7 great reasons to live in... Bridgwater

PUBLISHED: 14:01 10 January 2011 | UPDATED: 17:54 20 February 2013

7 great reasons to live in… Bridgwater

7 great reasons to live in… Bridgwater

Diane Scully discovers a town alive with carnival spirit to rival Rio and revels in its rich industrial heritage trails

Bridgwater is a river port town standing on the banks of the River Parrett, with a rich industrial past and its prosperity bound tightly with the docks, river and shipping. The local clay soil was ideal for brick production and huge volumes were exported worldwide, necessitating the construction of the docks and canal. The architecture also reveals its prosperous past Castle Street is one of the finest streets in Somerset, pre-dating Baths domestic 18th-century buildings. Today the towns distinctive character is augmented by the people who cant help strutting their stuff as one put it, we have glitter in our blood!

I really like the Heritage Trail as its great for kids to look out for the blue plaques.
Marie Marsh, Customer Services Officer, Sedgemoor Council

7 The Battle of Sedgemoor
A fascinating story of ordinary people being motivated to take up arms to fight for what they believed, The Battle of Sedgemoor was fought on the moors on the edge of Westonzoyland in 1685. Against a background of discontent, Protestant James Scott,
the Duke of Monmouth, attempted to overthrow Catholic King James II, as he felt he was the rightful successor to the throne. He returned from exile in Holland, pushed through to Westonzoyland where the Kings army were camped and with his untrained rebel army, mounted a surprise attack. On the battlefield 300 rebels and 200 Royalists were killed, but as they fled more than 1,000 rebels were killed and 320 were executed. You can visit the site and learn more about this last battle fought on English soil.
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Getting there

By car: Leave the M5 at Junction 23 or 24 and follow the signs to Bridgwater
By rail: Bridgwater railway station is a short walk from the town centre
By bus: Local bus services to Taunton, Weston-super-Mare and other places round about
Tourist Information Centre: Bridgwater House, King Square, Bridgwater, Somerset; tel 01278 436438
Satnav ref: TA6 3AR (Tourist Information Centre)

1 Bridgwater Carnival
For 405 years, since the failure of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, the towns celebrations have grown into the largest illuminated parade in the world. For many Bridgwater people who spend the entire year fundraising and building the ever-more spectacular carts, the carnival is the most important part of living in Bridgwater. The tradition started with townsfolk spending the evening of 5 November around a massive bonfire, dressed in costumes and masks and burning effigies. It was an evening of enthusiastic merrymaking and still is! Now, more than 60 carts, some reaching 30 metres (100ft) long and almost 5m (16ft) high, wind their way along Bridgwaters streets, illuminated by thousands of lights. The spectacular Bridgwater squibs round off the carnival. Starts at 7pm on 5 November. Visit www.bridgwatercarnival.org.uk for further information.

We love the nightlife and the river is perfect for walking Cooper, the dog.
Sally Knight and David Last

2 Arts Centre
Bridgwater Arts Centre was opened in 1946 with the help of local patron Gwen Pollard, who recognised the need for an arts centre in the town. Financial help came from the newly set up Arts Council and Bridgwater became the first town in the country to have a financially supported arts centre.
It was recently successful in a bid for funding from Peoples Millions, which has allowed for a facelift in time for an exciting autumn programme of music, dance and films. Scheduled for October are Australian singer/songwriter Chloe Hall, six-piece soul band Four Bills and a Ben, Banksys teasing documentary Exit through the Gift Shop and David Hughes Dance Company, plus many other tantalising shows. The centre also runs art exhibitions and offers all kinds of classes for adults and kids to flex their creative muscles.

3 Bridgwater Heritage Trails
A fun way to appreciate Bridgwaters rich history is by taking the heritage trails. Three walks have been devised and a guide published so you can follow the routes around the town and look out for the blue plaques, which have been placed in 23 locations. The walks will take you through medieval street patterns, explain the strange Green Men sculptures at St Marys church, point out where the meat market once was and reveal the origins of street names such as Penel Orlieu and Dampier. In true Bridgwater style theres also the unique Castle House which has been unloved for many years but is as historically important as it is strange! It was constructed to showcase a new invention Portland cement.

4 Willow Man
Reaching a magnificent 12m tall, in a striding pose and positioned in a field alongside the M5 near Bridgwater stands the Willow Man. Since its construction in 2000 it has become a well-loved symbol of Somerset and the Levels where the willow industry has its heritage. The statue took four weeks to weave onto a steel framework and uses black maul willow. Willow sculptures are a deeply embedded tradition in the country the Druids are recorded as using them to pay tribute to their gods and in Kirkcudbright theres a new annual Wickerman festival. Despite Somersets willow man being burnt down in 2001 due to vandalism, it was rapidly rebuilt due to local and national support. It was intended as temporary but public affection has elevated it to a
permanent monument.

I like the fact that Bridgwater is a very energetic and
raucous town.
Pat Morley, Chair of Visual Arts Team, Bridgwater Arts Centre

5 Museums
Bridgwaters heritage is all around, but the town also boasts two museums. The quirky Brick and Tile Museum on East Quay explains the growth of the industry and its decline. The remaining kiln at the site was last fired in 1965; it was due to be demolished but was saved and is now protected. Demonstrations show how the bricks and tiles were made, giving this part of Somerset its distinctive look, and you can make your own tile.
The Blake Museums many interesting artefacts reveal the key events and lives of those who have shaped the town. This includes Robert Blake, soldier in the Civil War, then Naval Commander. Find out why Nelson said of Bridgwaters most famous son, I shall never be the equal of Blake!

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