Wednesday, 5 July 2017

A couple of days in Dunster

Its time to start exploring our new County: Somerset.  We set off for a couple of nights staying in Dunster.

I had read some time ago about the waterfall which comes off a cliff and falls to the sea.  Quite rightly I was intrigued to see this, so armed with OS Map, we found our nearest point to walk down to the beach to find this.  Been there, seen it, ready to move on!  Maybe it was because we had had trouble finding it, or because the weather was not wonderful, because we were hungry, or because there had been very little rain, we were disappointed and underwhelmed by the fall.  Here is my rather dreary post card from St Audrey's Bay. The position of the waterfall is where the greenery comes down the cliff.

After leaving we were wondering whether to head straight to Dunster...but travelling along, we spied one of those special signs that indicates an English Heritage site.  We had passed the turning, but decided that at the worst it would make an ideal picnic site, so turned back.  Not only was Cleve Abbey set in a quiet valley making for an ideal picnic place, but it was a real gem of a place.  

After lunch we spent a long time exploring the ruins, and musing on the various improvements made in the days of the Ministry of Works. The signage and description boards guide visitors around the site, and explain about the setting up and running of the Abbey before the dissolution, and the use of the many rooms. There are some wonderful tiles and faint wall paintings, and  a huge dormitory. 

Cleve Abbey Dormitory

Cleve Abbey

Cleve Abbey Gate House

Parking in Dunster is a little bit difficult!  Luckily we parked up in Dunster Castle Car Park, whilst we walked around part of the garden and High Street.  From the car park we spied a tea room in a pretty garden, but sadly the scones were not up to par...having far too much of the soapy taste of baking powder.

Our B&B  is in a wonderful location, and not surprising with a name like Dunster Mill House, it was adjoining Dunster Mill.  We managed to find some parking...phew!  This is the view of the back of Dunster Mill House, with the Mill alongside.  The mill race raw just on the other side of our bedroom.

Excellent breakfasts, welcoming hosts and a lovely room made for a great break.  We just managed to book two days away on the two dampest days for several weeks, so a foray to the beach was postponed for another visit.  Instead, our first stop in the morning was the Mill....most of you reading this will know that one of my favourite things to buy is flour!  We were delighted that they would be milling that morning.  We had a tour of the mill:  they have two overshot wheels and two sets of French Millstones, and watched the millers get the mill ready and testing the stones etc.  They use organic wheat from Dove's Farm.

Of course, I did not want to buy my flour at the start of the the end of the day, ten minutes

before the Mill closed, they were surprised to see us again, and the Miller was particularly pleased by my order!  I bought their large 3Kg bag of wholemeal, some white which they sift in a very antique looking sifter, some rolled oats and porridge oats.  In the rain it was a quick dash next door with my STASH of flour!  Living up to my name again, must keep my stash filled with interesting flour!

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Castle, and particularly found the tour of the servants quarters fascinating.  With our guide we went through doors not normally opened for the general visitor: visiting the House Keepers rooms, the Butler's room, and female and male servants rooms.  There were many steps, and it was interesting to see the unimproved rooms.  We saw old bath which had been plumbed in, which the servants used...what a luxury for them, even though they were limited to the amount of water, and were reminded their time was up, by the House keeper ringing a bell after ten minutes.  Another interesting thing we were shown were the shells which act as sound insulation between all the floors at the Castle.

The grounds are 'lush', and the planting on the mount quite dramatic.  Large Redwoods dwarfed by tall hero.....

There were some wonderful trees

and rich green plantings. How about this for a Lover's Bridge, which took one over the stream towards parkland where a large herd of Longhorn Cattle were grazing?

As it was raining, we did not explore all of the garden...but left some for next time.

Dinner at The Luttrell Arms Hotel was the culmination of our 'wedding anniversary' treat.  This is now the meal by which we shall measure all future and past meals.  It is worth going to eat at the Lutterell Arms where Chef Barrie Tucker is a force to be reckoned with...I had the best Venison plate ever...every thing on the plate was feast for the eyes, palate and soul.... the salt crust baked celeriac was absolutely perfectly cooked, and Mr S had duck with salsify and other things.  Our two different dessert plates were a dream.  This was real chef food made with the best of local ingredients. 
Sorry no photographs.....Excellent wine...The Maitre D' for the evening Richie Ellam was charming, and the service was spot on.

On our homebound leg we called in at Coleridge's Cottage in the very pretty village of Nether Stowey.  I had heard of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and used to know some of  Kubla Khan by heart, and having re read it wonder whether Coleridge had been inspired by a visit Dunster Castle?  During his two to three year stay at Nether Stowey he did do a lot of walking in the Quantocks and surrounding areas.

With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

I feel that I would like to read a little more about Coleridge and his poetry...even though the presentation at the cottage left us with the feeling that he was very self centered, going out for long walks, and even left his wife behind, who looked after their ailing child who died, whilst he was off gallivanting in Germany.  It also seems that he took advantage of his friend Tom Poole...

We took a walk around Nether Stowey guided by the brochure, which was a pleasant walk to stretch our legs before the final drive home.

I think there will be several return visits to explore this western end of Somerset.

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