The grapes are ripening on the vine and the harvest is creeping up on us which means it is also almost time for the Wells Festival of Literature. Mowbarton is again sponsoring a wonderful event, indeed perhaps the best so far:John Preston's talk on his magnificent book A Very English Scandal. Remember poor Rinka the dog? Hugh Grant as Jeremy Thorpe? 'Bunnies can (and will) go to France'...? (Not from the Mowbarton Shepherd's Hut lawn they won't). A mesmerising story of corruption and cruelty at the heart of the establishment. Don't miss it!
A really busy summer in all respects! Almost too busy... Both the Barn and the Shepherd's Hut have been pretty much full for the whole season and I think (hope!) that our guests have had a good time. Certainly the weather has been almost exclusively kind. As well as guests in the Hut and Barn, we have also entertained quite a few friends and family at home which has given us a very welcome chance to act as holiday-makers here ourselves. We visited Westhay, Hauser and Wirth, the Battle of Sedgemoor site, Berrow Mump, Wells Cathedral and the Bishop's Palace - and of course climbed Glastonbury Tor and enjoyed the splendid views (although it would be helpful if people did NOT use the direction map as a seat!), After the climb we tucked into a fabulous Glastonbury tea at the Abbey Tea Rooms. Definitely definitely worth a visit.
In between these bouts of merry-making we have been working on the vineyard and it looks as though all the hard work (thank you also to Adrian!) has paid off. Our first year we produced 220 bottles, last year 1400 and this year the signs are that the numbers will soar again. Yet still not a drop has passed my lips. Projected time of opening the first bottle of Mowbarton sparkling looks as though it will be between May and August 2019. An ideal time to celebrate.
Some of this summer's holiday snaps!
Spring arrived last weekend; in fact you could almost have called it summer.
It seems to have disappeared again for the moment but I have every confidence it will return before long. The signs are all there: bluebells and primroses in the lane, and even the beginnings of the wonderful feathery cow parsley that lines all our hedgerows. Wild garlic. Swallows, aerial fights between the buzzards and the crows, sparrows quarreling over the bird feeder. Lambs in the fields (not ours sadly yet this year). There will be a cuckoo down on the moor before you know it...
With summer so near at hand, Wedmore is busy preparing for the annual Arts Festival, earlier than usual this year. What an amazing line-up they have planned for 2018. Mowbarton is delighted to be sponsoring Simon King's Nature Watch talk. Bet he would love to spend a couple of nights in our Shepherd's Hut! Certainly plenty of rabbits to watch, plus the odd badger and barn owl. There's a huge range of events to enjoy at the Arts Festival. Talks, music, drama, jazz ... Just have a look at their website. You might even be able to combine it with a few nights at Mowbarton
2018 here already
We would like to wish all Mowbarton guests - past, present and future - a Very Happy New Year and, if you haven't booked your 2018 holiday with us yet, don't leave it too long. The calendars for both the Barn and the Shepherd'sHut are filling up alarmingly fast...
The last weeks of 2017 sped by; several friends and family joined us during the final weekend of October to bring in our second harvest which turned out to be three time the size of our first one in 2016! Watch this space to find out more about wine-tasting events in the future: we are going to be looking for some pretty thirsty guests before long!
The end of 2017 also saw the arrival of two new granddaughters, bringing the total number of grandchildren up to a grand five. They and their parents all spent time with us over Christmas, reminding us why we moved here in the first place: it's a perfect place for family reunions. I am sure our Barn guests over the festive period would agree - it was their third Christmas stay at Mowbarton. We also had repeat visitors in the Shepherd's Hut over the New Year. 'Our little piece of heaven' is how they described it.
What an amazing day it's been today. Glorious sunshine and a clear blue sky. T-shirt weather despite the fact that the leaves are all turning and autumn is well and truly here. It was the Wells Food Festival today - a wonderful celebration of local produce in a beautiful location around the Bishop's Palace moat and in the market square. It inspired me to make the best of our own garden-grown produce. You don't get much more local than that! We have had so many pears and apples this year, plus grapes (in addition to the vineyard ones), blackberries, late raspberries. And it's been a wonderful year for butterflies and roses, but I'm not sure I ever wish to see another courgette!
Talking of Festivals in Wells, I have decided to offer an unbeatable deal during the week of the Wells Festival of Literature: 13 October to 20 October. It's our last full free week in October so it may as well go to a good cause! To be honest, you can enjoy the discount at Mowbarton Barn even if you don't go to the Festival. That said, there are some brilliant speakers again this year so a visit to any of the events during the Festival would make your stay at the Barn even better than normal.
Festival Offer: A mere £550 for a whole glorious week!
On 6 November it will be exactly 2 years since our first guests stayed at Mowbarton Shepherd's Hut. So here's the deal: If you book a 2-night stay in the Hut before that anniversary date (6.11.17) we'll give you a 20% discount birthday present. (Note: your stay can be taken any time before 30 June 2018 but the booking needs to be confirmed before 6.11.17)
Someone's second birthday cake! (could it be a sheepdog??)
Talking of birthdays, we are very pleased to be sponsoring a special event at the Wells Literary Festival: the Thelma Fisher Memorial Event which will be a discussion on the use of memoir in writing. All three participants are Somerset authors, fittingly enough. Helen Stevenson, Susan Beale and Emma Craigie. So it will be a lovely local affair. You can find out more, and buy tickets here
And what makes Mowbarton such a suitable sponsor for this event? Well both the Hut and the Barn are places where special memories are made. Guests often come here to celebrate significant birthdays, anniversaries, honeymoons, the empty nest ... With its peaceful surroundings and wonderful views, Mowbarton is not somewhere you would every forget.
The last few weeks have been ridiculously busy but now SEPTEMBER is here we are relaxing - a little! Not only have we had full houses in both the Barn and the Shepherd's Hut for most of July and August, but we have also been entertaining family and friends. So it's been mad in Mudgley...
We have also had a cool store constructed for our home-grown Mowbarton Estate sparkling wine which has just arrived back from the wine-maker. 220 bottles - not bad for a first harvest apparently.Very exciting, and although have tried, no picture of mine could really capture that (see below right)! Sadly we can't sample it for some time yet so weare currently concentrating on this year's batch which is looking good. Despite the rain, we have also had lots of sunshine and warmth in Somerset (definitely the best location for holiday or mini break). We are now old hands at the work, and roped our children and grandchildren into helping us cut back the leaves to allow the sun to blaze down on the grapes.
