Guest Author - Asha Sahni
Somerset, in south west England, encompasses hills, floodplains, moors and ancient sites. Somerset is largely rural – centres of population include Bath, Bridgwater, Taunton, Wells and Yeovil.
Bath. In Roman times Bath was called Aquae Sulis (the waters of Sulis). Sulis was a Celtic goddess – Celts honoured their goddess at the site long before before the Romans came. The Romans, used to incorporating local traditions, called the goddess they worshipped Sulis Minerva. Bath’s Roman Baths, which attract around a million visitors annually, have hot spring waters which many believe have curative properties.
Battle of Sedgemoor. This battle dealt a fatal blow to the Monmouth Rebellion – a Protestant uprising against King James II. The Battle of Sedgemoor took place at Westonzoyland, on 6 July 1685; the king’s forces defeated Monmouth’s men, killing many, imprisoning others. Following the battle many supporters of Monmouth faced the harsh justice of Judge Jeffreys. Jeffrey’s trials – the Bloody Assizes - took place at Taunton Castle, Wells and other west country locations.
Cheddar. The village of Cheddar, birthplace of cheddar cheese, lies a few miles north of the cathedral city of Wells. Cheddar Man – a complete skeleton believed to be about 9,000 years old – was found in a cave in Cheddar Gorge in 1903.
Colderidge. Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote some of his best poetry whilst living in Somerset. The poet lived in Coleridge Cottage in Nether Stowey between 1797 and 1800. Coleridge and his fellow Romantic poet William Wordsworth frequently walked the Quantock Hills, the landscape providing poetic inspiration for both men. During this period Coleridge wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. A statue of the mariner, bearing the albatross he killed, can be found at Watchet harbour.
Hills. Somerset provides rich walking country – Exmoor, which stretches into Devon, is a National Park. Somerset is home to the Blackdown Hills, the Mendips, the Polden Hills and the Quantocks. The top of Glastonbury Tor offers magnificent views of the surrounding countryside.
Levels and Moors. Between the Mendip and Blackdown Hills lie lands, largely flat, which are prone to flooding. The nature of the landscape has led to limited human habitation, thus some historic sites and artefacts are remarkably well preserved. The Somerset levels and moors are rich in animal and plant species. Traditional pursuits in the area include elver (eel) fishing and growing willow.
The Wurzels. A Somerset band which play on their roots, best known for the songs Combine Harvester and I Am A Cider Drinker. The band was formed by Adge Cutler – who had a strong Somerset accent – in 1966. Cutler died in 1974, but The Wurzels – none of whose current members were part of the original line-up – live on.