Bristol is a fantastic city, it has everything that you could need along with being closely located to some areas of outstanding natural beauty and quaint old towns. One weekend we decided, with the help of my parents and their car, to explore some of these towns a bit. After studying a map we decided on lunch in Frome and then on to Wells to explore the Cathedral.
Frome is the original Somerset market town and was once a hugely important destination holding a thriving market, it is even referenced in the Doomsday Book.
It is a lovely small town. We started by walking up the cobbled streets of Catherine Hill and then onto Cheap Street looking for somewhere to eat. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea and as a group of four, we struggled to find anywhere to eat. Nevermind, we thought, and just enjoyed the walk instead. Catherine Hill is a steep cobbled street lined with small boutique shops. It’s incredibly pretty, but honestly, most of these shops weren’t to my taste so I just enjoyed a bit of window shopping. This street was actually once the main streets into the town of Frome.
Cheap Street is also pretty but in a totally different way, gone were the cobbles replaced by a leat running down the street which carries water from the stream beneath the nearby St Johns Church. I wasn’t expecting to find running water down a street, it was bizarre but fantastic to see. A leat is an artificial watercourse or aqueduct dug into the ground. Or in this case through the middle of the street! I can only imagine how many people have tripped and fallen due to that small ditch.
We next took the short drive to Wells to explore the Cathedral and the Bishops Garden. I had read and seen lots of the Cathedral and its beauty and I can assure you that it was all correct. Wells has been described as one of the most beautiful and most poetic of English Cathedrals. This is an architecturally magnificent building from both the outside and the inside. We decided to take a stroll around inside, it is technically free to enter, however, they do ask for a suggested donation.
Now you’ll have to excuse my ignorance at describing the inside of the Cathedral, my knowledge of church terms is very limited. Basically, when you step inside you first come across the cloisters and you turn left to enter the main chapel area of the Cathedral. This room is breath-taking. It is so beautiful, it always blows my mind how they built such intricate and precise designs all those years ago. We rely so much on technology for these things now, the architects of that time were geniuses.
One of the main things you notice after the roof is the Wells Cathedral clock which is actually an astronomical clock dating back to around 1325. It is believed to be the second-oldest surviving clock in England after the Salisbury Cathedral clock. The clock has its original medieval face and shows the time along with the motion of the Sun and Moon, phases of the Moon and the time since the last new Moon.
We had a good mooch around and I got to stroke the cathedral cat (bonus!) before heading out of here and popping around the corner for a look at The Bishops Palace. This is actually famously where the wells of Wells are located which I didn’t realise until we bought our tickets. The gardens are massive but easily navigated, just make sure to allow a bit of time to really explore. The man at reception who sold us our tickets gave us a suggested tour itinerary as we had turned up near the end of the day and he wanted to ensure we saw all the best bits within the remaining opening hours. The gardens are lovely, there are lots of little areas to enjoy. We timed our visit with the onset of Autumn and the colours we saw throughout were stunning.
There are some buildings you can go inside here and a small chapel. The vicar actually still resides in this area so some of it is out of bounds. The Bishops Palace is surrounded by a water moat which famously is the home of a family of swans. These are mute swans and they have been trained in the past to ring bells by pulling strings to beg for food. They were first introduced to the Palace around 1870.
If you are ever in this part of the country I highly recommend a visit to Wells and Frome. They are your quintessential English towns and are steeped in so much history, too much to fit into one blog post, so go visit and soak up some English heritage.