Enjoy the Ilminster experience


- Credit: Archant

Searching for something new to interest and excite you in 2014? Why not expand your horizons and head for Ilminster, where you can try your hand at a wide range of activities

The streets decorated for Ilminster's Midsummer Experience

The streets decorated for Ilminster's Midsummer Experience - Credit: David Hancock, Perception Creative Design

The market town of Ilminster gets its name from the nearby River Ile and its beautiful 15th Century Minster church. St Mary’s is generally recognised as being one of the finest parish churches in the county and sits on raised ground overlooking the bustling shopping area.

Set in the beautiful countryside of South Somerset between Yeovil and Taunton, the town has a history which reaches back to 500AD and gained its wealth from the textile industry. Ilminster was the fourth largest town in Somerset in 1670 and throughout the 19th century it benefitted from the arrival of the canal and the railway.

Today the busy town centre is thriving - you’ll be hard pushed to find any empty shops here. Visitors are also drawn to the experiences on offer at its successful arts centre as well as historic Dillington House, the impressive property which has a lively programme of events and courses throughout the year.

Dillington House, which is owned by Lord Cameron and leasedto Somerset County Council, dates from 1580, explains Director Wayne Bennett.

“There were considerable alterations in the 1830s when an incongruous Georgian wing was demolished and rebuilt in the Jacobethan style,” he says.

The magnificent stables and coach house building were built in 1875, replacing an early set of buildings. The family moved out in the 1930s and only came back for holidays. During the war Dillington was used by the Royal Army Service Corps, the Free Polish Army and the 101st US Parachute Regiment prior to the D-Day landings. Following unsuccessful attempts to sell the property after the war the county council took on a full-repairing lease in order to create a residential college of adult education. This lease was replaced by a new lease which expires in 2062.

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Wayne describes Dillington as ‘a veritable oasis’ for people attending the residential and non-residential courses, classical music concerts and public lectures from leading figures in science and arts. Events which have become firm fixtures in the calendar include the classical guitar week, string quartet weekend and Scottish dancing. The Chamber Music Weekend sells out months in advance.

The property also offers conference facilities and its stunning architecture, gardens and parkland make it a beautiful wedding venue.“Being an historic property the costs of running it are very scary and we have to meet all of these costs from our work,” adds Wayne.“In a nutshell, we have to be busy with something all of the time – courses, conferences, weddings and social events, you name it and we’ll probably do it.

“One of the biggest changes is our ability to welcome people with disabilities. The new Hyde building, which was completed just over four years ago, is a building which is totally accessible and this includes 15 fully accessible bedrooms.”

For a full programme of events visit dillington.comMusical month

The stunning architecture, gardens and parkland setting make Dillington special.

The famous Blues Band, featuring ex Manfred Mann group members, Paul Jones and Tom McGuinness, comes to The Square and Compass on 28 February.

squareandcompasspub.comOn 14 February catch multi-British Jazz Award winners Bobby Wellins, Jim Mullen and The Craig Milverton Trio for an unforgettable evening at The Meeting House. The Josh Kemp Quartet performs at The Meeting House on 28 February.

01460 54973;

themeetinghouse.org.ukTime to get arty

If you’ve never worked with clay or have always fancied learning the art of lino printing or creating your own rag rug, then you may find just the workshop for you at the arts centre in Ilminster’s Meeting House.The courses on offer range from learning the basics of drawing, to ‘stitching a rainbow’ using quilted textile art techniques.For 2014 the centre plans to expand its work with the local community and developing artists according to Treasurer Christine Walker.She says visitors appreciate the opportunity to experience and purchase a wide range of Townarts and craft, the relaxed welcoming atmosphere of the café and great music.“We are only as good as the volunteers and visitors that support us, but I am optimistic we can keep the arts centre alive for future generations!”

A selection of forthcoming events at Ilminster Arts Centre at The Meeting House:

1 February & 1 March: Craft and produce market, 9.30am-3.30pm.

22 February & 22 March:Antiques and vintage collectables fair, 9.30am-3.30pm.

19 March:Antique and vintage textiles fair, 10am-4pm.

01460 54973; info@themeetinghouse.org.uk;

website: themeetinghouse.org.ukMidsummer Experience

From 5-8 June the town will come alive with a riot of colour and celebration during its annual four-day festival. Now in its seventh year, the Ilminster Midsummer Experience has become a major event on the Somerset calendar, with visitors enjoying a host of activities such as food, craft and antiques markets, classic motors and dog shows and a scarecrow competition. The town will be decorated colourful banners and pennants. Set up to celebrate Ilminster’s community life and history, the festival is run by Experience Ilminster CIC Ltd. For more information on events this year, visit ilminsterexperience.co.uk