Well, Wedmore Festival is now over and the village has quietened down a little - but not a lot! There was plenty going on between 6 and 15 July including music of all sorts - opera, jazz, a concert of summer songs, organ and piano recitals and, to round it off a traditional Ceilidh in the village hall. There was also poetry, drama, comedy, four fascinating and very different talks and a range of static exhibitions. Plenty for everyone in other words, and reckoned to be a runaway success. The picture on the left shows the village in 'Festival colours'. After all, it provided a great chance to paint the town red! Not sure what dates it will happen next year - but watch this space. After all, there's not going to be a Glastonbury and we are just up the road...
But please don't think that means our little corner of Somerset has now gone to sleep. Far from it. Wedmore Harvest Home is on Friday 18 August; Theale Flower Show is on Saturday 2 September and Wedmore Real Ale Festival is from 15 - 17 September. In October we have Wells Festival of Literature which this year promises to be bigger and better than ever - it's their Silver Anniversary! And then in November it's Carnival fortnight.
Wedmore is less than two miles from Mowbarton so you can always retreat to the peace and quiet of our own little hamlet if it all gets too much.
Election month has been a bit of a humdinger, one way or another. And I am not just talking about politics. At Mowbarton it has been particularly busy, especially in the Shepherd's Hut which has been full virtually the entire month. That's meant a great deal of washing and ironing for me! I don't actually mind ironing, with the radio on, and it's been perfect weather for the washing line - mostly. Perfect for the birds too - we seem to have more swallows than ever this year and the cuckoo has been 'singing' pretty regularly too. First heard on 6 May this year, and most recently only this week. But that must be it I'm sure: 'July she will fly'. The roses are wonderful too, which is excellent for all the newly-marrieds. Mowbarton has played host to weddings in all sorts of ways this year: three pairs of honeymooners (mini-mooners?) in the Shepherd's Hut and several family groups staying in the Barn while they attend weddings in the area. And more booked in during the next few weeks.
'What a fantastic place to start our 3-week honeymoon!'
The other big excitement is the Wedmore Arts Festival which beginson 6 July. Mowbarton is a proud sponsor of the event which offers a huge variety of entertainment over a ten-day period. Exceptional arts in an exceptional village!
Picnic table with lovely long bench and chairs now set up in a beautiful site with one of the best outlooks in Somerset - exclusively for Mowbarton guests! Talking of views - we welcome those of all (or no) political views to our election month special: reduced prices during June. And if your views mirror those of our local hero, Brenda from Bristol, where better to flee the electioneering madness than peaceful Mowbarton with its glorious views: left, right and all points in between!
The primroses are out, the daffodils are out, the UK is almost out and the sun is most definitely out! There couldn't be a better time to book a break at Mowbarton Shepherd's Hut or Mowbarton Barn; or, if your group/family is really big, have them both ...
Here's what our two most recent couples said about the Shepherd's Hut: 'Thank you for a wonderful stay in your Shepherd's Hut - a perfectly equipped hideaway, with the added bonus of local treats!' and 'The Hut is perfect and so nifty. A really comfortable bed meant we had a great night's sleep. We love how everything works so well and just wish we were staying another night.'
The guests in the Barn are equally appreciative: 'This is our third time staying here and we absolutely love it - it's perfect...' and 'A beautiful and very peaceful location! The Barn is so well looked after and everything has been thought of for guests. Will definitely return.'
What do they all come back for? Could it be the 'local treats'? Typically waiting for you at both properties would be tea, coffee, sugar and milk (of course) plus local butter, cheese and pickle, as well as cider from just down the road and a freshly-baked loaf (I probably should add 'subject to availability' at this point although to be honest it's actually 'subject to getting the dough to rise') - oh and a vase of fresh-picked flowers.
And before I forget - the first tulip is also out.
It's been far too long since I added anything to this page: Christmas, New Year, a family 90th birthday celebration and a holiday on the other side of the world have all intervened. But we got back to Somerset this week to welcome our first Spring guests in both the Barn and the Shepherd's Hut. And it really does seem as though Spring has come early this year. The garden is full of snowdrops, daffodils, crocuses and primroses; there are catkins on the twisted willow and in all the hedges; and there have been some spectacular 'red sky at nights'! The vineyard is being sprayed with natural fertilizer as I write, and the blue tits have begun investigating their favourite nesting place in the hole in the wall opposite our kitchen. As our most recent Shepherd's Hut guest put it: "A wonderful place to spend a couple of days getting away from it all... Truly lovely."
Champagne all round (or rather finest English sparkling wine)! What a weekend it's been for Mowbarton. The grapes were at last deemed ready to pick, so pick them we did. Just the two of us (all the enthusiastic offers to 'help with the harvest' seemed to have melted away) up and down the rows with our wheelbarrows for around 12 hours in total. Pinot Meunier - lovely and black but twisty stems with small clusters which meant lots of snipping (See September below!); Pinot Blanc - smaller, less attractive grapes (green and some not quite ripe) but big bunches and weighty yield; Chardonnay - a delight to pick. Huge juicy bundles which filled the boxes in no time. They have all gone to a huge vat in Bagborough for transforming into sparkling wine, no less. They should be back here, ready bottled, in August before when we have to create labels, marketing and, most important, a temperature-controlled storage room for them. Watch this space for more news of the Mowbarton Estate wines...
But that wasn't the only event of the weekend. We have also started work on creating two new picnic places, both with sensational views. One is up in the meadow above the Shepherd's Hut. There's a lovely sheltered corner up there, very private, from where you can look down on to the roof of Mowbarton Barn and then way beyond across the fields down on the levels, and over to the Bristol Channel, just. You can see the Polden Hills and the Quantocks and on a very clear day I am pretty sure you can see the outline of Exmoor. With cows grazing in the next fields and rabbits hopping around in the brambles, It really is a beautiful spot. Just waiting for a table and chairs to go on the wonderful slabs that Arthur has laid to match the Shepherd's Hut terrace.
And we've also been looking at the possibility of installing a hot tub... (Don't worry; not up in the meadow!)
