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Travel & Holidays in later life

SOMERSET - CHOOSING A FARM-COTTAGE HOLIDAY

The Bicknoller Post, marking one of the highest viewpoints of The QuantocksWest Somerset is an ideal holiday location if you want to get away from it all, enjoy walking in the country or exploring villages and market towns. Reg Butler took his family on a farm-cottage holiday. 



Farm and Cottage are a company specialising in West Country holidays. Their website features over 600 holiday homes and I quickly narrowed down the choice to what was available in Somerset and ones that welcomed our dog.

The walkers wanted proximity to Exmoor National Park; and to the Quantock Hills, which was the first area in England to be designated as 'Outstanding Natural Beauty' - AONB. 

 

Travel Facts

 

 

I was planning to visit Porlock, Minehead and take in the inland highlights. 

I also wanted the property to have a 'country' feel to it - not just a suburban-type bungalow. That brought the selection down to cottages at Watchet and Kilve near the coast, Brendon Hills and the Quantocks.

Still online I selected and booked a converted stone barn at Kilve was located a quarter mile down Sea Lane from the A39, halfway between Bridgwater and Minehead.

Aldenham CottageAldenham Cottage was comfortably furnished with two bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen and lounge. Winter visitors could back up the electric heating with an old-time wood-burning stove. A large basket of hefty logs sat alongside.

The property was part of a smallholding, where Tina and Richard Marchant also did b&b in the main farmhouse, but weekends only, because they both working. A small group of goats and a 7-year-old pig named Babe came every morning to the garden fence to greet us and pose for pictures. 

The cottage could also be ideal for any family with young children. However, the beach was all stones and soft mud. There's nothing like the gorgeous sands of Weston-super-Mare. 

But this coastline from Kilve to Porlock was favourite walking country for Coleridge and Wordsworth, who also strode around the hills, plotting poems. A 36-mile Coleridge Way was established in 2005, and our family walkers covered several sectors.

According to our AA Walking Guide to Somerset, the stream flowing past our cottage was the inspiration for some Wordsworth sonnets which he attributed years later to the River Duddon in the Lake District.

Meanwhile a visit to Watchet harbour, with a yarn from an old sailor, inspired Coleridge to write his famous poem 'The Ancient Mariner'. A statue of the Mariner was erected on the broad Esplanade in 2003.

The poet lived inland at the charming village of Nether Stowey, very handy along the A39. The first house into the main street is the Coleridge cottage, owned by the National Trust but open to visitors on afternoons only, April to September. Right opposite is 'The Ancient Mariner' pub.

The next village, back towards Kilve, is Holford, where every building is a picture. A mile or two up a splendid avenue or carriage drive, with superb views, is the Alfoxton Park Hotel. 

This was originally the impressive house which the Wordsworths rented for 23 a year. The hotel has not been extended, but larger rooms have been split to make an 18-room hotel. 

Our nearest major highlight was the hilltop 13th-century Dunster Castle and the extremely popular medieval village nestling on the lower slopes. 

For anyone keen on technology, Dunster Water Mill was a working flour mill dating from 1680, and still produces stoneground flour for sale. 
The steam train arrives at Blue Anchor Station from Minehead
While the rest of the family hiked along the shoreline between Dunster beach and Minehead, I focussed on steam trains as they puffed into Blue Anchor station. 

The West Somerset Railway offers 20 miles of steam between Minehead and Bishops Lydeard near Taunton. On most dates between April and October there are at least four steam trains a day. A more limited service operates during winter except for December weekends when Santa joins the workforce.

The walkers in our party found inspiration in the official National Park Guide to Exmoor, while the AA handbook on 50 Walks in Somerset suggested routes to follow.

Typical was a walk along the River Barle from the tiny village of Withypool to Tarr Steps, famed as the longest and most ancient clapper bridge in Britain. 

This walk has been rated as the finest riverside trail in Somerset, full of variety, muddy patches and great variety of wildlife. Mostly it's a nature reserve. 

Personally I pottered around Withypool, where pastel-coloured cottages lined the fast-flowing stream. An angler fishing for brown trout was full of enthusiasm for the location. He knew every inch of water, including stretches where salmon come up from the River Exe to spawn.

Fishing for brown trout on Riveer Barle at Withypool He said that even in high summer the area was very peaceful - 'undiscovered'. After heavy rain, when the fast-flowing river swelled, his young sons clamoured to navigate the river on inner tubes.

With bird-watching, biking, horse-riding and looking for wild ponies and red deer, West Somerset offers huge scope for activities and sightseeing. 

Winter or summer, you can always find a farm cottage, located to fit your own special needs for holidays or short breaks.

Quick jump to other West Country destinations

BATH - weekend in Jane Austen territory

CORNWALL- choosing low season

CORNWALL - NORTH for beaches, cliffs & legends

DARTMOOR - Freedom to roam and explore

DAWLISH - Pioneer railway age resort

EXETER/EXMOUTH - Tour base for South Devon

ILFRACOMBE & NORTH DEVON - The Heritage coast

LYNTON & LYNMOUTH - Devon's Siamese-twin resorts

SIDMOUTH - Devon's Regency gem

UP THE OTTER IN DEVON - A winter cottage haven


Books to read - click on the links below

50 Walks in Somerset - an AA Guide by Richard Turnbull. Suitable for the casual walker who can choose walks mainly between 3 and 8 miles in length, with some extensions for those who prefer a more arduous challenge.

 

Exmoor - Official National Park Guide published by David & Charles. The beautifully illustrated National Park also includes the Brendon Hills to the east, and Vale of Porlock to the north.

Exmoor and the Quantocks - an Ordnance Survey  pathfinder guide published by Jarrold. 28 routes are each illustrated by the Ordnance Survey's own maps.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge  - This acclaimed 750-page book in the Oxford World's Classics series brings together a unique combination of Coleridge's poetry and prose. 


 

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