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Village life in Cutcombe and Wheddon Cross in Somerset

Church of St John the Evangelist. Photo: Rachel Mead
Church of St John the Evangelist. Photo: Rachel Mead

Cutcombe & Wheddon Cross

‘I’ve lived here my whole life and along with the other indigenous members of the community we wouldn’t live anywhere else. With 65 inch rainfall per year our complexions are perfect, we’re not burnt to a shrivel like those folk that live on the coast! And, at around 1000 feet above sea level we have a breeze which lets us live a contented life, there’s no need for suncream here when we have such beautiful rain!’ I am chatting with Eric Norman the landlord of the Rest & Be Thankful Inn who, in addition to being an absolute hoot to chat with, is also the 11th generation of his family who have farmed in this area of Exmoor. ‘We are the highest village in Somerset and that means we are surrounded by the most beautiful of coombes which change with the seasons, there’s not a soul out there on those hills except bird life so where else would you possibly want to be, it’s a green and pleasant land!’

Eric goes on to tell me how the crossroads of Wheddon Cross were developed many years ago after a series of horse and carriage accidents, ‘the old road was so steep, so they built around it and that’s how a new era of income was developed.’ The Rest & Be Thankful Inn was built in 1835 and originally served as a coaching house for stabling exhausted horses, whereas today it is a popular stopover with (exhausted!) hikers completing the 51-mile Coleridge way, ‘Together with my wife and daughter we like to think we cater for both the senior; and the more youthful members of society. Our carvery is renowned in the area and we’re also dog friendly so we’re very much the heart of the community.’

Another well known face within the village is that of Andrew Turner who has been running Red Stag Safaris for over fifteen years, ‘I love the history, geology and wildlife on Exmoor and share that knowledge with my clients. By offering three different types of safari, I can tailor the tour to suit either photographers, Lorna Doone fans, or those visitors looking to spot wildlife; in particular our iconic red deer and Exmoor ponies.’ As we head into November Andrew also adds a Deer Rut Safari to his offering, ‘I have permission to take my vehicle off-road and drive out on certain parts of Exmoor where I know the deer tend to be, the stags are roaring in the first couple weeks of November and it’s quite something to hear that sound echoing up the Exmoor valleys. You may even catch sight of the stags ‘posturing’ as they strut their stuff but what’s really great is when you hear the roar of the stags as they challenge one another; if they were human they’d be saying ‘Come on then, if you think you’re hard enough!’

Andrew has a wealth of knowledge about the history of Cutcombe and Wheddon Cross as well as the wider Exmoor area, ‘I’ll ask my clients if they have a particular interest in an Exmoor area or topic and then tell them as much about that subject as I can. Having grown up here I’ve heard many of the old historical stories and love to share them. Take Cutcombe for example, its history is still visible, whether it’s the old Stage Coach water trough half way up Cutcombe Hill or the cottages in the village which are still named by the men that originally built them. Today, the parish of Cutcombe and Wheddon Cross is a remote, small village but equally it’s a really good village, we have all the amenities we need and such a vibrant community.’ This sentiment is echoed by Eric, ‘Many Exmoor people may leave to find work but they all come back again to feel relaxed and comfortable. The scenery here is like a heart, it draws you back, it’s a comfort zone.’

The Trust which promotes education in the village

Angela Edwards is a trustee of the Ellsworth Foundation, ‘Richard Ellsworth of Bickham Manor in Timberscombe died in 1714 aged just 22 years. In his Will he left a sum of money to build schools in Timberscombe and Cutcombe. He also left money towards teaching the poor children of that era to read and write and learn the catechism. Today, we aim to promote education by subsidising school trips and visits as well as purchasing bibles for children when they leave school. We also offer financial assistance to young people of Wheddon Cross and Timberscombe in their further education.’

Snowdrop Valley

Every January and February sees the unique arrival of Snowdrop Valley. With over 7500 visitors descending on Wheddon Cross over a 4 week period it’s a natural attraction not to be missed. The landowners kindly open up the paths through their woodlands so that everyone can enjoy the fantastic display.

Population 416 (Census 2021)

Stay or Buy

Stay

With countryside views over Dunkery Beacon, a night at the Rest & Be Thankful Inn feeds the soul as well as the belly. Added extras including soft white bathrobes and high-end toiletries make this B&B very welcome after a day out on the moors. restandbethankful.co.uk

Buy

Incredible views surround Higher Park Lane which boasts 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. Complete with a triple aspect garden room and a wraparound balcony means you’ll be living the good life on Exmoor. £695,000 (Fine & Country, Dulverton)



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