Somerset is on-line now at the University of Exeter.

See also Exmoor, which is now a National Park.

Somerset is a county in England's West Country. It's a ``second home'' area for me in that it was the family's usual holiday destination for so many years of my upbringing.

[The Barn]

Each year, in the summer, we rented a cottage near Triscombe on the Quantocks (a range of hills in West Somerset, facing Exmoor to the west), with a barn attached for any overflow. The cottage took its water from a spring in one of the fields above it -- beautiful soft water, with interesting bits in it after a storm.

[View down Wills Neck]

This image links to a large version of the same picture, suitable for conversion to a screen backdrop format.

The cottage was low on the scarp side of Wills Neck, the highest hill of the Quantocks. Higher up the scarp is a wood, then above that, for much of the length of the hill, an open expanse of bracken, and above that, a line of trees which runs along the horizon and then descends steeply straight down the hillside. (The accompanying picture is taken from near the corner of the line of trees.)

[Gamekeepers Cottage]

On a track through the wooded belt of the scarp is a semi-derelict gamekeeper's cottage -- very much my kind of place! Going by the appearance of the shed next to it, it had had its own diesel-powered electric generator, and probably took its water supply from the nearby stream. This is remote enough to be quiet from the main road through the valley, the sound deadened by the whispering trees and livened by the whispering trees through which the little unmetalled track ascends branching by the gates slanting on the way up the steep flank of the scarp between bracken banks and ferny haunts of deer.

Stone buildings round here are often a lovely colour -- for example, see pictures of Halsway Manor.

The dip side of the hill is forested with a coniferous plantation through which refreshingly cold streams run through the long insect-buzzing combes while the narrow roads descend from the moorland tops down the the villages along the edge of the Bridgewater plain.

[Cheddar Gorge in the mist]

In the Mendip Hills in the middle and east of Somerset is the spectacular gorge at Cheddar (yes, the home of the famous cheese). Also at this end of the county is Bath; I did my PhD at Bath University, during which I lived in the villages of Freshford (for two years) and Limpley Stoke (for the third year).

The Mendip tops are distinctive countryside, mostly open grazing with a some woodland, with most of the buildings being in the local stone, which is generally very attractive. Some of the area has been mined extensively, so there are some rather grimy regions; Midsomer Norton and Radstock are traditionally famous for this. The Mendips are permeated by complex cave systems, parts of which are illuminated and easily reachable at Cheddar and at Wookey Hole.

While studying at the University of Bath I lived at Freshford in Somerset, although at the time bureaucrats had renamed that area ``Avon''.

John C. G. Sturdy
[John's home] Last modified: Sun Jun 10 22:12:57 GMT Daylight Time 2007