Posts Tagged ‘Nether Stowey’

At long last, the weather was fine and springlike this weekend, after about five weeks of grey skies and rain.


I dropped by Nether Stowey car boot sale this morning – the first of the season – which was rather lame. A very poor turnout of sellers; about half as many as usual. I should think most people were so delighted to have some good weather for the first time in weeks, that they had other activities on their minds. I must keep going though as I’ve had such good things from there in the past: a huge fireguard, a tin bath, a great set of Hedgerow china for a song, and this Lloyd Loom linen basket/stool.

Entertainingly subtitled: ‘a Lusty product’.

I’ve finally done it up with some oil cloth from Norfolk Textiles (I’m obsessed with oilcloth) and some braid from V.V. Rouleaux and it now looks like this. I scrubbed it thoroughly but didn’t repaint it, as I wanted to keep its slightly worn appearance. But I find I neither like it particularly nor have any use for it, so I’ll probably give it away.

When I got back, I set to strimming the roadside banks, which is the perfect situation to encounter neighbours. (Round here anyone who lives within a half-mile radius is considered a neighbour as there’s no-one immediate.) I met two women passing today for the first time: one who lives in a house called Witches Barn (not sure about apostrophe) and the other, on horseback with two dogs running free (so brave, or perhaps, foolish), who is newer here than I am, which makes me feel better.

Having chatted with them, I thought, it really is a bit like The Archers, with local people being up in arms about a new anaerobic digester and various planning applications. “Where’s it all going to go?” One of them wanted to know. Where indeed? Into a big lagoon of slurry, possibly at the farm down the lane. Oh joy. It smells bad enough from time to time, as it is.

Then I lay about on the grass in the sun, listening to the birds and the tractor in the field next door, and weeded for hours and hours. Now I ache from bending and kneeling, as well as from wielding the strimmer.


This morning I went riding: sunshine, swallows flying up high, the ground finally drying out after weeks of rain, sparrow fledglings chattering noisily in the bushes, carpets of bluebells in the woodland for as far as the eye could see, the countryside really starting to brighten as the trees thicken with leaves and rape fields come into flower. And, when we got to Cothelstone Hill, the sheer pleasure of a rare, clear, 360 degree view from the Seven Sisters. Fabulous.

It was all great until Marmalade – a rather inappropriately named black and white mare – got thoroughly fed up with me while we were trying to close a gate (easier said than done on horseback) and suddenly took off at speed straight into a tree branch that caught me on the head, back of the neck and shoulder. You’re taught to bend forward when encountering an overhanging object; if I hadn’t instinctively done that, I would have been thwacked straight in the face. Thank goodness for riding hats too, although the impact rammed mine down so hard that one my eyebrows feels bruised. Anyway, I’ll live.

I find myself thinking that this place is has marvellously healing powers for the weary mind and soul, if not the body.

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I’m sitting here with a headache today, finding it very hard to motivate myself to do anything active. So I’ve been looking at some old photographs taken in Nether Stowey, which has some lovely examples of typical English housing from the eighteenth century. I say typical but what I mean is typical for this area. The red sandstone is very common around here at it’s the underlying rock – an extension of Exmoor. I find it a bit gloomy compared, perhaps, to the lighter, creamy, hamstone of southern Somerset and northern Dorset houses.

As you can see, it’s a place where a lot of people leave their outer doors open, so that it’s possible for the nosy passer-by to catch a glimpse of what goes on inside. There’s usually a secure inner door though. And those crazy little stones? That’s actually the old pavement (sidewalk, for American readers), which still exists in several parts of the village.

I’ve blogged about Nether Stowey before, and here as well, as I’m quite a frequent visitor.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the English poet, spent a couple of years living here and, if it weren’t for our ruddy cars dwarfing the houses, you could imagine that it’s not so changed from his day. And then, of course, there’s always something that predates even those old houses.

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After  a night of much needed rain, today dawned overcast and blustery. Delighted as I was for the garden, I felt for the people of Nether Stowey whose May Fair it was (I will not spell it Fayre as they do, as we are not in the sixteenth century). I went along anyway, as they always have an art exhibition in the church hall, and I have bought a couple of nice works there previously.

