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.

Somerset Snow Days

In light of the snow this morning, we here at SomeSomerset thought we would look at ways to make the most of the flurry. Here are two of our favourite ways to enjoy the pitching snow (apart from walking in it; for that, you can refer to our two previous blogs).

Option 1) Slide down a hill.

Whether on sledge, a piece of plastic that was lying around, or (if you are posh) on some skis, we all love to slide down a snow covered hill. Just in case more snow drifts into Somerset, here are our top spots for winter fun:

Taunton: Cotlake Hill.

Near Trull, this is a lovely spot any time of the year and there are plenty of walks that take in the hill. However, it is also a good place to head with your sledge.

Glastonbury: Glastonbury Tor.

This one may be obvious, but that steep landmark hill is at its best when sliding down the side of it over the snow.

Frome: Whatcome Fields.

These fields were bought by and for the local community and make for excellent sledging fun.

Yeovil: Wyndham Hill, Ninesprings.

Part of Yeovil Country Park, Ninesprings is a brilliant bit of country side in the town. Wyndham Hill is easy to find thanks to the landmark tree at the top of the hill.

Churchill: Mendip Snow Sport Centre.

Somerset does not disappoint. Even when it does not snow you can get your ski slope thrills. Check out the Mendip Snow Sport Centre, Link.

 

Option 2) Find a Cosy Fire Place.

From open fire pits to the crackle and roar of a cosy inglenook fire place; when it is cold outside you can’t beat a real fire. Here are our picks of five pubs with fireplaces to come in from the cold and warm your cockles:

West Coker: Inn the Square Link

Full disclosure, this is our local. However, even if it was not in walking distance for us we would still frequently venture over, we love it here. A large wood burning stove warming the place and ready to welcome you.  The food is always comforting and high quality.

Chard: The Candlelight Inn Link

We had mulled wine here, following by some lunch just before Christmas. It was cosy, we sat by the log burner and had a lovely afternoon.

Compton Martin: Ring o’ Bells Link

The pub boasts an impressive open fire with comfortable chairs and it has the well warn feel of a proper pub. I would happily grab a cider and chase away the cold here.

Wiveliscombe: The White Hart Inn Link

This is a firm favourite when we are in the area. My Dad’s old local and somewhere with reliably good food and drink along with a real fire to warm your toes.

Shepton Mallet: Mendip Inn Link

This one comes highly recommended from my Mum. There are roaring fires and the food (particularly the roasts) are delicious. I get the impression it is more food orientated than an afternoon whiling time away at the bar.

 

We would love to hear any of your top tips for cosy pubs and adrenaline inducing hills for the snowy weather.

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 is going a wassailing. Grab your saucepans and join us

We have been to one wassail already this year, and we are lining up others. Now, I am sure that our five to 10 regular readers (Hi Mum!) know what a wassail is, but just to ensure we are all up to speed, here is an overview.

Wassail means “to be in good health”; a worthy cheer and greeting anytime of the year, normally used around Christmas and up to twelfth night.  It’s an Old English and Old Norse word, but still very much in vogue in the countryside today.  Here are your usage options:

  • A wassail can refer to a spiced ale/cider/wine drunk during twelfth night;
  • To wassail can be used to describe the act of plentiful drinking and merriment;
  • To go wassailing can refer to carolling door to door.

However, here we are describing the custom in cider making regions such as Somerset of wassailing the orchards to drive away evil spirits in order to welcome an abundant, healthy crop of apples.

So how do we do this? Is it perhaps through some savage pruning, or spreading of fertiliser? Nope, not even close. We bang saucepans, put cider soaked bread in the tree (only to be done by a nominated wassail king or queen that is hoisted into the branches) and toast the trees by drinking mulled cider while chanting/singing songs.

If you want to join in this larking around in orchards across Somerset in January here are five places that you can do it.  There are plenty more to choose from so keep an eye out for any information about one local to you.  Don’t forget to pack your torches, whistles, drums and saucepans:

  • Yarlington: Friday 11th January 6:30 p.m. the procession begins at the Stags Head Inn. Proceeds will go to St Margaret’s Hospice.

 

  • Taunton: Saturday 12th January 5:00 p.m. at Frieze Hill Community Orchard. The event includes a bonfire, Big Noise Street Band and a Mummers performance.

 

  • West Coker: Sunday 13th January 6:30 p.m. at the East Close Orchard, followed by music and merriment at the village hall, including a Mummers performance. Details here.

 

 

  • Glastonbury: Saturday 19th January 7:00 p.m. at the Somerset Rural Life Museum, with local band Rapscallion (N.B. this is a ticketed event).

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.

Some Somerset Christmas Things

So Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat. We all know about the big Christmas markets in Somerset in Bath and Frome, but we’ve dug a little deeper to find some hidden gems. Here is a selection of other markets that caught our eye in and around Somerset this festive season.

Norton Fitzwarren: Christmas Shopping for a Good (Netballing) Cause. Link

30th November from 6pm. Taunton Netball Club are hosting a Christmas Fayre at Norton Fitzwarren Village Hall. Home made gifts, arts & crafts and a brilliant raffle. All proceeds go towards Taunton Netball Club and it’s great that a local charity is taking the initiative for a Festive fundraiser.

Tintinhull: Tinsel town comes to Tintinhull. Link

9 December 12-5pm. Free entry to this family friendly festive fun at Tintinhull Village Hall. Roast hog, mulled wine, and Santa’s Grotto.

Cheddar: Festive shopping for one night only!

7 December from 6pm. Held annually on the first Friday before Christmas, Cheddar opens up it town for festive cheer. No tickets required. Full details to be announced so give it a Google or Facebook search before heading over.

Allerford and Selworthy: Christmas gets crafty. Link

1 & 2 December 10-4pm & 10-2pm. Festive craft fair at Allerford and Selworthy Hall, where you can buy one off gifts from local traders.

Minehead: Choo, Choo, Choose the perfect gifts! Link

1 December 11-5pm. The West Somerset Railway is holding a Christmas Market to remember. Stalls will adorn the platform and you can even get the steam train there! Tickets are £10 per adult.

If you fancy some of the big events, check out Visit Somerset’s site Link.