Mowbarton was delighted to sponsor the Wells Festival of Literature this year. 'Our' event was Weatherland by Alexandra Harris which proved even more fascinating than we had expected. The whole Festival in fact was hugely enjoyable with masses of different events throughout the nine days. Various members of our family came down at different times and there really was something for everyone - of all generations. In addition to a great range of events, there was the added excitement of a visit from the Duchess of Cornwall who came to the Festival to celebrate the launch of Beanstalk in Somerset. Beanstalk is supported by the Festival, so it all made perfect sense. Next year will be the Festival's 25th anniversary so it's bound to be bigger and better than ever before; could even warrant a second royal visit? Might be worth booking a few days at Mowbarton in October to catch some of the action. It would make a perfect setting for a book group ...
Before then though of course there's carnival fortnight in Somerset with a series of carnivals all around the area which make up the biggest carnival procession in the world. It starts at Bridgwater on Saturday 5 November and ends at Glastonbury on 19 November, taking in five other local towns on the way! And we do have some availability in the Barn and the Shepherd's Hut during those two weeks. But hurry...
The last few weeks have been ridiculously busy at Mowbarton, and we have been blessed with some excellent sunshine. That meant more time spent up in the vineyard clipping away new shoots (vines grow like nobody's business) and watching the grapes maturing into fat, round and, in some cases, wonderfully purple 'berries'. We've now started testing them for sugar content prior to harvest; the plan is for sparkling wine eventually. Talking of Sparkling Wine, we have recently welcomed our first full wedding party at Mowbarton. The bride, plus a large party of family and friends, booked the Barn for preparation and a long weekend - and then the new Mr and Mrs spent their first night of wedded bliss in our wonderful romantic secluded Shepherd's Hut ! And the second for that matter - the whole party stayed on for post wedding-day festivities. A good time was had by all, and we wish the happy couple the very best for the future - and look forward to welcoming them back for their anniversary celebrations.
In another first we had a group of energetic young things staying who discovered the Strawberry Line which starts in nearby Cheddar. They hired bikes at Cheddar Cycle Store and off they went! The Strawberry Line is also national cycle route No. 26, and apparently there's a great pub on the route...
SEPTEMBER here already and rather a damp start it's been so far although they promise better to come. I certainly hope 'they' are right as I slaved my way through the week continuing the leaf-cutting exercise in the vineyard. Having spent a large part of my life keeping children out of the sun with a variety of hats, sunshades, sunblock, canopies... (who can forget the elaborate contraption that took off in a high wind on a Turkish beach on the first day of our holiday - and blew clean away?) it goes against the grain to do precisely the opposite, removing every square inch of protection from the vulnerable little grapes. It's also been fascinating to observe the difference in the behaviour of the grapes. The Chardonnay vines were relatively simple and straightforward. But the Pinot Meunier! Tendrils more obstinately clingy; clusters of grapes hiding so you couldn't spot them; leaves wrapping themselves around the grapes in a mad frenzy of modesty. All in all you got the impression they were playing hard to get, a bit like a temperamental prima donna. The word angsty came to mind and then I had it: teenagers. The Teenagers of the Vineyard. Still rather immature and unready for the world beyond. Let's hope that the promised Indian summer deals with them firmly... Talking of Indian summers, we still have a last-minute special deal available in September. Then in October it's the Wells Festival of Literature. We are sponsoring Alexandra Harris's event on Weatherland. I wonder if working in an English vineyard has ever inspired a poem or a watercolour? I certainly don't remember much wine being made in Thomas Hardy. Rum-laced furmity, wasn't it?
Here are the first signs of a first harvest! We spent yesterday tending the vineyard - and what a business it is. This may perhaps be an 'England only' task, but our job of the moment is to seek out all the grapes and then cut away the leaves that have been hiding them, so that they can have full access to the sun. (What sun? you ask. Well it's certainly blazing here today.) So suddenly, from out of a dense wall of leaves, small clumps of grapes appear, clinging on for dear life and looking somewhat nervous about being thus exposed. (Remember unwrapping on the beach for the first time?). Working on the vines made me ponder the effect of the climate on our lives (see Alexandra Harris on this topic at the Wells Literary Festival in October). There were vineyards in the parish in Roman times apparently, and then again when the Dean of Wells owned land up here on Mudgley Hill in the 14th century, but more recently the area's been known for farming. Do we have climate change to thank? I wonder if grapes in the south of France need opening up to the sun as ours did. The bunches may look small, but our agronomist was extremely optimistic...
We got back from a lovely holiday in France at the beginning of AUGUST to find the brochure for the Wells Festival of Literature has been printed. It looks like an excellent programme and we are delighted that Mowbarton is sponsoring Alexandra Harris on Saturday 15 October at 5.30pm. She will be talking about her latest book Weatherland, in which she looks at the different ways in which the weather has influenced English writers and artists over the years. We certainly know all about weather in Somerset. It has been gloriously sunny here on our hilltop ever since we got back from France; but there has also been a fair bit of wind. Not that wind can spoil the magnificent views we have. As John Steinbeck said (I wonder if Alexandra knows this?): 'happiness is living anywhere with a view of Glastonbury Tor'. Well we definitely have that... The weather has played a large part in our lives this summer with bumper crops of asparagus, broad beans, onions and garlic, tomatoes, pickling cucumbers (!) and, for the first year ever, raspberries. The greengages and pears also look promising but most importantly, so do the grapes. After a few days surrounded by the vineyards of Alsace it was a little humbling to return to our own small acre. But the vines are flourishing and we are very much hoping for a first harvest this October. Another way in which the weather influences creativity in the country... And no, I'm not taking up painting, however much wine I quaff.
STOP PRESS! Just found out that I missed hearing Alexandra on BBC Radio 4 in May. But I'm catching up.
Mowbarton Shepherd's Hut with it brand new table, chairs and barbecue
The Barn is almost completely booked for the rest of the summer. And at last the sun seems to have come out! To celebrate the sunshine, we have some new glamorous pictures of the Shepherd's Hut. You can see them on the Classic Glamping site. And check out our Availability and rates page to see when the Hut is free.
There are so many events taking place in around Mowbarton over the next few weeks, you'll be spoilt for choice. In Wedmore the Arts Festival is over for this year. It was a brilliantly successful week with plenty going on - opera, drama, music, comedy poetry. Next for Wedmore is the Real Ale Festival; Glastonbury is also over now - but what about next year? Then there's the Wells Festival of Literature in October, and of course Carnival fortnight in November.
