Let's move to... Cheddar with Somerset Life
With the varied attractions of watching for peregines around the dramatic landscape of The Gorge or enjoying an exquisite dining experience at Miller's at Glencott House...
With the varied attractions of watching for peregines around the dramatic landscape of The Gorge or enjoying an exquisite dining experience at Miller’s at Glencott House, Diane Scully finds that Cheddar is a gem of a place to live. Photos by Neville Stanikk
As long ago as 1130 the beauty of the Gorge was described as one of ‘the four wonders of England’ and it’s easy to see why the dramatic landscape still draws thousands of visitors every year. Boasting Britain’s largest gorge, largest underground river and highest inland limestone cliffs, it is a uniquely beautiful place. The caves beneath it are where Britain’s oldest skeleton was found! The attractive Cheddar Village is just a mile away from the Gorge and is a thriving community, with farming, quarrying and a business park making a livelihood for many locals. Tourists add to the mix and come in huge numbers, year-round, making it a lively place to live. The village dates from the 15th century and some very old houses can be spotted in the narrow streets that radiate from the village centrepiece, which is the charming Market Cross.
The school run doesn’t mean a long haul in Cheddar as it is well served with first and middle schools. The well-regarded Kings of Wessex is a Church of England Foundation school for pupils between 13 and 18 years and is also in Cheddar. Independent schools in the area are Sidcot School at Winscombe, which is a co-ed day and boarding school for 13-18 year olds; Wells Cathedral School, which is also a day and boarding co-ed school, where pupils enjoy a conventional education alongside the specialist music school; and Millfield at Street.
Although Cheddar is in the heart of Somerset countryside there
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are bus services to surrounding villages and towns and some destinations where you can make connections to express rail and coach services. Inter-city trains run from Castle Cary or Bristol Temple Meads station and both have high-speed services to London. For air travel, Bristol Airport is just 10 miles away and the M4 and M5 motorways are also easily accessible.
Around and about
Cheddar is the perfect place for indulging the urge to get out and enjoy some natural beauty and wildlife and it’s all to be found right on the doorstep. Whether you feel like tackling the high or low ground, lazing by the river, horse riding, walking or cycling, this is a place with everything. There’s a long-distance walking and cycle path known as the Strawberry Line, which is the old railway line. The route takes you from Cheddar all the way to Yatton. Other popular walking options in the area are the 5.5-kilometre circuit around the reservoir, riverside walks or one of the many routes along the cliff-tops of the Gorge where you’ll enjoy dramatic views over open countryside.
Cheddar Gorge is a haven for wildlife, including peregrines and greater horseshoe bats, and recently it’s been discovered that the endangered water vole has a stronghold here, so you may be lucky enough to spot one of these endearing creatures. Cheddar Gorge and Caves have a range of family days, which include a tour around the Gorge on an open-top bus and audio guides which tell the history of the caves. If you’ve ever fancied trying your hand at falconry, a visit to Banwell Castle is a must. The Gothic castle is set in 21 acres of grounds and you can watch or learn the ancient art of flying birds of prey. The Cheddar Tourist Information Office can be contacted on
There are plenty of eateries in the area to tempt foodies, with informal and formal dining within easy reach. In the village are cosy caf�s, an Indian and Bangladeshi restaurant – Cheddar Cottage – and the welcoming Bath Arms Hotel serving home-cooked food, real ales and local ciders. In a lovely setting at the base of the gorge is The Riverside Inn & Restaurant which combines a traditional pub with contemporary dining. If you like the idiosyncratic you can’t beat Glencott House at Wookey Hole. It’s owned by the founder of Miller’s antiques guides and you’ll find yourself dining on delicious food surrounded by a cornucopia of antiques and curiosities.
Cheddar ladies are well catered for with several places to pamper themselves – a stylish boutique called Katie Boo, health and beauty at Spa Chocolat or Head Office and beautiful fresh flowers and gifts from florist Bouquet. The village also has a traditional butcher, a toy and book shop and a specialist shop for caving and climbing equipment, which is a good place to call at for local advice before tackling cave or crag. At The Cliffs you will find lots of gift shops, including The Sweet Kitchen which specialises in traditional sweet-making, and of course you can buy Cheddar cheese. The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company has a dairy where you can see how the cheese is made in the traditional way.
There are loads of clubs and societies to join and the Kings of Wessex Leisure Centre has a pool, racquet sports courts, sports hall, dance studio and gym. Lovers of football, rugby, cricket and tennis will find clubs locally. But Cheddar’s unique location means you can try something more challenging. How about joining Mendip Gliding Club and taking to the skies for a trial lesson? Or if you feel inspired to tackle the landscape of the gorge, Rocksport offers caving and rock-climbing adventure days for beginners. For a more sedate pastime there’s always Cheddar Reservoir, where anglers can try their luck and there’s a sailing club here too.
Could you live here?
You can steep yourself in history in this striking double-fronted, 19th-century house in the ancient village of Wedmore (just outside Cheddar), which is thought to be the most complete surviving Saxon settlement in the country. Stanford House is packed with period features – sash windows, ceiling coving, picture rails and fireplaces. It is light and airy, has five bedrooms, with a sixth in a self-contained annexe, and there’s planning permission for the former coach house to be converted into a holiday cottage. Surrounding the house are large, mature, enclosed grounds with a productive vegetable garden, fruit trees, a greenhouse and a summerhouse.
Stanford House is on the market with Knight Frank for �1,100,000 (0117 317 1999).