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Ghost Connections Field Trip

Somerset April 2011
 

This year we chose to holiday early in the year to make the most of a bank holiday weekend over easter. We also decided to revisit the Somerset area after our initial break in Glastonbury developed a fondness for the area over five years before. The area is steeped in folklore and history both of which appeal to all of us and the glorious weather certainly enabled us to make the most of this glorious corner of England. So here is our 'warts and all' guide to traveling to and around Somerset.

We started off early on Good Friday to make the most of the time and convened at Ian's at 6am. Thanks to Ian for driving this year which enabled Dave to take advantage of the 'back seat bar' with Paddy on the way down, the way back and at every opportunity in between.

A pit stop at Fleet Services on the M3 for breakfast was in order on the way and if you are prepared to pay a little more you do get a reasonable breakfast for your money. The meal assembling service was very quick and well organised. One small point we considered was to have the hot drinks served before or as your main meal was assembled instead of having to latterly queue for this afterwards.

Being a little early to book into our caravan site we detoured to Glastonbury. Yes you did hear it right, this year we dispensed with camping for a caravan. More of that in a bit.

So, Glastonbury. Not unsurprisingly little had changed since we last went and we wandered around to spot the changes before pausing at The King Arthur Pub which looked a tad run down and without the ales we had sampled previously. Apparently it had been taken over recently after being closed and it certainly looked it. We were welcomed in, almost beckoned from the street in fact, by the landlady but it wasn't what we remembered. The garden was overgrown and in need of some tlc. We wish them well with the restoration.

 

 

 

 

 

Returning up the street we aimed for the first church stop of the weekend. St John The Baptist church is the parish church of Glastonbury and is a magnificent structure. Unfortunately we can't describe or praise the interior as we weren't welcomed. Now as this was Easter weekend and some churches like to allow silent vigils for the devout during this time we appreciate the view but we met an officious woman on the door who said we could silently come in but no talking and no photographs. Her manner did not persuade us to enter. We hoped that we would not encounter similar restrictions elsewhere. We did not!

The rest of Glastonbury yielded the normal characters and dress sense to amuse us enough to continue our journey in fine spirits.

                 

 

 

Still en route to our caravan we paused at Wedmore. This is a small village at a meeting of routes across The Levels, so called flat marsh lands. Its beautifully coloured natural stone buildings grabbed our attention sufficient to hope for the church to be open. St Mary's Church was open, welcoming and we were welcomed by the vicar. A lovely building and a great introduction to the architectural wonders we would meet from here on in. Certainly worth seeking out.

 
We made our way next to our caravan in Burnham-On-Sea. Lakeside Holiday Village is rammed in at then end of a cul-de-sac in the town and has all the facilities you could require but not on the scale of more commercial sites. The caravan itself was roomy and everything was in good order. We would only use this as a base for the weekend so the rest of the site was of little consequence and so we have limited comment to make. The parking was a little tight in the car park areas but on the flip side our keys were available early.

The search for somewhere to eat took us into Weston-Super-Mare and a quick wander about found nowhere immediately to our liking. It was a nice evening and everyone seemed to have the same idea. Seeking somewhere a little more private we moved on.


The Hobbs Boat Inn is a Tabletop chain pub at Lympsham. It is allied to a Premier Inn next door so we expected normal pub fare. The food itself was good but the service, and they weren't over busy considering the staff numbers, was terrible. It took us two hours to get two courses served. Half of the 'new menu' was off, the steak was ropey and the cheese board was served incomplete. We like to tip although in this instance we counted out the £22.09 each that it cost.

There being few places around for a breakfast, that we saw, we cooked for ourselves some bacon sandwiches each morning to last us for a while and so we did on day two.

 

 

 

First stop on the second day was St Michaels Church at Brent Knoll. A village on a steep hillside steeped in history it has some unique carved pew ends. Said to fable a dispute with a bishop they show geese hanging a fox after ridiculing it. They, and a fantastic wall monument to a local landowner during the Civil War are worth a trip.

 

A planned trip to Axbridge followed. Unfortunately King John's Hunting Lodge, which doubles as the museum was not open but it's a beautiful medieval building although a little later than King John. The village square has a timeless look unfortunately marred by it being used as a car park.

 

   

From the square steps lead up to St John The Baptist Church which towers above everything else below it with amazing external stonework which is just a taster for the amazing sights within. The ceiling of the nave is a masterpiece of plaster work and there are other marvels inside. Again another church open for Easter vigils that welcomed us in with tripods and camera's.