Coming to Somerset for a well-earned break might be just what you need after all the uncertainty and restlessness of the past few weeks. One thing is certain: in the peaceful surroundings of the Somerset countryside you'll be sure of a restful break - either in the Barn, or in the Shepherd's Hut.
The programme for Wedmore Arts Festival (7 - 17 July)has just been finally confirmed and it really does look pretty special! Wedmore is quite a small village but they manage to attract some amazing people to come and talk, perform, sing, play, dance and generally entertain. This year they've got ballet, drama, a poetry performance, music,comedy, opera... even a 'literary tour of Britain' which sounds intriguing. And guess what? We happen to have some accommodation available in both the Shepherd's Hut and the Barn that week. So have a look at their website and then decide whether you would like to stay in the Barn or the Shepherd's Hut.
MAY DAY DISCOUNT! Noticed this morning that I have a couple of un-booked weekends in May and June. So I've decided to offer a 10% last minute discount: book a three-night break (or longer) for any available slot between now and the end of June and I'll give you a 10% discount. (Quote 'Grebe' when booking - see below!)
We spent the last bit of April, a beautifully sunny evening, discovering some as yet unexplored (by us) paths in Westhay Moor wildlife reserve. It was a wee bit cold, even for the birds, but we did spot a beautiful Great Crested Grebe swimming and diving elegantly through the black peaty water and of course we heard our friendly bittern in the reeds. Still a magical sound. No cuckoo as yet but others have heard it. We then visited a pub we've been meaning to try for ages: The Bird in Hand this side of Westhay, less than five minutes drive. The food looked great so we booked for Bank Holiday Monday.
AND - the sheep are back in our field, the vines are showing their buds...Let's hope the two facts are unconnected and will remain that way. Fingers crossed for the electric fence!
APRIL It's official: Mowbarton really is one of the best spots for wildlife lovers in the country! Where does this information come from? The august body of BBC Radio 4, no less... During the Today programme on 11 April, Science Editor, Tom Fielden, talking to the naturalist Stephen Moss (author of Wild Kingdom) said the 'incredible nature reserve' on the Avalon Marshes was 'probably the best new place for wildlife in the whole of Britain', and had been a phenomenal success since it was created some 30 years ago. The entire place, they agreed, is 'heaving with life', a life that includes marsh harriers, Cetti's warbler, whitethroats, bittern, great white egrets ... and, if our local walks are anything to go by, plenty more besides.
Mowbarton enjoys fabulous views of the whole area, and is less than a ten minute drive from Westhay, perhaps 15 from Ham Wall (pictured left).
Listen for yourself: Somerset Levels - 02h.43m into the programme.
MARCH already and despite the cold there are all sorts of signs of Spring around. Primroses, muscari (see picture), leaves peeping out, lambs in some of the fields. There should be some arriving in our own field fairly soon. That always makes me feel cheerful (as long as they keep away from the vines!) We have had quite a few weekend guests in the Shepherd's Hut already this year. I had wondered if winter might be a slow time but the Hut's lovely and cosy in the cold weather thanks to the super efficient log burning stove and the sheep's wool insulation. The primroses are out on both sides of the steps that lead up to the Hut and the green is gradually returning to the landscape all around it. Daffodils are everywhere, and the woodpecker has been busy, as have all the other birds: plenty of bustling around in nooks and crannies looking for nesting spots, and even the odd flurry of twig-carrying. A pair of blue tits spent a few days inspecting the hole in the wall outside our kitchen but seem to have moved on. Somewhere larger and more comfortable perhaps? STOP PRESS: The blue tits are back!!
I've just had a chance to look through the Comments Book at the Barn and was delighted with what's been said during 2015.
'We'll be back..' * 'See you again next year!' * 'Will be coming back' * 'We would love to come back' * 'Our third visit - we'll be back for our fourth soon' * 'See you next Easter' * 'We'll be back in May' * '...hope to return' * 'We hope to come back again soon' * 'We would definitely come back' * 'We would love to come back again some time' * 'Will return' * 'We hope to return'
And as one kind family put it: 'One word - AM-AZ-ING!' At this point Kellie needs a mention. She's the one who does all the hard work making the whole place sparkle for every visit. Thank you, Kellie.
Ready for Christmas in the sitting room at Mowbarton Barn
HAPPY NEW YEAR to all Mowbarton guests - past, future and present. The Barn has been full all over Christmas and the New Year and, although we have been unable to provide good weather all the time, it has certainly been better than in many parts of the country. And we have witnessed a few wonderful sunsets and some beautiful moon- and star-lit nights. There have also been several very enjoyable, if somewhat windswept and damp, walks down at Westhay Moor and Ham Wall observing the huge variety of birdlife. The RSPB have announced that this winter is a record year for starlings down on the Levels. One enormous flock has just flown over the house, darkening the whole sky for a few moments. It was almost as mind-blowing as a full eclipse! The Mowbarton Shepherd's Hut would make an ideal roosting spot for couples who would like a weekend's bird-watching. And if you make it the weekend of 16/17 January, you can also pop down to Roger Wilkins for Wassailing night!
CHRISTMAS on the horizon and you haven't a clue what to give your other half? Or your grown up children? Or your empty nest parents? Well why not consider a voucher for a couple of nights in our gorgeous Shepherd's Hut? The current price is £70 per night but this is bound to rise when the spring arrives (lambs, primroses, warmer evenings on the terrace). Vouchers bought at today's price are valid for six months so some lucky recipient will be getting a bargain. Ring or send an email to find out more...
It is a long time since I updated this page; in fact we are now well into NOVEMBER. I'm afraid the blue skies have turned to ash and we have had some wet and windy weather here for the past couple of days. It's cleared now though and the clouds are fluffy and white, tinged with pink as the sun begins to set in time for the long dark evening ahead. Time to bring in the logs and light the fire which is what I imagine they will be doing across the lane in the Shepherd's Hut. We are delighted to welcome our first ever guests this weekend and hope they enjoyed their first night there as much as we enjoyed getting home late and seeing the lights on in the Hut for the first time. It did look cosy!
It has taken a little longer than anticipated to make the whole site as pretty as we wanted, but it has been worth the wait. The new grass is growing unbelievably fast, the rhododendron hedge is flourishing and the two exterior street lights (echoes of Narnia) add the finishing touch, as well as making access up the steps safe and simple. Sadly the wait has meant we've had to turn a couple of potential guests away in the past weeks - but please do try again!
Mudgley: The Land where Apples Grow!
