Monday, 30 November 2015

A Guide to Wells; England's Smallest City

As a newbie resident of Wells I've also been lucky enough to explore England’s smallest city as a tourist. During the time since moving here I've found some little gems hiding away amongst the quirky streets and beautiful buildings. Of course Wells is famous for its breath-taking cathedral and rightly so, but Wells and its surrounding area has a lot more to offer. Although small I initially found Wells to be a bit of a maze with hidden streets and cul-de-sacs, I’d recommend purchasing a map for £2 in one of the well signposted car parks.  

If visiting the Cathedral you will need a good few hours to look around and marvel at its beauty. You should also make sure that you wander over to Vickers’ Close adjacent to it. Built in the 14th Century it is claimed to be the first and oldest intact residential street it Europe, and its cobbled street and quaint houses will not fail to charm you. Also alongside the Cathedral green is Wells Museum and the permanent memorial to Henry ‘Harry’ Patch, who before his death in 2009 was the Last Fighting Tommy. Entry to the museum is £3 and although small it is well worth a visit.

Whether history is your thing or not, you will be amazed by The Bishop’s Palace. Built in Medieval times, the palace has been home to the Bishops of Bath and Wells for 800 years and is surrounded by a beautiful moat which is home to the famous mute swans who ring a bell when they want food! There are 14 acres of gardens to explore, along with guided tours, the Bishop’s private chapel and the ruined Great Hall. If you've worked up an appetite there is a café at the palace aswell as tea rooms, pubs and coffee shops surrounding the Cathedral but if you are looking for something a little different, I would personally recommend Magpie Bistro Bar on Market Street. The décor is lovely and there’s a friendly atmosphere that really compliments the great food and even better cocktails. The book worm in me loves the menus that are inside old books, Magpie is definitely a favourite place to relax in Wells.

There are some lovely little independent shops and some high street stores in Wells, aswell as a market in the square on a Wednesday and Saturday. However if you are a shopaholic you may be disappointed and I’d recommend Clarks Village in nearby Street for outlet shopping or Kilver Court in Shepton Mallet. Here you will find the Mulberry shop, Orla Kiely and other designer clothing aswell as locally sourced home and beauty products.

Wells is a good base to explore the beautiful surrounding landscape. Head to Glastonbury and climb the Tor for truly magnificent views which span 360 degrees; Cheddar Gorge where you can explore the caves, hop on a sightseeing bus, rock climb and make friends with the resident goats! The world famous caves of Wookey Caves are close by which hosts over 20 attractions and which all the family will love including a circus, a 4D ‘The Lost World’ experience, Valley of the Dinosaurs and Adventure Golf. There really is so much to offer for all the family whatever the weather, set in a beautiful area of Britain.

Lizzie Somerset


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Remembrance thoughts

I've spent many days preparing for and teaching children and community groups about World War 1, as a social historian concentrating more on people's stories, experiences and the impact that events had on communities rather than the military strategies and statistics. I've studied the stories of soldiers, their families, read diaries, letters and watched countless documentaries of veterans emotionally reliving their experiences in the trenches. I've been privileged enough to take oral histories from men and women who experienced the Second World War first hand, trying to remain professional whilst struggling to hold back tears as I've listened to the horrors that they've experienced or witnessed, the pain of their memories etched on their faces and still evident in their eyes. I spend hours deliberating the best and most respectful way to honour those who have fallen and those who are left behind, both in the workshops I hold and the exhibitions I curate.

Still though, nothing prepares you for when the loss becomes personal. To see the face of someone you know, have lived amongst and cared for appear on the television without warning or on the front page of the newspapers with the headline 'Heroes Killed in Action' is something you never forget. To wake up suddenly as your (now ex) husband has nightmares of the horrors he saw in Iraq and watch him crumble and lash out at sudden noises and flashbacks, without being able to do a thing as he tries to explain the scars he now bares. To know that you will never be able to understand and what you hear is only the tip of the iceberg. Yet, as painful as these experiences are we are the lucky ones. We are the ones who have so much to be thankful for and proud of, we are the ones who continue to sleep safely at night.

So to all those men and women who bravely gave their all for our freedom and security. Those who continue to serve our Queen and Country, those who may still be here but whose scars live with them, visible or invisible and to their families.

We shall not forget.

To Dale, Kyle, Kevin & Mac, may you forever Rest in Peace -


Monday, 9 November 2015

City Country Life // The Fifth of November

Every event seems to be a first at the moment. Being at opposite sides of the bridge(one in Cardiff, the other in Somerset) during the week for so long meant that we were unable to do a lot of things together as a family. One thing we'd been waiting for once we were all living in the same place was Bonfire Night and this week we finally got to watch the fireworks together.

Back in South Wales, the fireworks seem to be let off consistently every night for the entire week. Although Halloween had been a bit of a disappointment here in our area of Somerset, I wholeheartedly approve of Bonfire Night here! Being in the middle of the country has it's benefits when your cat is scared of the constant bangs, you need to take the dogs for a walk and get the children to sleep at a reasonable time. Although there were a few odd fireworks let off during the evening (which looked lovely whilst we were sat in the hot tub!), it was hardly the deluge that we were used to and was pleasingly peaceful.

I love fireworks by the way, I just prefer them at an organised event and really enjoyed the bonfire and display at the school in the next village. We wrapped up warm and joined some friends huddled around the bonfire with a hand warming hot chocolate. I have to say that for a tiny Church of England school in the middle of nowhere, the fireworks were beautiful and dramatically lit up the trees and church surrounding us. It gave an eerie but lovely presence and I really enjoyed it. Yes, we missed my sister,  niece and nephews at our usual rugby club display, but it was nice to come home to silence all around us! In this instance the scoreboard looks like:

South Wales Bonfire Night - 0, Somerset Countryside - 1

Getting  back to the reason we celebrate November 5th, the historian in me laughed at this post from The History Podcast!


Linking up today with Lizzie Somerset & Essentially Jess

Lizzie Somerset