Somerset’s Great Drive: Exploring Somerset’s history

Wellington Monument

Wellington Monument - Credit: sub

This month’s Great Drive cruises across the lower half of the county from a freshly opened museum to one of Somerset’s most famous and recognisable monuments

Jaguar F-Pace at the Somerset Rural Life Museum

Jaguar F-Pace at the Somerset Rural Life Museum - Credit: sub


We start this month’s drive at The Rural Life Museum in Glastonbury, which opened its doors again on June 3 following a £2.4million redevelopment project. This attraction allows visitors to take a look back on the enchanting rural life of Somerset and explore life in the county from the 1800s onwards.The museum’s exhibits have been better cared for and displayed thanks to new presentations in the farmhouse and cowsheds. A magnificent 14th-century abbey barn is the centre piece of the museum, with an outside space featuring sculptures and family trails. There is also a café to ensure that the 21st century customs of Somerset’s people are catered for with plenty of coffee and cake.

After your visit leave Glastonbury on Butleigh Road which can be located off the A361, travelling away from the Tor. Enjoy this country road as it passes through Butleigh to the crossroads with the B3153 where it’s right towards Somerton, famous for its beautiful architecture and once being the centre of Wessex. Remain on the B3153 through Somerton and on to Langport, another town in Somerset steeped in history.

Hook up with the A378, now heading for Curry Rivel where we turn left onto the B3168 for some quieter roads. Look out for the signpost for Barrington Court, just past the petrol station and opposite the war memorial. Continue on through Hambridge with some beautiful rural views over the levels.

Pass through Puckington and turn right onto Cad Road with signposts for Chard and Taunton. Continue on this country lane with yet more views of hedgerows and the fields beyond to reach the A358 where it’s left to join the A303 for a short stretch in the direction of Honiton. Climb Ham Hill and by the Eagle Tavern, turn right with a signpost for Buckland St Mary. Now in the Blackdown Hills, a designated area of outstanding natural beauty, enjoy the cruise along this often winding country road with sunlight bleeding through the tree top canopy.

At the junction with the B3170 it’s straight over for more of the same. Remain on this road until you see the brown tourism sign on the right-hand side for the Wellington Monument. From the car park take a short walk along an avenue of trees. If it’s wet underfoot some wellies would be a good idea – wellies to Wellington Monument – how apt!

Located in a clearing overlooking the village of Wellington and the M5 corridor, this three sided obelisk was constructed as a tribute to the Duke of Wellington and his victory at the Battle of Waterloo.

At 175ft, this is in fact the tallest obelisk in the world and is today under the custodianship of the National Trust, who are working hard to preserve it. Completed in 1820, the project was dogged by funding issues and delays. It was originally intended to have a cast iron statue of the Duke of Wellington on the top, but this never materialised. Today this icon of Somerset is in need of some structural work, which the Trust are currently looking into.

When visiting take a picnic and some field games to enjoy in the clearing. If there is a breeze, maybe a kite, there is also a short walk that can be enjoyed with some stunning views over the Blackdown Hills.

Great drive

It seems to be universally agreed that Jaguar’s first foray into the SUV world is a resounding success. Launched in 2016 the Jaguar F-Pace has hit the ground running and has given its Germanic rivals some sleepless nights as their market share takes a hit. The F-Pace has also been named 2016 Car of the Year by Auto Express magazine.

Maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise that the first high-rise Jag is such a hit, after all, its sister company, Land Rover, does make the best 4x4xfar!

Experienced in mid-range Portfolio trim, the F-Pace makes a strong external statement. A bold grill with a honeycomb mesh and chrome frame sets the sophisticated tone for the front end. Headlamps that give lineage to Jaguar’s saloon range sweep back into a muscular bonnet.

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Optional 20-inch alloy wheels help to fill out the wheel arches and the flanks are detailed with some nice chrome touches. An expansive glass area, complete with glass roof for panoramic views of Somerset’s skyline culminates in a tight rump which again features rear lamp units that mirror the styling of the XE and F-Type models. All-in-all, the F-Pace is undoubtedly a modern Jaguar and a handsome one at that.

Within the cabin the F-Pace continues to please, loaded with all the latest technology you would expect including lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition as part of the standard specification. The eight-inch touch sensitive screen does a good job at giving you access to all of the frequently used creature comforts within a few touches.

Analogue-style dials were a bit of a surprise considering the Range Rover now has a TFT screen, and if I was being super picky some of the plastics don’t feel quite up to the same standard as its Continental rivals. This is a minor point and is soon swept away when you start living with the F-Pace.

It simply is the perfect family car. Plenty of space in the front and rear seats and a boot that can swallow everything including the kitchen sink. The high-rise vantage point is always a hit with the kids who can see so much more.

Our test example was fitted with the mid-range 2.0 litre Ingenium diesel engine that has received much acclaim in the Jaguar XE. Producing 180bhp, there is plenty of overtaking power as well as offering up to 53mpg in a combined cycle with just 139g/km of C02. It’s quiet too – refined in fact – just as a Jaguar should be!

There is also a 163bhp variant of the same 2.0 litre diesel or if you are feeling feisty maybe you would want to opt for the range topping 3.0 litre V6 which pumps out 300bhp! The F-Pace can be spec’ed with either two or four-wheel-drive, mated to

either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Hitting the middle ground again, the four-wheel-drive automatic variant tested seemed to offer the best of what the F-Pace has to offer. Sure-footed handling and with silky smooth gear changes; the handling of the F-Pace is possibly where it pushes a gap to the competition.

It hits the sweet spot between offering a firm and engaging driving experience whilst still providing the necessary compliance to give passengers the comfort they would expect from a Jaguar.

Use the paddles to change gear, rev that diesel motor to extract its power and hit Somerset’s B-Roads; the F-Pace can certainly offer F-un and Pace!

Price as tested with a few tasteful options; £47,175