The most glorious start to OCTOBER anyone could imagine. We have had weeks of beautiful weather: cloudless blue skies, brilliant red sunsets, a huge moon. Blackberries, apples, pears, quinces, figs - and of course grapes. Not in the proper vineyard yet (fingers crossed for 2016) but on the archway leading into the Barn's garden, and all along our own west-facing wall. Last month I hesitated to claim full kinship with the The Land where Lemons Grow by Helena Attlee but now I feel the Mudgley climate and resulting fruit harvest can hold its own! Helena's book is such a wonderfully rich description of the history of citrus, it really makes your mouth water, although I was somewhat taken aback by the recipe for Tortoise Pie! Not sure what Richard Kerridge would make of that. He is also coming to Wells this month to explain his love of amphibians. I am looking forward to that. In fact I am looking forward to all sorts of events at the Wells Festival of Literature - and there are all sorts on offer: fiction, politics, history, poetry, performance, biography, drama, science, lifestyle... One that looks especially interesting is John Lanchester on How to Speak Money. Having just rather lavishly furnished the Mowbarton Shepherd's Hut, that's a language I certainly should be learning...
I was shocked to find SEPTEMBER has already started! The Wells Festival of Literature is attracting a great deal of interest both locally and further afield. Mowbarton is delighted to be part of it and very proud to be sponsoring Helena Attlee (1.30pm Saturday 10 October). Her book The Land where Lemons Grow tells the story of Italy and its citrus fruit. Although Mowbarton can't claim twinship with those southern climes quite yet, we do have plenty of lavender, a fig tree (figs already ripe and edible), a couple of prolific vines, plus of course our very own vineyard up the lane!
One Festival event - Mary Berry - has sold out, but there are plenty of other great speakers to see and hear during the week. I'm afraid that the Barn is already booked for almost the entire Festival although I could squeeze in anyone who would like to attend an event between Tuesday and Friday. Speakers then include Anne de Courcy, Jonathan Bate, Michael Bundock , Richard Kerridge, Zoe Williams, Lady Jane Wellesley, Roger Saul, AN Wilson - the list goes on.
The good news for prospective guests of course is that the our Shepherd's Hut will be available to rent by then. It sleeps two in secluded luxury - and for just £70 a night during our three-month 'guinea pig' period. I have been busy choosing a kettle, crockery, bed linen, cushions; Arthur and Adrian (see below) have been busy landscaping. Contact us now to find out full details and availability.
Mowbarton Shepherd's Hut: The Grand Arrival
Here it is - our exciting new venture. Huge thanks to Arthur and Adrian who have made everything ready for the big arrival. There's still some landscaping and beautifying of the site to be done. But it's pretty nice already - and you can see what it will be like when the grass has re-grown. And also big thanks to everyone at Blackdown Shepherd Huts in Ilminster who created the Hut specially for us (you should see the amazing finish and the brilliant bed that swings up from the table...) and then delivered it so efficiently - bang on time.
What a busy month AUGUST has been so far and there's still a week to run. We have had full house in the Barn this month and we have also been working flat out to get the land across the lane ready for the arrival of the Mowbarton Shepherd's Hut. When I say 'we' have been working flat out, I really mean Adrian and Arthur who have done sterling work through some pretty scorching weather. The whole area has been transformed and is just waiting for the grand arrival on Thursday 27 August. We're offering special guinea pig rates during the first three months: £70 a night. Let us know if you are interested in taking advantage of this special deal...
The month of AUGUST began (as it usually does!) with my birthday. A nice warm day, if a little windy. We went for a walk at Ham Wall but most of the birds seemed to have been blown away although there were still a number of very serious birdwatchers out and about. The size of some of those lenses is phenomenal! We then had an excellent lunch (with local cider) at the Ring o' Bells in Ashcott and promised them we would recommend the pub to our guests - as we certainly do. In the evening we had dinner at the Pig near Bath, somewhere I have wanted to go for some time. It's a bit of a drive (40 mins), but a very pleasant one, especially on a summer's evening, and well worth it when you get there. The menu is full of different and quirky dishes - delicious. Plus it was full of life and buzzing, and in a beautiful location. It was good to get away for a while as life has been incredibly busy here recently, mainly in preparation for the arrival of the Shepherd's Hut. The land across the lane has been dug up and filled in, dug up and filled in, for water, electricity, drainage... Thank goodness we are not building a block of flats. Pictures will follow when the landscaping starts in earnest - and then I will start taking bookings. So keep an eye on the website.
JULY. The Wedmore Arts Festival got off to a cracking start on Friday 3 July with a sensational evening of jazz brought to us by Clare Teal and Edward Leaker's Swing Jazz Orchestra. Carmen opened on 8 July in a magnificent big-top style tent on the edge of Wedmore. It's unbelievable that so many big names converged on the relatively small village of Wedmore for the week-long Festival. I imagine it's a bit like living in Edinburgh!
Our own equally exciting news is that we have been given planning permission to put a Shepherd's Hut (rather like the one opposite)on our extra land across the lane. The Mowbarton Shepherd's Hut! We now have to get electricity, water and drainage over there - but it is all in hand and we hope to have everything ready for guests (it sleeps two) by September, just in time for the Theale Flower Show on 5 September, the Wedmore Real Ale Festival from 18 - 21 September.
A Shepherd's Hut very similar to the one that will soon be arriving at Mowbarton, courtesy of Blackdown Shepherd Huts! Watch this space...
STOP PRESS! STOP PRESS!
It has just been confirmed that Joanna Trollope is appearing at the Wedmore Arts Festival on 9 July and will be interviewed by Francine Stock. I am really looking forward to it as they are both such big names in their fields. I have heard Joanna speak before and, unlike some writers, she is actually a good public speaker - as well as being a best-selling novelist! The Festival has attracted some well-known names for 2015, including Marcus Brigstocke, Clare Teal and Ben Thapa (who is Don Jose in Carmen), plus of course Carmen herself aka Marie Elliott. I'm afraid the Barn has now been booked for that week. Speed was of the essence!
MONDAY 11 MAY was SOMERSET DAY! The morning started a little grey and cold but got better and better with more and more sunshine to celebrate this very special day. To celebrate we took delivery of a brand new garden table and eight chairs for the Barn terrace (see the Home page). One of our guests wrote in the visitors' book: "If there's anything that would make staying at Mowbarton Barn better, I can't imagine what it might be..." Perhaps it will prove to be this civilised new outdoor dining area!
