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Somerset Feature. the Travel & Leisure Magazine

Somerset Feature. the Travel & Leisure Magazine

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From King Arthur to Guy the Gorilla, Alex Johnson gets on
his hobby horse for a canter around the delights of Somerset.
This feature appeared within The Travel & Leisure Magazine.
From King Arthur to Guy the Gorilla, Alex Johnson gets on
his hobby horse for a canter around the delights of Somerset.
This feature appeared within The Travel & Leisure Magazine.

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Published by: Travel & Leisure Magazines on Aug 25, 2009
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08/18/2011

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49
From King Arthur to Guy the Gorilla,
Alex Johnson
gets onhis hobby horse for a canter around the delights of Somerset.
 
A poetic
onyour doorstep
Keith Gough Andrew EasonKeith GoughChuck Andolino
M
y childhood memo-ries of Somersetlargely involve IanBotham and VivRichards belting the ball around the out-field (or indeed over it). Then in my thir-ties I became interested in making my owncider and Somerset offered me plenty of sampling opportunities. But now I have ayoung family I’ve finally got to know thecounty for a wider range of attractions,from its gorgeous coastline to its fantasticcarnivals. And if you were in any doubtthat the traditional English seaside holidayis in danger, then this is the place to cometo keep you optimistic.If you are considering heading to the beach, probably the best known spot isWeston-super-Mare with its long, longstretches of sandy beaches as well as GrovePark, home to Jill’s Garden, a celebrationof the life of television presenter Jill Dandowho grew up here; Minehead offers similar attractions plus an attractive new prome-nade and is one of several convenient gate-ways into Exmoor (see below); anBurnham-on-Sea which is also home to
I
Main picture: Glastonbury Tor
I
Above left: Wells Cathedral
I
Top right: Carnival time
I
Above right: Cheddar Gorge
 
The
50
the popular Haven Holiday Par(
www.havenholidays.com
) which offersspecial activity programmes for children aswell as plenty of live entertainment in theevenings. And at Clevedon you can hop on board a pleasure steamer from the Grade Ilisted pier for a little cruise.The coastline certainly has plenty tooffer. Kilve Beach is a Site of SpecialScientific Interest and one of the spotswhere you can see the impressive lines of rocks bumping against each other, full of fossils (and there are some great rock poolshere too).The coast is obviously also a great place for birdwatching opportunities if youare a twitcher, especially Bridgwater Bay.
Greener Options
For something a little greener, head upwardsand inland. There are plenty of lovely walksin Somerset which has over 9,000 rights of way adding up to 3,750 miles of rambling possibilities, a mixture of signposted and  part sign-posted walks, including:
G
South West Coast Path - this runs for hundreds of miles from Minehead righton the edge of Exmoor National Park toPoole Harbour in Dorset. The web site at
www.southwestcoastpath.com
is afantastic resource with lots of informa-tion about the scenery, wildlife and histo-ry of the area
G
The Parrett Trail (
www.riverparrett-trail.org.uk 
), slightly longer than theColeridgeWay but which can similarly bewalked in sections, runs from Dorset intothe south of Somerset: artists have created small feature ‘cluesalong the track refer-ring to the landscape, its animals and itshistory which is great for children to spot
G
The LibertyTrail links Ham Hill to LymeRegis and celebrates the story of the half dozen dissenters who joined theMonmouth Rebellion in 1685
G
Taunton to Bridgwater Canal towpathwhich you can dip in and out of, especial-ly good for picnics
G
The Macmillan Way, a series of shorter walks (two to six miles long) in and around the Quantock villages.
G
The Coleridge Way (
www.coleridgeway.co.uk 
), a lovely 36-mile routethrough the countryside where theromantic poet Coleridge lived anworked taking in heathland, moorland,heavily wooded valleys and pleasant vil-lages including the infamous Porlock…Porlock is permanently linked now toColeridge as being the village from wherethe man came to disturb Coleridge’s brain-storming during the writing of Kubla Khan('In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/A stately pleas-ure-dome decree…’). It’s actually one of themany lovely villages which is worth a wan-der in Somerset and a previous winner of thecounty’s Best Large Village competition.There are plenty of nice short walks startingfrom Porlock weir as well as a fabulousrestaurant, Andrews on the Wei(
www.andrewsontheweir.co.uk 
) whichoverlooks Porlock Bay. Not all of Coleridge’s work was interrupted.He wrote the famous Rime of the AncientMariner after a trip to nearby Watchet whichhas lovely old narrow streets and is one of thestops on the West Somerset Railway(
www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk 
), acountry branch line of the old Great WesternRailwayalongwhichrunvarioushistoricsteamlocomotives.There are 10 stops in villages and townsintheareaandarangeofthemedtripsaswellasthetimetableddepartures.It tends to be the wide open spaces thatgrab the attention in Somerset, such asExmoor. It’s true that this is a lovely quiet
Although not widely known now,Somerset is the place where prettymuch all of the country’s willow comesfrom, used in everything from pick yourown baskets to coffins and even anenormous open air structure: artistSerena de la Hey(
 www.serenadelahey.com
)constructed a 13mWillow Mansculpture in 2000, rebuilt after an arsonattack and which still stands in a fieldnear the M5 motorway near Bridgwater.The main willow fields are in the areaknown as the Somerset Levels, greatplaces for spotting wildlife and whichare drained by a clever system of smallcanals known as ‘rhynes’.You can find out more about willowand even join a willow sculptureworkshop at theWillows andWetlandsVisitor Centre, home of willowspecialists P. H. Coate & Son(
 www.englishwillowbaskets.co.uk
)or if you’re really keen stay at the B&Bconverted withy barnTheWillowHouse(
 www.thelinenpressvintagebarn.co.uk
) at Stoke St Gregory.
Teri’s
TopTips
 
Thankful villages
During the carnage ofWorldWar I,there were amazingly a few villages inEngland andWales who lost no menfolk during the fighting – all those who wentto war also returned.There were seven in Somerset:Aisholt;Chantry; Chelwood; Rodney Stoke;Stocklinch;Tellisford; andWoolley.
      K    e      i     t      h      G    o    u    g      h
 
I
West Somerset Railway
 
TheTravel&LeisureMagazine
51

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