Village Life: Washford

The medieval gatehouse of Cleeve Abbey provides a glimpse of the village beyond

The medieval gatehouse of Cleeve Abbey provides a glimpse of the village beyond - Credit: submitted

In our special series Andrea Cowan takes a look at village life in Somerset. This time she visits Washford...

Washford is a small village in West Somerset, close to the Quantock Hills and Exmoor, just two miles from the Bristol Channel coastline. It is part of the civil parish of Old Cleeve, which includes a couple of other villages and hamlets. In the 2011 census the population of the parish was 1,607.

The River Washford weaves it way through the village, while the A39 cuts it through the middle.

I started my visit with a welcome stop off at the Torre Cider Farm on the edge of the village. A little further down the road are the ruins of the ancient Cleeve Abbey, a medieval monastery founded in the late 12th century for monks of the Cistercian order, now looked after by English Heritage. The abbey church was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1536, but several cloister buildings, including the gatehouse, have survived remarkably intact.

Almost opposite is the old Washford Mill, now housing an agricultural merchant, while the White Horse Inn, a traditional 17th century coaching inn, benefits from a beautiful riverside location.

The village has a shop and Post Office, a garage, a hairdressers and a church, all on the main road. St Mary's church is an early 20th century 'chapel of ease', built for those who cannot reach the St Andrew's Parish Church in Old Cleeve. The building is also shared with Methodist worshippers.

In a narrow side road is the village school, the Old Cleeve Church of England First School, as well as Teddy Bears Nursery. There are a selection of secondary schools in nearby Minehead and stretching out to Taunton, 15 miles away.

The school is next to the Washford Memorial Hall, which was built in 1950 and houses several clubs, along with a nearby recreation ground. It is also close to the start of a two mile public footpath to the seaside town of Watchet. It follows the route of the old Mineral Line track bed, when the West Somerset Mineral Railway (WSMR) transported iron ore from mines on the Brendon Hills to Watchet, on its way to smelting works in South Wales.

The WSMR may no longer exist, but the West Somerset Steam Railway Line is still going strong. Washford station is a stop on the steam-operated heritage railway, and now houses the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust Museum complete with historical railway carriages and a working reconstructed signalbox. For well-deserved refreshments, the village's second pub, the Washford Inn, is right next door.

For a small village, it packs a punch.

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Did you know…?

The Tropiquaria Zoo on the edge of the village is housed in Washford's former BBC radio transmitter station, originally built in 1933.


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