Getting a whole ream of information is a must every time we arrive at a new house sit and our current owners, Anne and Richard, had this all in place by introducing us on arrival to their neighbours and their son. So after just a couple of hours we felt at home and “locals”.
A Walk on the Knole
The hamlet gets its name of Knole from the large mound/hill which rises above the southern edge of the Somerset Levels. The Somerset Levels are a huge area (around 170,000 acres) of flat landscape of wetland which is prone to flood. One of the neighbours, Gilly, showed us a dog walking route up to the Knole which has a public footpath running from the hamlet through the field of sheep to the top where there is a prominent flagpole. Gilly’s dog Bessie bounded along with endless energy and Jura, the slightly asthmatic older labrador did her best to keep up. Her breathing was rather raspy but it didn’t seem to slow her down and she couldn’t get enough of the fields, hedgerows and apple wind falls. The 360º views from the top of the Knole are amazing on a clear day but as the weather deteriorated towards the end of our stay many of the fields were transformed into lakes.
Gilly also showed us a lovely walk starting in Long Sutton, the nearest village, along the River Yeo. Once again Bessie and Jura yomped along and flung themselves in the flooded ditches for a bit of extra fun.
The Cathedral City of Wells
We were close enough to head to Wells for a day out. We always like to explore the area we are in as much as possible so with maps at the ready we headed north. The name Wells refers three local wells and was founded by the Romans. It is dominated by the huge Cathedral with it’s famous scissor arches. They look like a modern addition but have been there since 1348 when it was a mason’s solution to support the cracking walls and tower above. We spent a long time exploring the various chapels, chapter house, clock and sculptures. It is a vast building but despite it’s size it had been adorned with knitted poppies for the Remembrance Day services a week or so before. Being a knitter myself, I could appreciate the amount of hours that went into these and they looked so effective. A sea of red against the stone walls.
Back outside we walked across to Vicar’s Close which evidently is the only completely in tact medieval street in England and also claims to be the oldest residential street in Europe. It has 40 cottages on a cobbled street and originally was home to the men of the cathedral choir. It tapers by 10 ten feet towards the end to give the optical illusion that it is longer than it actually is.
Somerton and Christmas Lights
Our stay in Knole coincided with the annual switching on of the Christmas lights in Somerton, the nearest town. To be fair we didn’t expect too much but were suitably surprised with the number of stalls, hot toddies on sale, Santa’s Grotto in the Church and Santa even had real reindeer to pull his sleigh. At 5pm, after a sing-a-long countdown, a man strategically placed up a ladder hit the magic switch and hey presto we had twinkling lights all around the market square and along the adjacent roads. A great event and impressive lights for what is a relatively small town.
We tend not to venture out far in the evenings when we are house-sitting. The purpose of our stay is to keep the pet(s) company and keep the house secure but we had been given several recommendations for local pubs so headed off one evening to the Halfway House in Pitney. Little did we know before our visit that it had won the Somerset CAMRA Pub of the Year several times and is mentioned in The Sunday Times – Britain’s Best 20 Pubs in the Countryside. How could we go wrong?
The slate floor, low beams, roaring fires and rustic benches and tables gave it a great atmosphere. The menu was varied and it was hard to choose. Jon opted for a Game and Pheasant Pie while I had a hankering for fish and chips. We were not disappointed with either, although Jon was warned to watch his teeth on the “shot” that may be lurking in the pie. No such shot was detected and he still has all his pearly whites in place. We would definitely recommend this pub if you are ever within reach.
Burnham on sea
One of our last outings while in this part of the world was to the north coast. We had already visited Lyme Regis on the south coast and decided to head north to Burnham-on-Sea that has a sweeping beach, mud flats, dunes and a very unusual lighthouse and pier.
Burnham-on-Sea is on the coast where the northern edge of the Somerset Levels meets the Bristol Channel. Around 1832 a wooden lighthouse was built on wooden pillars. It is only 36ft high but, along with the several other lighthouses along this stretch of coast, protects shipping from the shifting sands in the area. It looks very lonely standing out on the sand but it is quite a feature and one of those places that you end up saying “let’s walk to the lighthouse and back”. Needless to say Jura, our four legged friend, absolutely loved the open space, interesting smells and socialising with all the other dogs who are allowed on certain beaches at certain times of the year.
The other feature on the beach is the incredibly short pier. Maybe because it was originally built as a landing stage for the trains to drop off passengers to board a steamer service across the Bristol Channel to Wales. This service never really took off and ended in 1888, the railway lines were covered over and the pier took on a new lease of life as a pavilion for seaside entertainment. It claims to be the shortest pier in Britain at only 37m long.
After a blustery return walk along the beach we headed into the Bay View Cafe for a hot drink and headed home with rosy cheeks, beach-head hair dos and one tired but very happy dog!
23/11 – 03/12/2018