I went to a rehearsal of Wedmore Opera's Carmen last night. No I won't be singing or dancing, but I am helping with publicity. It looks as though it is going to be quite a performance and yesterday soloists took over the Wedmore Village Hall before the weekly Chorus rehearsal began. Carmen is the main event at the week-long Wedmore Arts Festival which starts on Friday 3 July. You can find out more on the Wedmore Opera website; there are going to be some pretty big names in the village that week and it so happens we have some availability in the Barn ...
Went for a sunset stroll at Ebbor Gorge yesterday (see pic on left). The wood anemones were plentiful and there are still plenty of clumps of primroses everywhere. It looks as though the bluebells will be out in the next few weeks too. But the fact that the trees are still bare meant the views across the gorge were spectacular. The sun has returned to Somerset (it usually does!) and we have enjoyed some glorious weather this week. The sheep are all back in our field, the swallows have returned and are busy checking out the sheds to see if they can find last year's nesting spots. Our fish have also re-emerged from the murky depths of the 'lake'. They seem to have grown enormously over winter. Plus a couple of great tits have been investigating a hole in the wall opposite our kitchen. No twigs taken in as yet; they probably have a few outstanding questions for the estate agents... Watch this space. I have plans to set my camera up in a hidden spot and practise taking wonderful nature shots.
As for nature - what an amazing year it's been for blossom...
APRIL FOOLS DAY! Sitting at the computer looking out at the unfurling leaves and budding blossom, with a backdrop of sunshine, blue sky and scudding white clouds, I was about to report that Spring has arrived in all its April glory. What a fool...! Stepping outside to hang up the washing, I quickly changed my mind. The wind is biting and it's already bitten off most of Mowbarton's beautifully shocking pink magnolia blossom which emerged last week. But it can't last for ever, especially as there are so many other signs of spring around.
Talking of climate - Mowbarton Barn has now gone officially green and taken on eco credentials. We had solar panels installed on the roof last week and are surprisingly pleased with how they look: discreet and not visible from the lane. During daylight hours (and there are plenty of them at the moment) we are enjoying watching the electricity meter going backwards...
The first proper weekend in MARCH has been wonderful. It really seems as though Spring has arrived. We have spent most of the weekend on our new piece of land across the lane, cutting down brambles and clearing the rubble. It is at last beginning to look more civilised although we intend to leave most of it in its natural state to encourage wildlife; but at least now you can get on to it! It will provide a beautiful additional area for our guests' children to play in, and there's a lovely corner at the top which will make a perfect picnic place with sensational views. All it needs now is a bench, or perhaps a summer house. We are also considering having a shepherd's hut on the land as an extra romantic get-away for couples. Keep an eye on this website to see how plans are progressing. Apart from working across the lane, I've been picking primroses to dry for confetti for the November wedding...
MID FEBRUARY: I'm afraid the rain is bucketing down and it's blowing a gale up here on Mudgley Hill. So rather than trim the bay tree, I am updating the website; yesterday the weather was completely different. Glorious sunshine and in the evening the clearest sky imaginable. We went to the Westhay Nature Reserve to watch the sunset amongst the reeds and practise with my new camera, and were lucky enough to hear a bittern booming. It seems early in the year - other walkers also commented on it - and really is an amazing sound. Worth a visit if you haven't heard it. The night was full of stars and a newish moon, followed by early morning frost and sunshine - and then all hell broke loose (see above)!!
VALENTINE'S DAY already. Attended a book launch in nearby Blackford for a crime novel set in London, South Africa and Budleigh Salterton! Look the Other Way promises to be an exciting read and has re-inspired me to work on my novel - set entirely in Somerset... Still haven't had time to take many decent photos with the new camera, but this is one of the walk up Glastonbury Tor on New Year's Day - we plan to make it an annual tradition. Work is progressing on the land across the lane - just clearing the rubbish and rubble mainly for the time being and then laying some new turf. I am hoping to have a wildlife expert round soon to have a look at what we have and give some advice on how best to care for it all. We are also thinking about adding an eco house of some sort as an additional holiday let! That's a long way off right now though. Will keep you posted...
JANUARY 2015 IS HERE! HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OUR PAST GUESTS - AND OF COURSE THOSE TO COME. This corner of Mudgley was very busy over Christmas and the New Year, with guests making merry in Mowbarton Barn, and family celebrating in the farmhouse. Although the weather was not perfect every single day, it almost was. We enjoyed several spectacular sunsets, and the moon has also been very bright over the past week. My Christmas gift was a smart new camera. I am busy practising with it at the moment - so watch this space. I hope that soon our guests will stop saying that our pictures don't do the Barn justice; but don't hold your breath. Perfecting my technique may well take time...
I am not entirely sure where NOVEMBER went but I see that DECEMBER is now upon us! Mowbarton will be busy over Christmas and the New Year but there is still some last minute availability during the winter months. Have a look at the rates page for special seasonal deals. Birdwatchers - it's starling time again: at the moment our iconic flocks are performing their 'murmurations' in the skies all around us. Although the temperature has dropped and the leaves have fallen, the sun is shining in this part of Somerset, and we wake to the usual beautiful early morning mist on the moor which lifts during the day. Perfect bonfire weather luckily as we have plenty to burn. We have begun to clear a couple of extra acres across the lane and are still debating what to do with the land long term. Swimming pool? Tennis court? A holiday lodge? Wildflower meadow? Eco-centre? Ideas on a postcard please!
Now that OCTOBER is here, it is clear that autumn has well and truly arrived, and with it some days of rain and wind. There have still been some beautiful sunsets (ideally viewed from the large family bathroom in Mowbarton!) and patches of white mist lying on the moor, giving the area its wonderful magical look (bottom right). It's not surprising - we are on a ley line after all. The vine-covered archway leading into the Mowbarton 'secret garden' suffered in one gale so we had to take it down and prune the vine leaves back rather drastically. The grapes survived (top right).
This last week has been the Wells Literary Festival which attracted some wonderful speakers. It was held in the Bishop's Palace for the first time this year - a brilliant venue. The Palace is well worth a visit at any time of year but at the beginning of December they are holding a Winter Festival which looks great. Last year we went to Bruges for the Christmas Market there. But why travel all that way when you could stay in the comfort of Mowbarton Barn, relaxing beside the log-burning stove in the evening and popping over to the magical Palace at Wells during the day!
