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Ilminster: ‘Why we love our town’

PUBLISHED: 12:16 14 March 2017

St Marys Parish Church, Ilminster (c) Ian Woolcock / Shutterstock

St Marys Parish Church, Ilminster (c) Ian Woolcock / Shutterstock

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No one knows their town better than those who live there, so Clare Gladstone asks residents who tell us their favourite things about Ilminster

‘There is just so much to do’

Mike Lanigan, 69, lives in East Street and is an artist who exhibits his stone sculpture in The Arts Centre. He is also a member of The Warehouse Theatre where he performs and volunteers.

What is the best thing about Ilminster?

It’s really a combination of things. I volunteer and exhibit at The Arts Centre and I’m a member of The Warehouse Theatre and have performed in various productions. We don’t need the car unless we’re leaving town...! They say social interaction is the best way to avoid Alzheimer’s in later life. Well, in Ilminster, the opportunities to get involved in one activity or another are legion, from Pilates and weight watching classes to bowls and tennis, mosaic classes to theatre activities, and so on.

What you recommend visitors do while they’re in Ilminster?

I would recommend visitors wander around the town popping into the unique selection of independent shops, a major element of Ilminster’s appeal. They should visit F.east vegetarian restaurant for lunch - when we were there recently, two couples had travelled from Weymouth especially for lunch.

Book seats for a jazz concert (Fridays only) at The Arts Centre, now recognised as one of the region’s primary jazz venues, or book seats for one of the Concerts in the West, when in season. You could also visit the Arts Centre Gallery and café or book a day’s course at The Arts Centre.

Check The Warehouse Theatre website for forthcoming performances - the standard is very high – and wander up through the Dillington Estate and marvel at the Elizabethan house.

Mike Lanigan with some of sculptures Mike Lanigan with some of sculptures

‘It has a wonderful community spirit’

Ian Anderton, 73, lives in Summerlands Park Avenue, has lived in Ilminster since the 1970s and is one of the volunteers who helps organise the town’s Christmas lights and is the committee’s treasurer. He is also on the committee of the South Somerset Choral Society and stewards at their concerts.

What is the best thing about Ilminster?

It’s a relatively small town and perhaps due to that, lots of residents know each other and greet each other in the streets and people will greet others even though they may be strangers - it’s a very friendly town with a wonderful community spirit. The Christmas lights are considered to be the best in the surrounding area and in the summer there is the “Midsummer Experience”, both these events are run entirely by unpaid volunteers.

What you recommend visitors do while they’re in Ilminster?

Some of the points of interest are St Mary’s Church (The Minster), which is interesting even for non-worshippers, the Meeting House Arts Centre with its regularly changing exhibitions, its craft shop and café, and the great range of small, locally owned shops. There is even The Warehouse Theatre with plays, shows, pantomimes etc. For those with the energy, there are lots of countryside walks especially one which goes up Herne Hill where there is a terrific view of the whole of the town.

Ian Anderton with The Minster in the background Ian Anderton with The Minster in the background

‘The people are amazing’

Abigail Willis, 49, lives in Castle Cary but travels to work at the Ilminster Arts Centre.

What is the best thing about Ilminster?

It has to be the people. Ilminster is a friendly town, with a fantastic community spirit. Ilminster Arts Centre, where I work, is a perfect example - it is truly fuelled by ‘people power’. Our amazing volunteers are involved in everything from organising exhibitions and concerts, to welcoming visitors and helping in the café - if you’ve just moved to Ilminster volunteering at IAC is a great way of supporting a cherished local resource, while meeting a really nice bunch of people.

What you recommend visitors do while they’re in Ilminster?

A visit to the Arts Centre is essential! The Gallery stages a new exhibition every month so there is always something new to see, and if you are visiting by night, check our music programme - as well as hosting classical concerts, we’re a popular venue on the jazz scene too, attracting top players from around the world. Add in a pit-stop at our bustling Gallery Café, and you’ll be all set to explore the rest of Ilminster.

Abigail Willis at Ilminster Arts Centre Abigail Willis at Ilminster Arts Centre

While in Ilminster...

Go for the shopping

From an award-winning family butchers, a lavish florists shop and a number of places offering great gift ideas, Ilminster offers a very tempting array of independent shops.

Find huge jars of your favourite sweets just waiting to be weighed out at Sweet Surprise, enjoy a slice of pie from Silver Street Dairy or find the perfect joint for Sunday roast at Bonners butchers.

Take home something special from the arts and crafts on display at Ilminster Arts Centre, discover stunning potted plants from Cottage Flowers, find the perfect birthday gift at Frame of Mind or find something for him at Harrimans Menswear.

Grab a slice of pie from Silver Street Dairy Grab a slice of pie from Silver Street Dairy

Grab a bite to eat

When you’ve done enough shopping or sightseeing, head for one of the many lovely places to eat where you can relax and enjoy delicious food, with local produce taking pride of place on menus in the town.

Order a lavish lunch or afternoon cream tea at The Retreat brasserie, enjoy an elegant dinner at Celandines or discover vegetarian treats at F.east.

If you prefer a pub lunch then try The Dolphin, a traditional 16th century real ale pub right next to the Minster and one of our favourite dog-friendly pubs, or expect a friendly welcome at The George which has been praised for its ‘Olde worlde charm’.

The 16th century Dolphin pub The 16th century Dolphin pub

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