Nether Stowey May Fair

There were some nice pieces in the exhibition, particularly by local artists Alison Jacobs, Joanna Wright and Craig Marshall (the vicar). But I wasn’t tempted this year, having been a bit profligate of late.

The fair was a bit quiet this year and it looked like some stalls hadn’t materialised due to the weather, which was a shame, but what was there was really nice – lots of local produce, plants, jams, cakes and traditional activities, such as morris dancing, test your strength, and skittles.

I had a delicious venison burger for lunch but decided to leave the cakes for others.

Cake stall wares

The children were watching a Punch and Judy show but unfortunately it finished just as I got there and, as I am feeling a bit under the weather, I didn’t have the heart to hang on for another hour until the next one. I’m sure there will have been enough customers though.

punch and judy show

The best activity, however, is the Duck Derby. This is pretty specific to Nether Stowey because one of the main streets has a long gulley running down one side of the road, over which the houses must be reached via little bridges. Every year they hold a race at the fair, where yellow rubber ducks are launched downstream and the winner gets a prize. Much excitement always ensues and it makes me wish I had small children who could take part.


This seems an appropriate point to mention that my trip to last year’s May Fair was the first I made in my car on the day of my accident picking the newly bought car up from the garage in Taunton. I am really pleased that, after a year of arguing and feeling aggrieved that the other party was continuing to deny liability for the accident, I heard from my insurers that, after threatening her with court action, they had recovered all their costs from her insurers after all, which means that I am no longer considered at fault, which is important as my insurance premiums are dependent on that, despite the fact that I had a protected no claims bonus. Now, I have to see if my new insurers will reduce their premium because of this latest news. Either way, I am feeling very happy and vindicated by this outcome.

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With no real plans for the day, I set off today to Nether Stowey – home of the poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, for a time during the 18th century. I’ve been there before lots of times but this morning, I wanted to check out Cricketer Farm, makers of local cheddar cheese, which has a farm shop.

The farm I live next door to, and which Spring Cottage was once part of, in the days when the farm belonged to the Enmore Castle estate, is a dairy farm with over 700 head of cattle. Every day, morning and early evening, an enormous tanker hurtles past the cottage and the windows, which face straight out onto the lane, grow momentarily dark. The milk is on its way to Cricketer Farm, where it is made into cheese. The benefit of this daily disturbance is that the lane is always kept passable, even in the worst weather, and this is well worth putting up with.

packet of cheddar cheeseCricketer Farm looks like a popular destination (it’s on the A39) with quite a sizeable car park and a cafe attached. The shop sells locally baked bread, pasties (potatoey, rather than meaty – which, if I can’t get a proper Cornish steak pasty, I prefer to a gristly filling of processed meat), local ham and other meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit pies, cakes and the like. There’s also an array of condiments and preserves, such as you’d find in the ‘special selection’ of a supermarket or in a delicatessen. I stocked up for the weekend with ham, gala pie, cheddar, some spelt and honey bread, and a pasty for lunch.

On my way home again, after an hour or so touring Nether and Over Stowey taking photographs, I noticed a little sign for an organic farm shop at Halsey Cross, which I hadn’t properly absorbed before. So, in today’s guise of farm shop critic, I drove in down a long drive, past some gorgeous, black, red beaked, free range hens and into a proper farmyard. No marked out parking bays or any visitor conveniences, just a sign saying ‘farm shop’ and a room full of produce. You help yourself, weigh and pay, leaving your money in an honesty box. They have bread every Friday, eggs (although they were all gone) and a variety of seasonal vegetables ranging from squashes to purple sprouting broccoli. Marvellous.

farm shop I had fun using the electronic scales without anyone or thing telling me that I was doing it wrong (eat your heart out hated, supermarket self checkouts) and I’ll definitely be going back there for more muddy veg. What a great complement to this morning’s shop at Cricketer.

I also bought the first cut daffodils of the season and, on my return home, opened the door onto the smell of hyacinths, which had been warming themselves in the shafts of afternoon sunlight on the windowsill. So lovely!

daffodils in vase and pictures in frames

Postscript: Nether Stowey Reserve is delicious, by the way. Nicer than the usual West Country farmhouse cheddar that I buy from the supermarket. It’s somehow got a fuller, rounder flavour without any bitter tang.

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red grapesToday’s delight: the vine, on this cool and windy hillside, has grapes on. Tiny and pretty inedible but grapes, actual grapes, nonetheless.