Working flat out in the garden and the vineyard (not to mention welcoming a steady stream of guests to the Barn) has made me rather late with this monthly update. But we are now well into SEPTEMBER and the vineyard has changed beyond all recognition. There is a new sturdy trellis for the vines to grow up - and to prevent the starlings taking next year's grapes. Last year I watched a flock empty the vine at the Barn grape by grape - we had already taken plenty for grape jelly so I didn't begrudge them. I might feel differently when it comes to our first bottles of wine though! We had professionals to do the original planting and the trellis work (Vineyard Solutions) but there is still plenty of potentially back-breaking, finger-numbing work to be done on a constant basis, weeding, spraying, clipping. I'm sure it will all be worth it. Everything else has been continuing to grow fast as well. I entered some roses in the local Theale Flower show and got a first and a second. Did quite well with my honey cake and homemade bread too. I try to leave one of my homemade loaves for barn guests when I have time - along with local cider, cheese and pickle! We've had a few balloons passing overhead recently - yet another local activity for our guests. A wonderful view of the Levels from up there I imagine, although it's not bad from where we are. The sheep certainly seem very content...
AUGUST has now arrived - but what an incredible July it has been! Glorious sunshine, magnificent sunsets, evenings sitting out late into the night. One group of guests discovered how close Mowbarton Barn is to several excellent gardens, and spent their stay flower- and plant-watching. Here are just a few of the local gardens they visited. East Lambrook , the Field of Dreams, Kilver Court Gardens, and the Gertrude Jekyll inspired gardens at Barrington Court. And that's not to mention our very own horticultural project - the fast-growing vineyard (see left)! Others preferred delving into the past. With so much history - myths, legends and facts - on our doorstep, that wasn't hard to do. There's Lytes Cary Manor, Muchelney Abbey, the site of the Battle of Sedgemoor, and we're just 45 minutes from Camelot! For special interest groups of any sort Mowbarton Barn is perfect: enjoy the trips out by day and gather round the fire to discuss your discoveries in the evening. (Yes, I'm afraid the nights are drawing in - but the logs are ordered!)
Our last guests of June were working (!) at the Festival but now it's JULY and the holiday season is upon us, so we hope visitors will be able to relax and enjoy the wonderful surroundings - and some wonderful weather. It looks promising at the moment The vines certainly seem to be thriving on the sunshine with leaves peeking out through the tops of their rabbit guards. Talking of which, the rabbits are thriving too - with a vengeance. Wedmore is currently decked out with bunting for the Street Fair, Wedmore Opera has its opening night of Dido and Aeneas on 9 July, Harvest Home is on 15 August and the Real Ale Festival starts on 19 September. In fact there's never a dull moment in this perfect corner of Somerset.
I am delighted to report that I have now heard the cuckoo on several occasions; also the bittern down in the Westhay Nature Reserve. The most exciting news, however, is that our vineyard has at last been planted. After several delays in the past weeks, we now have an acre consisting of 1250 vines. It sounds a lot but it's a small venture to start with - just to see how we get on. In fact, as you can see from the photo, it's not quite the South of France yet. But just watch this space...
Preparing the ground for the vines
They may not look like much at the moment . You wait!
I am sitting in the evening sun watching some stunning clouds on the horizon and deciding that perhaps summer has arrived. It is May Day after all.The winter rains seem to have worked some magic, and the wisteria on the Mowbarton stone walls is sensational this year. MAY - and the hedgerows are full of it! Everything is looking beautiful at the moment - even the rabbits are rather charming, as long as they don't get into the vegetable garden. And the sheep are back in our field to complete the picturesque scene. All I need now is to hear a cuckoo and I'll be perfectly happy. Last year I heard my first one on 20 April so it's a little late this year.
APRIL has brought plenty of activity. The Barn has been full of guests over the past couple of weeks, all of whom seem to have had a good time. "The house is beautiful, spacious and comfortable... We hope to return" was how our most recent visitors put it. Mind you, they also thoroughly enjoyed their visit to Roger Wilkins Cider Farm, so perhaps it was the cider talking...! Work on the vineyard continues and we hope the vines will be in before the end of April. A lot of preparation has gone into getting the land ready for them. The Spring and the warmer weather (a bit warmer!) has also meant more work in the garden: weeding, mowing, planting, hedge trimming. It all seems to come round faster and faster. I suppose that's the price we pay for living in such a rich, fertile part of the country. Let's just hope the vines appreciate it!
THE SPRING EQUINOX was celebrated at Mowbarton Barn with our second Yoga Retreat. A party of six, under the guidance of Jamie Heseltine, spent an enjoyable and revitalising weekend welcoming the start of Spring and the advent of longer days and shorter nights. The theme of opposites - dark and light, sun and shade, fire and water - was perfectly echoed by the weather which provided glorious sunshine followed by hailstorms; blustery winds followed by tranquil moments; cold blasts from the north and warmer rays from the south. A date for the next retreat is yet to be arranged. Watch this space!
MARCH has now arrived and, despite the showery rather blustery weather, there are definitely signs of Spring everywhere: daffodils and snowdrops in abundance, lambs in the fields and green buds appearing all over the place. If you are thinking about holidays, now is the time to book... The fields below us have eventually dried up and we no longer feel as though we are living on an island! During these last few weeks we have discovered precisely why this area is called the Isle of Wedmore.
After much debate, we have decided to plant a small vineyard in part of our field. The vine order has been confirmed, and planting is likely to begin any day now. Sadly, the grapes won't be ready to harvest for three years, but if you think a locally produced Mudgley wine might be your tipple, why not consider booking the Barn for 2017?! If you scroll down to the September page, you will see how grapes on our land can thrive.
At the end of February there was much talk about the 'Northern Lights' in the press; as far as I'm concerned, a typical Mudgley sunset, viewed from our wonderful vantage point on the hill, puts everything else to shame...
I don't know where January went but we seem to have arrived in FEBRUARY without any warning. Charlie and Ivan have been touching up the paintwork in the Barn and fixing some of the wear and tear it's experienced over the past months. So everything is spick and span for the Spring when - and if - it arrives. Some of the fields beneath us are still covered with water, although some have dried out; and we are several miles from the worst affected areas of the Levels so have not suffered in the floods.
