Rachel Mead takes a look at village life in Somerset

If ever there was a village in South Somerset which is quintessential of our English countryside, then Hardington Mandeville is the one. It’s got everything you would hope to find in a village including a thriving pub and post office, all nestled serenely amongst unbroken rolling hills of green. Its off-the-beaten-track location isn’t to say that it’s a sleepy place though because once one has travelled to this village by winding country lane or footpath, Hardington Mandeville reveals itself to be a thriving community.

My first stop is to meet Daphne Creed MBE, Postmistress and owner of the village stores. With her cottage adjoining the incredibly well-stocked shop, she invites me into her lounge where she tells me how her family have been providing daily essentials to the village since the 1880s, ‘The shop has certainly seen some changes over the years, my Mum used to weigh up the sugar, have a huge salt block, and even slice a big cheese with rind on.’ It’s easy to envisage the scene as Daphne casts her mind back telling me how the butcher, baker, fishmonger and fish and chip van would all make their weekly rounds to the village, ‘And of course in those days we even had a second post. My Mum would write to her sister in the morning and get a reply by the afternoon!’

It was in 2012 that Daphne would herself receive a very special letter where she was to be invited to meet the Queen and be presented with an MBE for her services to the community, an honour which she is very modest about, ‘I accepted it on behalf of the whole village who are always here to help.’ It turns out that Daphne’s family are quite widespread amongst this little corner of Somerset, ‘My Granny was the start of the White family. She had 10 daughters and 1 son, William or ‘Sonny’ and that is who our local pub is named after. A lot of the daughters married locally so there’s quite a lot of us around!’

With mention of the pub, I head off to investigate, wandering down the lane passing local stone cottages before heading into what initially feels like a working farmyard. The façade of ‘The Royal Oak’ or ‘Sonny’s’ is akin to a farmhouse, tractors are parked up outside and you can hear cows being milked just across the way. I open the front door into a space which feels like I’ve walked into someone’s home, the open fire is laid ready for the autumnal months ahead and I’m greeted warmly by Landlord, Martin Hooper and Manager, Sara Primmer. Martin begins by telling me how Sonny initially set the pub up so that he could serve his cider to the local farm workers. His apples were regularly sold to Thatchers and the original cider press is still in situ. ‘Sonny was quite a relaxed landlord, he’d regularly leave the till drawer open as an ‘honesty box’ for the locals and he’d go on upstairs to bed saying, ‘Last one out, turn off the lights and shut the door!’ Of course one night the drinkers had one cider too many and couldn’t find the light switch so they unscrewed all the lightbulbs instead!’

Today, Sonny’s has progressed from being ‘a drinker’s pub’ to being renowned for its food offering with their ‘Seafood Suppers’ being a firm favourite. Sara says, ‘We pride ourselves on serving local food, done well. We like to showcase seasonal ingredients and celebrate the seasons with themed food nights throughout the year. Families with muddy boots and their dogs are all welcome!’


This September sees the Church of St Mary celebrate it’s 900th anniversary. The Bishop of Bath & Wells will lead the service of celebration which will then be followed by a lunch, made by Sonny’s, in the village hall.


Hardington Moor is a National Nature Reserve which has been preserved as a rich hay meadow boasting abundant varieties of wildflowers and butterflies. Over 162 plant species have been recorded on the reserve making it one of the finest remaining examples of this particular type of grassland in England. Natural England says, ‘The nationally scarce French oat-grass, Gaudinia fragilis, is a major constituent of this grassland for which Somerset is the main stronghold in Britain’. Naturalists will be able to spot adders tongue fern, pyramidal orchids, green winged orchids and the common blue butterfly.


POPULATION: 585 (Census 2011)


‘Fjell Hytte’ is described as being a little piece of Norway in Hardington! This beautifully crafted cosy hut is situated in its own meadow. After a short stroll back from Sonny’s you can stargaze whilst enjoying the fire pit. (Airbnb)

Partway House is an 8-bedroom Hamstone Victorian house which has undergone extensive renovation. Feature fireplaces, outbuildings and unbroken views complete the package which sits in a 2.5 acre plot. £2,000,000 (Jackson- Stops, Sherborne)