January and February can only be described as very grey months. So when we got together with some friends we decided that even if we couldn’t, at that time, go abroad why didn’t we find somewhere in the U.K. to stay. Hotel prices seemed to be prohibitive however, we went onto the Sand and Stones Escapes website and found a beautiful modern house in Somerset, Halsdown Farm, that slept 14 and we were only 8 so plenty of room to get away from each other if needed.
If you don’t know Somerset then I can recommend it. For me it was the county that I whizz through to get to Devon and Cornwall.
“Time loses all it’s meaning. The peace I have dreamed about is here; a real thing thick as stone and feelable and something for your hands”. (Quoted in Maurice Fell’s Little Book of Somerset).John Steinbeck
Once agreement on the place had been agreed by all the dates were set and plans started to formulate. We were going from Monday – Friday and as access was not until 4 pm one of the group thought it would be fun to meet at Wells and visit the cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace. He had a particular interest as his ancestor was Bishop Jocelin of Wells who was responsible for much of the construction of Wells Cathedral in the early years of the 13th Century.
The drive using Waze took us across country and some glorious views. At one point we were on a road with grass growing up the middle. Happily, we all arrived within minutes of each other and we had a few hours revelling in the history of this medieval town. A private guide had been pre-organised and he had done his homework regarding Bishop Jocelin so we came away educated and wanting to come back and see this beautiful city in the summer when the gardens were at their peak.
We then hurtled across the county to the northern part to meet our Ocado delivery. He arrived early but having spoken to us on our mobile he was happy to leave our shopping on the porch. When we finally arrived after a few wrong turns and much reversing every time we met a local coming the other way. I think our car said ‘Tourist’ and as we know tourists must be the ones to reverse.
Our house sat on a hill overlooking a valley. To be fair everywhere in Somerset seemed to be either a hill or a valley. It was super luxurious with every mod-con. The house slept 8 and then there was a cottage close by for a further 6. Every bedroom was spacious and all were en-suite. It also had an indoor swimming pool and a snooker room – toys for everyone.
The first evening after dinner, maps were produced and walking apps were consulted and a plan was made to visit Dunster the following day for a long walk and lunch in this extremely pretty town.
However, at 7.45 am the following morning one of our party, missed the bottom stair, fell hard on her hip and ended up in hospital having a hip replacement. This was not the mini-break we were anticipating. It was a real shock especially as she is fit and strong and we do Yoga together three times a week. However, that stood her in good stead when she was being assessed for either a hip replacement or a pin. The latter would have meant limited mobility. The moral is: keep fit because you never know what is around the corner. It meant though that there was a bit of a black cloud over our holiday but there was not much we could do as only her husband was allowed to visit due to Covid restrictions. The patient is back home now and is having endless physio etc.
So off to Dunster we set watching our step as we all realised we are always only one small step away from disaster, how life can change in a second.
Dunster is the prettiest of villages dominated by Dunster Castle. The castle lies on the top of a steep hill called the Tor and has been fortified since the late Anglo-Saxon period. It is now owned by the National Trust and whilst it was closed to the public during the winter months the surrounding countryside gives endless walks. We followed our designated leader blindly as we strode up a long and very steep hill. However, the views made up for the pain in our legs, though he was replaced as team leader for the next walk.
On our way to Dunster we found a wonderful village shop close to our rental house though nothing is very close in this part of Somerset. People were so friendly and the produce was fresh and special, no clingfilm as it is not environmentally friendly. Pukka Teas, lots of organic produce and fresh fruit and veg.
We also found a wonderful pub/restaurant, The Swan, in the village of Bampton, Devon (just over the county border) where we had the most exquisite meal – well worth a visit if you are in the area.
There are so many walks in North Somerset but beware they all involve a hill or two. We visited the Snowdrop walk at Wheddon Cross which is only open in February each year as it is in a privately owned area of Cutcombe. All of these organisations are run by volunteers and rely on the generosity of the visitors. Somerset people are very proud of their county and want to share it with others. Everyone seemed to have time to stop and chat.
Some of the group also went to the Tarr Steps, but we only joined them for tea afterwards in Dulverton. We were feeling lazy and wanted to enjoy the beauty surrounding Halsdown Farm.
Apart from my friend’s accident, we had a wonderful time, relaxing, chatting with friends, walking, eating, drinking and best of all laughing so much. It was good for body and soul.As with anywhere in February, there was a lot of mud to negotiate but the sun shone for most of the time with only the occasional drizzle but none of this stopped us enjoying ourselves.