7 reasons why you should visit Langport
- Credit: Archant
From riverside rambles to coffee and croissants, Catherine Courtenay suggests seven reasons to visit Langport
1. Unique setting
Its fairly narrow and busy main street makes Langport's buildings feel tightly packed, but the town is surrounded by open expanses of moorland, the Somerset Levels, and behind the buildings on the main Bow Street, there's access to this dramatic landscape. It's an appealing and unique contrast, particularly as with no urban sprawl, you can get a real sense of how this town has developed.
Langport has very ancient roots, with evidence of occupation going back to Celtic times. It may be hard to imagine these days, but its position on a crossing over the River Parrett made it a key port with ships travelling from across the globe mooring up and loading and unloading in the late 1700s to early 1800s.
Away from the water, up the hill, there are some elegant properties, clustered around All Saints' Church.
Needless to say, Langport's position on the Levels makes it ideal for walking. Anyone visiting for the first time should take one of the shorter town trails, to get a sense of place. Locals are lucky to have both Northmoor and Cocklemoor on their doorstep, a valuable area of community land which wraps around the town. Langport is on the long distance Parrett Trail, and you can take this, along the river to nearby Muchelney, about two miles away, to find the remains of a Benedictine abbey.
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3. Getting around
It's not just walking in Langport. You can hire a bike from Parrett Trail Bikes at the back of The Angel Community Centre and set off on an adventure, whatever your level of fitness. There are a selection of routes to take which range from two to 18 miles. If not a bike, what about a boat? This lucky town has its own 'community boat'. The Duchess of Cocklemoor was built in Plymouth in 1908 and used on the River Teign in Devon until it was rescued and restored and re-launched as Langport's 12-seater boat. Skipper Ian Macnab is on a mission to get people interested and inspired by the River Parrett and he runs cruises from spring to autumn - a great way to enjoy the area's wildlife. If you're done with bikes and boats how about a horse? Historical Horse Drawn Tours runs trips through the town, from Easter to September.
A popular stop for a coffee and cake is The Angel Community Café, fronting Bow Street but with access to the Parrett Trail and bike hire. Further along, in Cheapside, there's the pretty Art Tea Zen, its blue-painted frontage a welcoming sight. Open for breakfasts and lunches and serving ample homemade cakes and drinks, it's another gem. Then there's Kitchen. Parking in the centre of town you'll first see the bakery on the corner, step inside and you'll be faced with an array of fabulous pastries along with sourdough loaves. Kitchen also supplies its sister café/restaurant down at the wharf. Based in an old warehouse, it has plenty of space and is right on the riverside, overlooking the moors. It's a perfect place to while away some time, enjoying the atmosphere and the food.
No town is complete without its antiques shops and Langport has a tempting selection. Langport Reclamation is easily spotted for the intriguing old petrol pump set in the wall outside; on the corner of The Hill there's Lafleure, its windows filled with both old and new delights, elegant furniture and furnishings and beautiful lights. There are gift shops like Eustace & Arthur and Florin to poke around and find unique discoveries in and pop into The Langport Stores. You can still see the original fittings - there's even an old delivery bike which sometimes appears in the window display. If owner Jason has time he may even be able to show you an old grocery book, dating back to 1903, which was discovered by a customer and brought back to the shop.
Langport can also boast having a thriving crafts scene. Visit the famous glassmaker Shakspeare Glass down by the river where you'll be dazzled by the array of colours - the building also houses Langport Clocks, where timepieces are skilfully made or restored.
Take yourself back to 1645 and imagine the sight of Royalist soldiers being chased through Bow Street, signalling victory for the Parliamentarians under Sir Thomas Fairfax. The battle took place on farmland on the edge of town (the exact location is still disputed) and was a key event in the English Civil War. Langport has kept many historic buildings, including its famous Hanging Chapel, a Grade I-listed Masonic Lodge which straddles the road at the top of The Hill, and All Saints Church which, in its east wing has the largest collection of medieval stained glass in Somerset. The church stands high and the views out across the Levels are also stunning.
7. Famous names
Keen watchers of award-winning Netflix drama The Crown may remember the scene when young Queen Elizabeth was being educated. She was taught about the Constitution from writings by Walter Bagehot, a famous Victorian banker who became editor of The Economist. The Efficient and the Dignified were the two elements of the Constitution, he said - a point which the Queen uses to reprimand Churchill in the television drama. Bagehot was born and died in Langport and is buried in the churchyard. His influence among leaders was so great that even President Woodrow Wilson made a pilgrimage to his grave.
If those seven aren't enough reason - then here's another one... When towns provide free parking, you know there's a commitment to supporting the local businesses - so well done to Langport!