Tuesday, 9 December 2008

By Candlelight

We at the HenHouse had been looking forward to last weekend for quite some time.  As you will know if you have read my blog for a while, my other half and the Munchkin are devoted steam railway fans and so we have been for a trip on the West Somerset Railway a few times, it not being a million miles from our cottage.  Last year, we were too late trying to book tickets for the train to the special "Dunster by Candlelight" weekend so this year, I was on the ball and snapped up tickets once they became available, quite some time ago now.

Our date with the steam train was set for 4:30pm so we had the rest of what was a stunningly bright and gorgeous day to explore.  I had seen postcards for Selworthy before and so we decided to venture there on Saturday morning.  Selworthy is a little village owned by the National Trust, located on the fringes of Exmoor, and is very "picture postcard" pretty.  It is part of the 12,000 acre Holnicote Estate and was rebuilt in 1828 to house the elderly and infirm of the Holnicote Estate.  It was designed by Sir Thomas Acland of Killerton in a deliberately old-fashioned style using traditional materials and the designer was no doubt influenced by his friend who had designed Blaise Hamlet near Bristol a decade earlier.  The cottages were originally almshouses (they are now privately tenanted).

It is not at all a big village but what there is, is stunning.  Just a cluster of cute little thatched, ochre-tinted limewashed cottages scattered around a green and nestled into the hillside with the church at the top.  There are woods off to one side (to shelter the cottage gardens), a pretty 14th Century church and a rather yummy tearoom in one of the cottages, complete with woodburner and a tempting array of cakes.  The cottages look like they were built for Liliputians and have rounded edges, little inset wooden doors, windows with leaded criss-crossed panes and thatched eyebrow dormers, and cylindrical chimneys.

Having trekked miles up a hillside in the wood in search of "Bury Castle" (as per the signpost), a kindly gentleman told us that there is, in fact, no castle, it's just an iron age fort, ie. there is nothing there but a mound of earth, although apparently the views are spectacular.  I'm afraid I gave up at that point and headed back to the tearoom. The Munchkin was very disappointed, imagining as he was that he was a member of the Famous Five, off to Kirrin Castle!

We had a last look around the quaint little church, "All Saints", on our way out of the village. From here there is a spectacular view towards Dunkery Beacon.  Some call the church the "Cathedral of Exmoor".

It is a lovely little village, well worth a visit if you are in the area.

On our way back to the railway, we dropped in to Watchet to visit this shop about which I had heard.

Even more exciting, was the charity shop where I bought a lovely embroidered teacloth (yes, another one) and some gorgeous vintage buttons, including a set of four white glass ones in the shape of little hats with coloured flowers on.  A steal at 10p the lot.

By the time we arrived at the railway, it was very atmospheric...

Our engine awaited, puffing away into the chilly night that was fast descending.

We steamed our way to Dunster, nearly at the other end of the line, to visit the village "by candlelight".  We arrived at the station and set to work on lighting our way up the hill (yes, another one) to Dunster.

Dunster is a medieval village set within the Exmoor National Park.  It has many beautiful, historical buildings, over 200 listed buildings in all.  There is the castle sitting atop the hill, built in the 11th Century and only owned by two families before being donated to the National Trust in 1976.  At the heart of the main street is the Yarn Market which testifies to the village's heritage as a wool trading post.  It was very difficult to get photos in the dark of the evening.  A band were playing within the Yarn Market.

The streets were lined with dozens of candles held aloft in lanterns atop stakes, there were strolling medieval-style musicians, Morris dancers, roasted chestnuts and hog roasts to eat and spicy warm punches to drink.  The sound of the old fairground organ filled  the air.

It was a very busy night in the village, certainly a very cold one (and a late one for a certain Munchkin) but all in all, a day not quickly forgotten.


  1. That thatched cottage is just sooo gorgeous!!! What a treat for you all on the train!!

  2. Hen-
    Your pictures are excellent as usually. You visit such beautiful places it makes me want to see them for my self. Alas, I am stuck with the equally beautiful, but very different San Francisco Bay to look at.

    PS are we going to get to see your tea towel? :)

  3. What a lovely day out... can't believe I live so close but have near been. Think my dad would like to go on that train... I'll have to check it out :)

  4. Sounds lovely Helen. Such fun to build these memories isn't it? Have a good week xx

  5. What a lovely day. I love the buttercups and roses shop, she has a great blog too.

  6. What a lovely day out, the pics are great. xxx

  7. Thank you for sharing what looked a wonderful day out.

    Victoria x

  8. Only just seen this! how odd!

    Lovely day out !xx

  9. Dunster used to have a shop called The Linen Press - if it's still there - you'd love it!
    Lovely blog by the way.


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