September 2012

Stag’s Head Inn, Yarlington, Somerset

One of the nice things I find in life is both living in Somerset and now being retired. The latter now gives my wife and I great opportunity to explore in-depth the former. Quite frequently we go for a drive either in Somerset or elsewhere in the West Country with no particular destination in mind other than where the winds and fate takes us. Normally we take a Sat-Nav with us on these trips, not to take us anywhere but to ensure we can always find the way home again.

I find Somerset is something like a jewel encrusted treasured crown. The gems are places, history, myth, scenery and people.  I have never been a believer in the magical connotations of mythology but I do love history and recognise that history does form the basis and half-truths of much myth.

One such gem we recently encountered was the Stag’s Head Inn at Yarlington. Accessed via hilly twisting and definitely one vehicle width only, narrow country lanes, the tiny village of Yarlington  is set on the crossroads of four such thoroughfares. Small as it is, Yarlington was mentioned in the Domesday book under the name Gerlincgetuna meaning the settlement of Gerla’s people.

The  Stag’s Head Inn is thought to have been established in the 1850’s replacing two independent ale houses. The lunch time menu was surprisingly varied with a good choice of modesty priced inclusive meals including tea or coffee representing exceptional value for money. Neither service or food could not be faulted and the decor quiet and tasteful. I liked the centre table which incorporated  the workings of an old cider press. Although I did not venture into the public bar, it could be observed on entry and reminded me of a very comfortable and delightful old time “snug” which seem to have died out out of fashion in most public houses.

Even when settling the bill with a well-sated appetite I was presented with a further two chocolate mints with my receipt. As a member of staff said, they did not like customers leaving still feeling hungry. At that moment hunger was the last thing on my mind and I gratefully pocketed the mints for another occasion. I find it is little touches such as this that make life so pleasant and worthwhile and I certainly will be visiting this little gem again.

18th Sep 2012

IMGP1594September started with a visit to the Dorset County Show held on the outskirts of pleasant town of Dorchester. The day was warm and sunny with a fortunate brief dry spell before the show ensuring the ground did not become a mud bath. The showground has a number of arenas allowing for the simultaneous display of the many and diverse activities one would expect of a mainly rural county. Equestrian competitions, livestock events, trade and handicrafts, farming as well as popular attractions just to name a few of the events going on throughout the day.

By midday many thousands of visitors were onsite milling around the numerous marquees and exhibitions. Various food halls always prove to be something of a magnet for the crowds with their vast array of delicious delicacies all begging to be sampled. This years mouth-watering display of produce proved no exception.

Displays of what can now be considered historical tractors are always a popular crowd puller as well as their more modern descendants which now tower above mere mortals.

IMGP1601Amongst the popular attractions was a daredevil stunt show which included car crushing monsters of vehicles and Titan the robot. Titan toured the large showground on a specialised vehicle stopping at random location to put on a show of singing, dancing and off-beat comedy to the delight of young and old alike.

IMGP1606Christian Moullec

Also flying above the shows at various times during the day in a micro-light aircraft was the Frenchman Christian Moullec accompanied by his gaggle of flying geese. All the geese raised by Christian since birth consider him to be their ‘mother’ and follow him everywhere he goes even in the air.

By the end of the day, all of my friends who were with me including myself were feeling very weary and footsore as a result of touring this most enjoyable of large county shows. Carrying heavy bags each filled with half a lamb bought at greatly reduced prices from a local butcher exhibiting at the show back our cars greatly added to our satisfied and pleased weariness. Saturday evening was certainly one for a hot bath and feet-up relaxation period.

IMGP1588 Titan the Robot

Cadbury Castle – Home to King Arthur and Camelot?

Site of King Arthur’s grave, Glastonbury Abbey

I am fortunate to have an unbroken 180 degree vista from my home. One location I can see quite clearly is Cadbury Castle located alongside the picturesque village of South Cadbury. Cadbury Castle is an ancient hill fort with built up earthen ramparts similar to many others in the West Country. Excavations have revealed occupation since Neolithic times until the Roman invasion of England. In  keeping with similar sites, due to ideal military and defensive locations, the Romans took over these sites to aid their governance of England. Following the withdrawal of the Roman occupation, little or no documentation for this site exists until it was mentioned in a letter by John Leland in 1542 while undertaking a survey of England. The letter states that local folklore by villagers mentions King Arthur and Camelot. The site is also on part of what has become known as the Leland Trail, a 28 mile footpath that follows John Leland’s steps between Ham Hill Country Park in Somerset, (another hill fort), and King Alfred’s Tower in Wiltshire which is close to the source of the River Stour and nearby Stourhead.

It is unknown whether a King Arthur existed or not although much legend and myth pervades English folklore. If he did exist, it would have been in the period known as the Dark Ages due to the lack of documentary evidence and knowledge of that period. One of the earliest references to King Arthur is in the nearby Glastonbury Abbey where the supposed body of King Arthur was discovered and re-interred in the knave in 1278 in the presence of King Edward I and Queen Eleanor.

As an aside, many geographical locations take their name from the death cortege of Queen Eleanor when she died in Nottinghamshire. King Edward I transported her body back to London and at every location the cortege stopped for the night, King Edward I later erected an ornate stone cross. These crosses known as the Eleanor Crosses gave rise to such locations as Banbury Cross, Waltham Cross and Charing Cross to name but a few. The Abbey close to Waltham Cross is where King Harold who was killed by Norman invaders at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 is now known to have been secretly buried.

Although King Arthur is supposedly buried at Glastonbury Abbey, it is also thought possible the entire reburial exercise was part of a ruse to attract additional revenue and tourists in the form of Pilgrims.

The excavations at Cadbury Castle certainly revealed the presence of a former Great Hall and local place names like the River Cam which flows close to its base along with nearby villages of Queen Camel and West Camel help to reinforce the local legend of Camel-ot.  Other locations in England most notable Tintagel in Cornwall also lay claim to King Arthur. Whatever the truth, if King Arthur never existed then he certainly would have been invented as a necessity of historical prestige. Most countries of the world have their own King Arthur figures whether actual or mythological. It is however quite nice to sometimes fantasize that King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table in their shining armour once rode past my front door. The only problem with that fantastical notion is my home at that time would have been a wattle and daub hut.

Map picture

Site of Cadbury Castle

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