Happy Birthday Anna! We woke up to the sound of baa-ing lambs. Also raindrops. It has been grey every day, with a few breaks of sun and a few periods of misty rain, but this is the first real rain we’ve seen.
We had a leisurely morning cup of tea in the conservatory (you can see Anna is all attitude now that she is a teenager!), and as the rain subsided, we started to explore the gardens around our cottage. The setting is spectacular. The cottage is set within old stone retaining walls on two sides, and there are stone steps and terraces beautifully planted all around.
|Anna standing in front of our cottage, with the main farmhouse to the right|
Anna wanted to spend her birthday at the sea, but once we started walking around, she decided to stay here. We explored the cottage gardens and the fields beyond. There were chickens, sheep and cows - perfect for Little Miss Anna!
We drove to Crewkerne, which is an old medieval market town about 5 miles away. It was a bank holiday, so very few stores were open, but there were many people walking around enjoying the day, and the town looked lovely with flags and buntings strung on the buildings. We found out that it was to celebrate the visit of the Queen just 4 days ago, as part of the Diamond Jubilee. It was the first time in 400 years that a king or queen has visited Crewkerne.
|The Birthday Girl in front of a garden in Crewkerne|
We picked up a few essentials at the food co-op, mostly local dairy products, along with some bread, local meats and fresh eggs (with a few feathers stuck to them - just like at home) to make a late breakfast feast for Anna, followed by more tea and cake in the conservatory.
Then we were off to view the countryside. The sun broke out and it was the most glorious day of our trip. We walked to Montacute House, a beautiful 400-year-old residence with formal gardens. It was supposed to take about 30 minutes, but we took a leisurely 2 hours to get there.
The public footpath to Montacute (among other places) is right outside our door. The path goes through active grazing land, so we had to go through gates and over fences. I felt like Elizabeth Bennet walking to Netherfield.
|Looking back toward the farms near our cottage|
Some of the old hedgerows have been in the same location for 800 years, I’m told. The older the hedgerow, the deeper and steeper the bank, enclosing old roads and fields. It is an art to lay a hedge, which requires cutting through the stem of the plant forming the hedge almost all the way through and then bending it over and weaving it between wooden stakes.
We took the path up the center of Whitcombe Valley, an ancient iron-age landscape with terraced slopes, and enjoyed the frolicking lambs grazing with their moms. Even though we have our own sheep, we never get tired of looking at lambs. We saw some sheep that looked like they could be the English version of Border Leicesters (our breed), but with the typically English ears, which are larger and more erect (I’m talking about sheep, not people).
We got caught in a little shower, but it passed quickly and no one got too wet even though we didn’t bring an umbrella.
At the top of the hill, we could see Montacute in the distance, but since the bluebells are in bloom, so we took a short detour through the wood to see the wildflowers, before getting back on Hollow Lane. The name is certainly appropriate.
Montacute, a National Trust property, was impressive. Most of the structure is 400 years old, with later additions and changes. It was well-furnished and contained Tudor and Jacobean portraits from the National Portrait Gallery.
If this looks vaguely familiar to you, it might be because Tottington Hall in Wallace and Gromit's Curse of the Were-rabbit was modeled after Montacute House.
We didn’t have as much time as we would have liked to explore the interior before it closed because of our extended walk, but we made up for it in the formal gardens.
South Somerset is the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. We took it all in slowly again on the return walk and barely made it back to the cottage before dark. We’ll have Anna’s official birthday dinner tomorrow.