Spring Days out in the West Country
Green buds have appeared on branches in the garden and lie waiting, like tiny green bullets, packed with life. Shocks of yellow and purple crocuses can be seen brightening up grass verges too, signalling that spring is nearly here. The new season is one of the loveliest times to visit Somerset, a county with a rich agricultural heritage. Lambing tours are popular around April-time and the gardens of some of the grandest, biscuit-coloured country houses in the region burst into bloom. Snowdrops are the first to arrive and one of the best places to see them blanket the ground is at Snowdrop Valley, a secret, private location in Exmoor, near Wheddon Cross (which is half-an-hour north of Tiverton).
Somerset’s famous apple orchards become whimsical clouds of blossom in May, making this a picturesque time to go cider-tasting. A great place to enjoy both the apple blossom and a glass of local cider is at the Burrow Hill Cider Farm, not far from Ilminster. The farm is run by the Temperley family and is also the home of Somerset Cider Brandy, so be sure to sample the different aged brandies as well as the ice cider while you’re there. Every spring they invite visitors into their orchards to picnic on Saturdays beneath branches dripping in blush-coloured petals. Collect your drinks from the cider bus that is a feature each year at Glastonbury Festival.
Blossom can also be seen at Barrington Court, a National Trust home and garden outside Ilminster. The orchards here have more than 70 varieties of apples, plus quince, pear and medlar. Look out for white tulips and forget-me-nots in the White Garden also. At Land’s End Farm, 20-minutes drive from Glastonbury, you can buy Wilkins Cider from the dusty barn door and sit beside the flowering orchard opposite. Or at Hecks, just south of Glastonbury, cider is available from the farm shop and there are five orchards on site.
Visitors can look forward to cherry blossom at Tintinhull Garden, near Yeovil, as well as larger blooms from the magnolias in Cedar Court. In early spring, crocuses, anemones and daffodils appear at Lytes Cary Manor, just minutes outside of Ilchester, along with blossoms in the old orchard and striking snakeshead fritillaries.
Witnessing lambs being born is a spectacle that is educational for little ones too. A great place to do this is at Somerset Sheep Trekking, in the Blackdown Hills, a 10-minute drive from Taunton. Here, visitors will be able to stroke newborns and also help farmers look after them. Lambing tours are also possible at Puxton Park, an adventure park with animals near the coast at Weston-super-Mare, a 25-minute drive from Bridgwater.
Spring fun days are being planned across the county. At Ferne Animals Sanctuary, 15-minutes from Ilminster, there are cuddly animals to see and adopt, plus child-friendly activities (April 1-2). There is also a Spring Fayre being held in Wellington Park, on Sunday, May 7, with stalls run by local shops and charities. The Bishop’s Palace, in Wells, meanwhile is hosting a rare plant sale on March 19, where local nurseries will be displaying perennials, shrubs, trees, alpines, bulbs and exotic plants for sale.
Easter falls early this year and there are plenty of events being planned in celebration. Many National Trust properties – such as Tyntesfield, in north Somerset, and Montacute House, outside Yeovil – plan to run Easter egg trails this year, both April 1-16. The trail sheets cost £3 and feature nature-inspired fun en route, with a dairy or vegan chocolate egg prize at the end.
There is also an egg trail through the spring flower beds at Hestercombe House and Gardens (April 1-16), for £2 a booklet.
Children can learn about life on the farm during the Easter holidays and enjoy free activities at Glastonbury’s Somerset Rural Life Museum (April 1-16). There are also Easter-themed activities to try between April 4-13, such as crafting and an egg trail, which cost £1 or £2. Adults who are keen bakers can sign up to an Easter baking masterclass at Queen’s College in Taunton, on March 29.
Down in the caves at Wookey Hole, (April 1-16) the Easter bunny has been replaced by the Easter witch, who will roam about looking for children to treat. The eggs glow in the dark at Cheddar Gorge’s caves, so will be especially easy to spot. Join the trail inside Gough’s Trail between April 1-16 and there is a special golden egg to find too.
With much more to enjoy besides – check out VisitSomerset.co.uk – there is no excuse not to get out and enjoy the seasonal freshness of spring in Somerset this year.