It was then time to sample a public house and never wanting to go for the touristy over popular we found a local that was empty in the The Crown. It was welcoming and served a lovely pint with a secluded private garden to the rear. An old coaching inn with the original entrance alongside it's worth calling in.

From Axbridge we thought we would venture east to the Cheddar area and after a drive up and back down the spectacular Cheddar Gorge, engorged with traffic and tourists, we decided to explore deeper into the countryside especially as it was nearing lunchtime.

Aiming not to do our normal trick of failing to find somewhere until they stopped serving food we eventually found The Burcott Inn at Wookey. Sure this was called the Burkott Arms when we saw it. It seems we missed the two o'clock deadline and weren't worth breaking off a conversation with paying customers for so we left.

Travelling a little up the road we, aware it was now passed the 2pm deadline when no-one wants to eat in these parts, found The Pheasant, a fine stone built pub. Although reports on line show this to be a closed Italian restaurant we found it to be an obliging Indian with excellent service and great food. Not everyone's lunch time cuisine maybe, but we are not everyone. Check this one out. We were outside they're serving hours for food but they made us welcome. Thoroughly recommended.

Feeling a little like we had missed the sights on offer we popped back to a mill we had passed opposite The Burkott Inn. Burkott Mill is a working watermill which, whilst being a guest house, also produces its own flour on working machinery and is open to the public for a small fee. The Mill is not huge but the miller took time out to talk us through how it worked and it was fascinating to see a small bit of industrial heritage at work.

 

 

 

Feeling a little like we had missed the sights on offer we popped back to a mill we had passed opposite The Burkott Inn. Burkott Mill is a working watermill which, whilst being a guest house, also produces its own flour on working machinery and is open to the public for a small fee. The Mill is not huge but the miller took time out to talk us through how it worked and it was fascinating to see a small bit of industrial heritage at work.

           

 

 

From here we made a study of the local Ordnance Survey map and went for a little explore of a little known, let alone sign posted site in the countryside. When you drive along the country lane approaching Fenny Castle it appears a noticable mound beside the road in a field however a detour up it tells a story of a forgotten fortification where masonry pokes through the eroded earth mound. Believed to be late 12th Century but not documented until 1347 and ruined by 1480 here is a time capsule awaiting proper excavation and recording.

This concluded a busy second day and we returned to site to consider our destinations for the third and last day.

 

 

Day 3 dawned and we travelled a little further to a National Trust property at Barrington Court a Tudor Manor house that was hardly altered before falling into disrepair but rescued and restored in a uniquely 'empty' condition by the trust. Outbuildings of a similar age and lovely gardens set off this as a lovely location worth a visit.

Beware though of the Trusts charging scheme with a voluntary extra charge to obtain more from the 'Gift Aid Scheme' which as this location means they don't offer an alternative and it is down to you to specify you want to pay the cheaper entrance – not a practice we have encountered anywhere since. The restaurant serves slightly stale scones and but good bagettes and a decent pot of tea.


             

 

 



Next stop was Muchelney where the current parish church of St Peter and St Paul is immediately next to the Abbey . Now the ruins are English Heritage but bearing in mind the visitor walks though most of it from the car park we decided otherwise than to pay the entrance as it did seem a little much. The church is recommended if only for the incredible ceiling in the nave, with its 14th century paintings of semi naked angels.

Passing back through the village of Aller we paused at The Old Pound Inn for refreshment and found it friendly and welcoming and containing villagers who may have been there from the night before both oblivious to us and a little slurred but creating a jovial atmosphere.








From there we sought out a Somerset landmark above the levels on its own hill.

Burrow Mump is a ruined church that was rebuilt partially to its current state. The view from the top is extensive and recommended. Owned by the National Trust it is free public access.
 
The search then began for this nights dinner. En route one must first mention the sight of a lion riding a moped in Bridgewater!

We stopped for dinner at The Packhorse Inn in Mark. Now under different ownership than most of the reports on line it can be thoroughly recommended for its variety of food including Italian and Moroccan cuisine. Be advised to book though, we fortunately were early in the evening but I quickly filled up.

The church next door has a couple of peculiar stone lions beside the porch of some enormous size.

This concluded our trip of 2011 and we hope you visit some of the places we did and enjoy them as much as us.

Thanks again to Ian for organising the accommodation and driving this year.

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