Life in a Somerset village - Hinton

A view of Hinton St George from the church tower

A view of Hinton St George from the church tower - Credit: SUB

In our special series Catherine Courtenay takes a look at village life in Somerset

Hinton is well-known for its community street parties

Hinton is well-known for its community street parties - Credit: SUB

This year marks a special anniversary for the village of Hinton St George. Its church is 800 years old and to celebrate, a whole year of activities was planned under the banner 2020 St George’s.

The main events were due to kick off in March, but then came the coronavirus. Along with the cancellation of events came the forced closure of the village pub, church, village hall and café. But Hinton has a shop, which is community-owned with a post office, and which stepped up to the mark and has become a village lifeline.

In 2009, when the current owners of the shop wanted to retire after 25 years at the helm, they struggled to find a buyer, but then the village stepped in. Meetings were held and the money raised. It became Our Shop and has thrived ever since, expertly managed by Jillian Fawcett with an army of volunteers – including 90-year-old Jophine Hardy who normally works two shifts a week. Coronavirus has brought challenges, mainly because most of the volunteers are over the age of 70 and could no longer work in the shop, but problems were tackled and it switched to running an online ordering system with a team of deliverers. It’s been even busier than ever – although it’s hard keeping Jophine and the other keen volunteers at home.

The shop is only one example of how things work in this thriving village.

Shop committee chairman David Clements says that, under normal circumstances: “There’s an awful lot of things going on and it spreads the whole breadth of the community, from mums and toddlers in the Honeybees to the Monday morning gatherings in Dorothy’s Tea Room, where some of the older people meet to have a chat and lunch.”

It may be unusual to find a successful tea shop in a village of around only 220 homes, and Hinton’s has won awards – it was named Best Afternoon Tea Shop in the UK in the 2017 Clipper Teas’ awards. Its village pub, The Lord Poulett Arms, is another multi award-winner including Gastro Pub of the Year in the Good Hotel Guide and National Dining Pub of the Year in the Good Pub Guide.

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The pub owes its name to the Poulett family who came to the village in the 15th century and occupied Hinton House for more than 500 years, until the late 1960s when they moved to Jersey – where they also had associations. The last link with Hinton St George came to an end when the last Countess died around two years ago.

In 2012 a three-acre site, formerly part of Scott’s Nurseries, was donated to the village to create a Jubilee Wood. Commemorating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, 3,000 trees and shrubs and an orchard of 150 apple trees was planted. A trust looks after the wood, which is enjoyed by the whole community and maintained by a group of volunteers run by Don Morecombe. It’s led to a series of annual events, including winter wassailing and an Oak Apple Day celebration at the end of May. Don also leads the Pathfinders group, which looks after the village footpaths and runs a monthly village walk – with inclusive pub lunch break.

The village also has a wine club listed among its organisations. Normally it would meet most months at different locations; a theme will be chosen, say ‘wines of eastern Europe’ and people get to try a few wines and socialise. It’s not ‘sniff and spit, but drink and enjoy’ and it has a constant membership of 28 (a limit set by how many can fit in someone’s home) and there is a long waiting list.

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