Car boot sale in Nether Stowey this morning –  must be one of the last ones of the season. Much smaller than usual but nice, normal people selling their old junk rather than the dealery types who turn up sometimes and charge ridiculous amounts. Gloriously sunny and warm – quite a contrast to the blustery hillside at home. I spent the princely sum of £6 on a Lloyd Loom dressing table stool, which needs serious renovation, and a huge woodbasket. Then I fell in love with a 10-week-old Jack Russell puppy, which a man talking to the pasty stall ladies (Help for Heroes) was selling – puppy-farm alarm bells.

water bird picturesHere are my water birds in the bathroom. If you click on them, they’ll enlarge so that you can see their funny, almost smiley faces. I only had to drill all the holes twice because I changed my mind about how to hang them – thank goodness for Photoshop, which is quicker than Polyfilla for repairing the results. And, of course, no sooner had I put all the tools away, than I realised I’d forgotten to put up one upstairs…

I need to be outside today to beat off the fug that’s constantly in my head at the moment. So, it’s lawn-mowing and strimming for me, once the dew’s dried off the grass. Hours later, cut grass blown everywhere, the lawn is trimmed (three cuts as it was so long neglected) but the banks don’t look quite right anymore, like the boy you fancied at school, after he’d had a haircut.


grass cuttings

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I’m very excited because I have found some prints – mostly modern, 1950s-inspired – to put on the huge empty wall at the cottage. Been buying a lot online from various sellers here and in the States. Looking forward to framing them and putting them up, wall permitting. So once I’ve got my new cabinet and these, the living room will be complete, although I know I will always find more things I love.

It’s not acquisition that matters, it’s creating a lovely atmosphere and having beautiful and interesting things to look at. It feeds the soul.

Postscript: I have just bought four more antique bird prints on eBay – an odd choice perhaps because this is not quite my style but they are destined for the bathroom because of the link to water. My favourite is of an albatross – because of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in nearby Nether Stowey. I love that it is a ‘wandering’ albatross, which makes me smile.

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Came down to find the house painted a strange flesh-pink. Not at all what I was after but perhaps the second coat will do what I was aiming for – plaster. Painting was rained off, and I spent the day working while my gutterless roof dripped. Been lucky with the weather so far, but this weekend is likely to be wet, so I hope there’s no damage resulting from not having the gutters up. Andy’s certainly thorough, no one who’s painted my house before ever took the gutters off.

The garden’s looking lovely – lots of narcissi and a few tulips and those things I want to call parsnips all the time – primulas – everywhere. I now know why I keep getting the name wrong because cowslips are in the same family of primulae. It comes from the Latin Primus, meaning first. The first flowers of the spring. I suppose the real first flowers – snowdrops – are winter flowers. Also i discovered that there is still life in the pond after the winter’s deaths. Not quite sure whether I was looking at a newt or a very large tadpole, I think the latter, but I was very happy to see that something has survived, or returned.

Went to pick up the new car. By this time I’d decided that I really didn’t want it and was feeling very sad about the poor little A-Class. As if to vindicate my feelings, I was about two thirds of the way home when a woman driving an MG Midget sports car crashed right into me on a bend. Her brakes didn’t seem to work at all and she just slid into me after I’d come to a halt. There would have been room to pass too, if she’d slowed down. I’d probably had the new car 10 minutes and I’d only driven four and a half miles! Luckily mine was driveable as I was really worried about having two cars (!) and not being able to drive either one and ruining my weekend. This feels like a really bad omen but I have to not think like that. But I feel I’m slightly in “serves you right” territory. I’m never going to be able to get used to being able to do these things.

Stashed the A-Class in the garage, after loading up all the kindling and trundling it down to the woodshed. Then I went to Nether Stowey, driving very, very tentatively, where there was a May Fair. No maypole, but morris dancers, street traders, folk singers and, because the village has a stream running down a deep open gully at the side of the high street, a duck derby, with children racing numbered yellow rubber ducks. I bought two paintings at the exhibition in the church – I hope they are better decisions than the colour of the house and the ruddy car.  I’ll see on Monday afternoon when I pick them up.

J left a message to say that her stepfather died yesterday. Very sad. Puts things into perspective.

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