Last month we had the second of our 'special interest' groups staying - they wanted some rest, relaxation and pampering! Wells-based beauty therapist, Claire, came to the Barn to give them all individual treatments which was a great success. Claire can be booked in advance; please ask.
We are now preparing for an Equinox Yoga Retreat (21- 23 March). The Milking Parlour, pictured left, is where the Yoga practice takes place. It's available as an extra for Barn tenants and is a useful, adaptable space with its own small kitchen and loo. Do contact us for more information.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
JANUARY is here and we will soon be celebrating Mowbarton's first birthday as a holiday let. Our first guests are hoping to return for February half term; it will be nice to see them again. The last few days of December brought some ridiculous extremes of weather: one day we were enjoying a lovely walk along beautiful sandy Brean beach, taking pictures of a glorious sunset; the next day we were battening down the shutters as wind and rain stormed across the Levels. It's very pleasant as I write now although, as you will have heard on the News and can see from the pictures, the Levels have suffered from very heavy flooding over the past weeks. Up here on our hill though, we are well away from the water; it sometimes feels as though we are on an island. Or living by the coast!
January is wassailing time in Somerset so there will be plenty of cider drunk. There are many different local events. Here's just a couple: Highbridge; The Rural Life Museum at Glastonbury; and of course just down the road at Roger Wilkins.
We saw 2014 in with some of Roger's cider - hot and mulled - and watched the fireworks light the sky all the way round us from Glastonbury to Burnham. Quite an impressive sight!
DECEMBER has got off to a good start with plenty of activity at the Barn and some glorious winter weather (plus some not quite so pleasant rain!) The second weekend saw our first ever Yoga Retreat which focused on preparation for the Winter Solstice. Watching the sun rise over Glastonbury Tor on the second day made the experience complete. Using the Barn for this special interest group activity proved what an excellent location it is for events such as this. 'Yogis' were able to relax in the Barn beside the cosy log-burning stove in between practice sessions; the large kitchen made a perfect gathering place to share meals or a cup of herbal tea; and everyone enjoyed the trip to nearby Wedmore for the Saturday evening celebration. Yoga practices took place next door in the former milking parlour, a large airy space with stunning views both east and west - perfect to witness the sun as it rose, and as it set.
After Christmas we are looking forward to welcoming once again a group who were one of our first bookings when we opened at Easter this year. They have decided to return to Mowbarton to celebrate post-Christmas and the New Year. A perfect choice!
October was a very busy month at Mowbarton; NOVEMBER looks set to be slightly quieter (although I took another last minute booking only yesterday and am getting enquiries every day!). This means we should have time to get ready for our first ever Yoga Retreat, led by Jamie Heseltine. The Retreat will take place from 6 - 8 December and will focus on preparation for the Winter Solstice. What better place to meditate and practise yoga than within sight of the mystical Glastonbury Tor? There are still a couple of places available. For more information, email
One of the big items of local news recently was the recruitment of a new witch at Wookey Hole Caves - in time for Halloween of course! Wookey is ten minutes by car from Mowbarton so an absolute must for guests.
November began with a flurry of wind and rain but they say it won't last - fingers crossed! This month is Carnival month in Somerset so there was plenty going on in the area. The Carnival season ended at Glastonbury with one of the most spectacular parades ever. Carnival week is growing in poularity year by year so it may be worth booking ahead for 2014.
We have seen our first 'murmuration' of starlings down on the Levels - and of course the leaves are beginning to turn (see below).
It is hard to believe that OCTOBER is here already and yet we have just enjoyed a beautiful sunny weekend in Mudgley. Plenty of blackberries and apple for crumble and we also made spiced apple jelly and grape jam (see September's picture!) The grapes ripened to a glorious deep purple and the resulting jam is the richest, most mouth-watering colour ever. It tastes delicious too! Despite the recent sunshine, autumn is definitely on its way. The hedgerows are all turning; the rosehips and sloes are appearing; the swallows, sadly, have left. Some of them had three broods in the outhouses around Mowbarton, so there was plenty of activity in the week before they disappeared; desperately practising flying for the long journey south, no doubt. We will miss them.
The annual Somerset Art Weeks Festival is running at the moment, with plenty of wonderful works to view in the surrounding area. And in a couple of weeks it will be time for the Wells Food Festival, a celebration of all the delicious local produce we enjoy in this part of Somerset. Which reminds me - the sheep are back in our field enjoying the luscious grass which has come back to life with a vengeance after the dry weeks of June and July.
I am also planning to attend several talks at the Wells Literary Festival which runs during the middle of October. There are some fascinating speakers and topics this year; if you are a member of a book group, Mowbarton would be the ideal place to stay during the festival. You could attend some talks during the day and then discuss what you've heard round a blazing fire in the evening!
Finally, although it seems a long way off, we have already taken a booking for one of the famous Somerset carnivals which happen in November. Be warned! They are very popular.
Now that it is SEPTEMBER we are again enjoying wonderful weather in this part of Somerset. Beautiful mornings with a mist lying over the Levels, through which Glastonbury Tor can be seen. Then the mist evaporates and it's another glorious day! When you arrive at Mowbarton, you open a gate into the walled garden and walk through a tunnel of vine and jasmine. Both have run riot this summer and the grapes look splendid. Whether they will ripen before the birds have them is another matter. Some of them are very well hidden, so I am quite hopeful.
A couple of weeks ago we enjoyed the Wedmore Harvest Home - a local tradition which is great fun, especially when the sun is shining as it was that day. But the summer activities here are by no means over. The Theale Flower Show attracts plenty of entries, not just flowers and vegetables. I am debating whether to risk entering a ginger cake! (STOP PRESS - Ginger cake 'Highly Recommended') And then a couple of weeks later it's the Wedmore Real Ale Festival. There's certainly never time to get bored living here.
Enquiries for next year are coming in and we feel we've got off to a good start during our first season, attracting guests from all over the world. We had two families from France during August, and we have guests from New Zealand and Canada due in September.
July was glorious in Mudgley, if rather dry. AUGUST has brought the rain - with a vengeance! At least the grass is green again now and the flowers, some of which looked very sorry for themselves, are flourishing.
The house itself of course remains wind- and water-tight! There's also plenty of living space (plus TV, DVDs, board games, books) and with four separate living room as well as the large farmhouse kitchen, even the largest groups can enjoy their own space. What's more, the south and west facing sun room attracts whatever sunshine there is: summer seems to last longer in Mowbarton...