10 reasons to pick Somerset

Eleanor Clarke, October 15, 2015

When I was fifteen I relocated from London to the South West and remained there until my early twenties, only eventually moving on for work. As a life long Londoner, I really worried about how I would cope with the transition from London to Somerset. However, I soon came to realise that there was a magic to this county that would leave an imprint on me forever. So if you’re considering relocating I would strongly encourage you to consider Somerset.

Beauty

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It’s beautiful. This may be a cliché but it’s a cliché for a reason. Not even Monet could do justice to some of the sun soaked wetlands I’ve seen in Somerset and that’s not where the beauty ends. Around every corner there’s a new, more impressive, landscape to inspire you. From patchwork hills to rugged coast, Somerset has a bit of everything.

 

The standard of life is just better

Somerset is a very chilled out county and you can’t help but absorb that atmosphere into your very being. Long bike rides, countryside rambles and Sunday lunches in the local are just part of life in Somerset. The people in Somerset are warm and hospitable, leading to a sense of community and belonging that for me have never been duplicated anywhere else. These factors undoubtedly contribute to Somerset having one of the highest life expectancies of any county and being home to the village with the highest life expectancy in the country.

It’s a great place to raise a young family

Children are allowed a level of freedom in Somerset that is hard to achieve in more urban environments. Strong communities and lots of space allow children to explore freely and play in relative safety.

You’re never far from a beautiful beach in Somerset

Confession: I’m personally not the biggest fan of beaches. Having said that, even I occasionally get the urge to eat fish and chips in an amusement park or watch the sun set over the sea, both easily achieved in Somerset. With the variety of different of beaches on offer you’ll never be left disappointed. Whether you’re into water sports or nature rambles, pleasure resorts or pebble beaches. There’s a bit of the Somerset coast for you.

Cider and cheese

cheese
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of cider and cheese in Somerset. They are inextricably weaved into the culture of the county. So much so that every summer there’s a whole weekend festival dedicated to the dynamic duo. Pretty much everyone knows that cider comes from Somerset but not many people know that Cheddar (the world’s most consumed cheese) was also invented in Somerset. People also don’t realise cider is more than a drink in Somerset, it’s a way of life. Cider is a historical root, social glue, hobby and form of income for many locals. I was first introduced to proper cider whilst living in Somerset and have never looked back.

Cheddar (The place)

As if basically inventing cheese wasn’t enough, Cheddar is also an area of outstanding natural beauty and home to England’s largest gorge. At almost 400ft deep and 3 miles long, it is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular views in England. This gorge would have begun being formed about a million years ago during the last Ice Age, by melting glacier water that formed a river. This river eventually started carving into the limestone rock, creating the steep cliffs you see today. The Cheddar Yeo River gradually made its way underground, creating the famous Cheddar Caves.

Bath

Where do I even begin with Bath? This small city is a hotbed of culture, history and learning. Located over a natural hot spring, that many believed to possess healing properties, Bath became a popular settlement during the Roman era, where they built Roman baths (that still exist) and a temple. During the 7th century, Bath Abbey was built and still remains today as one of the greatest examples of gothic architecture in the South West. Bath was also a popular spa town during the Georgian era leaving behind a heritage of bath stone Georgian architecture. Bath today is home to many museums, spas, art galleries, sports grounds and two universities. Making it indisputably one of the most culturally rich cities in the UK.

A thriving arts and sports scene

Somerset is a county with a long and proud history of creativity that’s still thriving today. There are a commendable amount of theatres, showing everything from contemporary performance to comedy and classical music. Somerset has a long established and well-rooted folk tradition that finds expression through music, dance and craft. However, there’s also a more contemporary DIY spirit to the music scene there that has left its mark on the world of Dupstep, UK Hip Hop and Trip Hop. All nourished by Somerset’s festival culture that varies from the aforementioned Glastonbury all the way through to small craft focused day events.

Sport is an elemental aspect of the good life in Somerset, meaning the county boasts successful teams in all the major sports and a few you’ve never heard of to boot. Rugby is essentially a religion in the South West, a religion that is practiced in every town and every school. This dedication is reflected in the fact that the top three teams in the Rugby Premiership League are currently South West based teams. Somerset’s County Cricket team also consistently dominate the top spots on the league table and have brought the championship cup home on many occasions

Quirks

Glastonburt
Glastonbury is legendary all over the world as the home of one of the most unique and popular festivals on Earth. However, in many ways the festival is a product of its environment. Glastonbury town is a beautifully quirky little place, complete with it’s own Tor that rises dramatically out of the levels. Glastonbury Tor has long been a place of great mysticism, regarded by many as a deeply spiritual place. Yet regardless of your spiritual beliefs Glastonbury is an undeniably unique town in its own right. We also can’t talk about quirky places without mentioning Wells, England’s smallest city. Wells has city status due to it’s stunningly unspoiled 13c cathedral. Wells Cathedral is the jewel in the crown of a splendid market town that boasts many historic sites and seamlessly eclectic architectural styles.

Bristol (The hilly city)

Although Bristol isn’t technically in Somerset I’m claiming it anyway because it is right on the border. As far as I’m concerned, Bristol is the greatest city in the UK. Whether it be the accent or the eccentric fashion, Bristolians always stand out from the crowd. The whole city has an air of fun about it that I’ve never known to be replicated anywhere else. For instance, one Sunday last May Bristol City Council collaborated with a local artist to turn Park Road (the biggest hill in Bristol) into a giant water slide called the ‘park and slide’.

If you fancy a more conventional trip however, there is always the Harbor side, which is a wonderful day out for families. Filled with street performers, restaurants, an aquarium and museums it’s basically impossible to get bored there. Then for the creatives amongst us there’s Stokes Croft. This is one of those extremely cool bits of Bristol that looks as if it should be twinned with Berlin. Pretty much every building in Stokes Croft is covered in graffiti but this isn’t ‘kid with a marker pen’ type graffiti. Each building is a work of art and it’s easy to understand why Banksy chose this part of Bristol to cut his artistic teeth. There’s a strict ‘no commercial or high street chain’ rule in Stokes Croft meaning all the shops, bars and restaurants are as unique as the people that own them. Bristol was also the spiritual home of arguably the greatest engineer of the industrial period, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The city remains to this day a living monument to Brunel’s great legacy. Bristol is Lively, fun, varied and culturally rich making it, in my opinion, the perfect city.

Somerset truly is the county of contrast and between it’s rolling hills and bohemian cities it’s impossible not to fall in love with this place. Everyday is a new adventure just waiting to be had. As Somerset actively encourages free thinking innovation it isn’t hard to understand why everyone, from the romantics to contemporaries, have found it to be a source of inspiration.

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