THERE are several clichés associated with Somerset, some truer than others. As a relatively recent addition to this part of the country, I feel I can offer an outsider’s perspective on what really sets the county apart.
So here is my list of the five things which really stand out to me as being very, very Somerset.
If you are on the road for more than five or ten minutes, you are guaranteed to come across a tractor either as it passes you on a narrow road or slowing you down up ahead.
Now, there was a time I would have been angry about getting held up in this way every single day, but here, I like to think these tractors are one of the ways this county forces you to slow down for a bit and just take a breather.
Most people could benefit from a less frantic pace of life and that is one of the many wonderful things Somerset has to offer. The city folk don’t know what they are missing.
And honestly, what’s the point of living surrounded by all this beautiful countryside if we’re speeding through it so quickly, we don’t have time to really appreciate it?
Talking of beautiful countryside, the next item on my list is the jaw dropping landscape largely taken for granted.
Offering variety as well as beauty, one minute you might be nipping through the rolling hills of the Quantocks, a place many people visit as a holiday destination, when a few miles down the road you are surrounded by one of the flattest and most breathtaking areas in the country, the Somerset Levels.
As well as the natural landscape, there are innumerable pretty towns and villages which are a pleasure to behold, such as Porlock, Somerton, Selworthy and Castle Cary to name just a few.
This is something I’m not sure I ever saw until I came this far south-west – people offering their wares outside their homes with an honesty box placed beside for payment.
Popular front garden offerings include eggs, fruit and veg, and plants.
To see this kind of local trade still going strong in the area is one of the most heart-warming sights and tells you much about the people of Somerset.
Carrying on in a similar vein, we come to cider farms. I’m not talking about the big professional set ups, I mean the smaller operations happening in people’s back gardens. They are absolutely everywhere.
If you’re looking for a rustic rendering of one of Somerset’s most famous exports, you won’t have to travel far before you stumble upon a handwritten sign on a piece of cardboard declaring CIDER accompanied by an arrow pointing you in the right direction.
Finally I come to the roads.
I confess when I first moved here, I couldn’t understand why Google Maps kept sending me the back way to everywhere. Through country lanes and, at times, up and down what were little more than dirt tracks. I honestly thought the sat nav had a glitch which meant it was avoiding main roads.
Having spent several years here I have come to realise, dual carriageways are few and far between and if a road can comfortably fit a passing lorry and tractor, and has a white line painted down the centre, then that almost certainly is the “main road”.
It took some getting used to but as the years have passed, it no longer seems strange to be turning up roads which look like a scene from Postman Pat. In fact, I love those roads just as I love the views surrounding them, along with the slower pace life of life, and the array of goods I can purchase from picturesque doorsteps along the way.
I’d love to find out what you find very, very Somerset so let me know in the comments below.
Also, as an adopted resident, share with me your favourite picturesque towns and villages to visit so I can make sure I’m not missing out.