Dunster, about seven miles West of Williton, is a picturesque village with a magnificent castle and National Trust gardens,
a yarn market (pictured left), working mill and museum, not to mention
innumerable traditional tea rooms in which to enjoy a traditional
Somerset cream tea.
Our nearest significant shopping centre, Minehead, also boasts a theatre,
a cinema, a beautiful sea front from the centre, west to the old
harbour, a taste of Exmoor above North Hill and one of the oldest golf clubs in the West Country. Not to forget Toucan,
one of the best wholefood shops in Britain, with its own vegetarian
café. Minehead is around 9 miles along the A39 towards Devon.
Exmoor National Park
is one of the rural gems of England with its 267 square miles of
ancient woodlands, streams and brooks, valleys, open moorland, majestic
coastline, picturesque villages and stunning views. Exmoor’s coastline
straddles the Devon/Somerset border, incorporates the South West
Coastal Path and includes the colourfully named Hangman Cliffs, the
highest sea cliffs in England. Exmoor is a hive of rural activity year
round including walking, cycling, horse riding, climbing, canoeing, and, very recently, Exmoor National Park has been designated the first International Dark Sky Reserve in Europe.
Although a little further away from Williton, the coastal drive (or
walk!) West from Porlock to Lynmouth and Lynton, the Valley of the
Rocks, Woody Bay and on to Hunter’s Inn, near Hangman’s Cliff, is
signs of settlement around Watchet include Daw's Castle, an Iron Age
hill fort situated on a sea cliff about 260 feet above the sea which
was re-built and fortified by Alfred the Great as part of his defence
against Viking raids from the Bristol Channel around 878 AD. Around
this time Watchet was an important local centre as a royal mint and
fortified burgh. The need for fortification became clear as records
exist of Watchet being plundered by Ohtor and Rhoald, two Danish earls,
in the 10th century. Watchet has been an important local harbour for
centuries, being involved in the trade of wine, salt, wool, kelp, iron
ore, paper, flour and gypsum, and now has a new lease of life as a
marina. The coastline near Watchet includes Alabaster cliffs which are
home to a wide range of Jurassic and Triassic fossils. Reflecting this
rich vein of local history, Watchet boasts two museums, the Market
House Museum and the Boat Museum.
The first place in Britain to be designated an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Quantock Hills
are on our doorstep. There are many ways to enjoy the Quantocks. There
are way-marked trails from Ramscombe, including an all ability trail,
exploring the magnificent Great Wood. The Quantocks also have some of
the best mountain bike routes in the West Country or you can ride
horses or ponies along the many bridle paths. Keen walkers can walk
from one end of the hills to the other and enjoy the breath-taking
scenery or, if you don't want to walk, ride or cycle, you can spend a
day at the beach at Kilve where flat ammonites can be seen exposed on
the foreshore. At the far end of the Quantocks from Williton, towards
Taunton, are the historic gardens at Hestercombe including The
Edwardian Formal Garden created by Sir Edwin Lutyens or Fyne Court in
Broomfield with its nature trails and picnic area. Of course, no guide
to our area is complete without a mention of one of the leading lights
of the early 19th century Romantic Movement, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Coleridge lived for a time at Nether Stowey, about 9 miles east of
Fairfield House, where he wrote two of his most famous works, the Rhyme
of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan. William Wordsworth was, at the
time, living just three miles away. Coleridge Cottage at Nether Stowey is now a National Trust property and open to the public, and access to the Coleridge Way is just ten minutes walk from our door.
West Somerset Railway
With some 20 miles of track running between Minehead and Bishop’s Lydeard, the West Somerset Railway
is the longest restored heritage railway in the country. The trains are
run and stations manned by enthusiasts and run every day from mid March
to the end of October with other periodic, special services throughout
the year. Williton Station is just 5 minutes walk from Fairfield House.
is a small tropical house and zoo five miles away on the Minehead road.
Based in a 1930’s art-deco BBC transmitter hall, now a grade 2 listed
building, Tropiquaria houses a zoo with a tropical hall and aquarium
along with a number of other attractions including a radio museum, the
Shadowstring Puppet Theatre, and a range of indoor and outdoor
children’s play areas.
four miles west of Fairfield House in Washford, are the remains of
Cleeve Abbey. (pictured above) Described by English Heritage as “one of
the undiscovered jewels of Somerset”, Cleeve Abbey is one of the best
preserved medieval monasteries in England. Originally a Cistercian
abbey, Cleeve is a haven of peace and tranquillity. Although the church
and infirmary have almost entirely vanished, the abbey is said to
contain the finest cloister buildings in England and the buildings
round the cloister are still roofed and habitable and many of the rooms
retain their vaults. Much of the abbey's medieval tiled flooring
remains. Other major survivals include the abbey gatehouse, which still
provides the entrance for visitors, the moat and fishponds.