famous scientist-friar Roger Bacon.
Just down the road from Ilchester will be the Yeovil Firework display which is celebrating its 50 year anniversary and boasts an impressive line up of music and entertainment. Head to the Yeovil Showground on 3rd November at 5:00 p.m. More information.

Montacute: Guy Fawkes’ prosecution.

Sir Edward Phelips led the opening arguments for the prosecution in the trial of Guy Fawkes, just four years after completing work on his home, Montacute House.
See fireworks this Saturday 3rd November in Montacute at the Recreation Fields, gates open at 17:30 onwards. More information.

Wellington: Judge presiding over the condemned.

Sir John Popham was born in Huntworth, North Petherton and died in Wellington. He was Lord Chief Justice of England, presiding over the trials of Mary Queen of Scots, Sir Walter Raleigh and Guy Fawkes.

If you are in or around Wellington on Saturday 3rd November head to Wellington College for their spectacular fireworks display. The event starts at 6:00 p.m. but with tickets selling out for the last three years, it is suggested that you book early to avoid disappointment. More information

Its Punkie Night in Somerset so get your mangelwurzels ready! (26 October to 2 November)

Hallowe’en is just around the corner, but did you know that Somerset has its own take on this Autumn festival called Punkie Night? It spans back… well, no one really knows how long we have been celebrating it, but it involves parading with your carved lantern and singing so I am sure it will continue to be celebrated for many years to come. Find out more about Punkie Night here.

Punkie Night happens on the last Thursday in October so get your carved mangelwurzels, swedes and pumpkins ready because here are our picks for Punkie and Hallowe’en events around the County this week:

Traditional Punkie Night at Hinton St George Village Hall Event Details

25 October 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. Bring your carved lanterns to the village hall to join the parade around the village singing ‘The Punkie Song’. The event finishes up back at the village hall for lantern judging and refreshments.

Hallowe’en Disco at West Coker, Inn The Square Event Details

25 October 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. Inn The Square will be hosting a Punkie Night / Halloween party for the kids with a disco, tuck shop and fancy dress. £2.00 entry fee on the door.

Unfairground Rides at Weston-super-Mare, Grand Pier Event Details

25 October to 31 October from 7:30 p.m. Weston-super-Mare invite you to experience the Unfairground, with live scare zones, rides and spooky surprises. Tickets available in advance or on the door from £12.50.

Punkie Celebrations at Montacute Village Hall Event Details

27 October starting at 6:30 p.m. Punkie Night, with prizes for best costumes for children and adults. You can collect free tickets from Montacute Garage.

Spooky Story Telling at Cheddar Gorge, The Caves. Event Details

27 October to 4 November from 11:00 a.m. Some famous literary figures come to life to tell a spooky tale and help you solve a mystery. A Hallowe’en Tale – Mysteries of the Cave is included with a Day Ticket.

There are loads of other fab events taking place across Somerset for Punkie Night and Hallowe’en so put your Dracula fangs in and go out to find some, it will be a real scream.