7 great reasons to live in... Chard
PUBLISHED: 09:47 22 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:19 20 February 2013
Follow the heritage trail or discover tranquillity in the surrounding countryside. Diane Scully revels in the beauty of this bustling market town
Chard is a traditional, bustling market town. Its attractive, unusually wide high street is flanked by little streams which run alongside the pavements, and some handsome buildings, many of which were built by wealthy clothiers. Its a town with a rich history of agriculture, cloth and lace, and the economy today is still centred on manufacturing. Its also a town where individuals made their mark on history. Most celebrated are John Stringfellow, James Gillingham and Margaret Grace, who all broke new ground in their field. The town is surrounded by beautiful countryside and has numerous places of interest within easy reach including the coast.
1 Chard Reservoir
A stones throw from the town is Chard Reservoir. Its a peaceful haven, surrounded by a mix of meadows and woodland that provides a natural habitat for a wide range of birds, butterflies, mammals and wild flowers. It was originally built in 1842 to supply water to the canal until the arrival of the railway. The council has owned it since 1990 and created this wonderful reserve, which the people of Chard cherish. The paths wind through woodland, meadows and reed beds with lovely views of open water, where you may see little egrets, kingfishers, grebes and cormorants. If theyre elusive, visit the bird hide, where you could be rewarded with good sightings and watch huge carp jumping. You can also fish under licence from Chard Angling Club.
I really like the nature reserve; were really lucky to have a good museum its fantastic and I like looking above the shop fronts at the historic buildings.
John Mingay, Musician
2 Forde Abbey and Gardens
Founded by Cistercian monks over 800 years ago it became one of the richest and most learned monasteries in the country. Today its a well preserved family-run estate, with each period of its history visible, so you can visit both the monastic and the later state rooms. Their names conjure the grandeur of a bygone age: The Bentham Room, The Upper Refectory, The Prideaux Rooms, and The Oak Room dominated by a massive four-poster bed, and a must-see are the celebrated Mortlake Tapestries in the Saloon. The originals were made for the Sistine Chapel. After visiting the house you can lose yourself in the magnificent award-winning landscaped gardens, with lakes and ponds giving it year-round interest. The traditional kitchen garden provides produce for the house and restaurant. Snowdrop Weekend is 4-6 February
3 Barleymows Farm Shop and Restaurant
Three generations of the Burrough family work on their farm, growing and rearing top-class produce to sell in their farm shop across the road or to turn into delicious meals for the restaurant. They specialise in beef and lamb, which is properly hung and which they also supply to local restaurants and pubs. In addition, 400 free-range hens happily peck around the farm, laying enough eggs for the shop and restaurant. The shop stocks an ever-growing range of home-made goods, such as lamb puffs, chicken parcels, sausages, faggots and pies. The restaurant opens at 8.30am to entice in all those hungry enough to tackle the Somerset Breakfast, although it is available all day, and their Sunday lunches draw people from miles around.
I think the town is very friendly and I particularly like the coffee shops and places to eat. Its also near the coast, and Taunton and Yeovil for bigger shops.
Jill Le Cocq, Volunteer at TIC
4 Spillers Kitchen Centre
If you love all things culinary, this unique 12,000 square foot kitchen destination located just to the north of Chard attracts visitors from all over Southern England, not least because many of the appliances displayed in the dozens of beautiful real kitchen room settings, are actually live. Its not unusual to be greeted by the wonderful smell of fresh bread or delicious cakes, all cooked on the various products through the showroom. Regular Open Days and informative cookery demonstrations take place throughout the year on lots of different appliances, including Aga, Rangemaster, Siemens, AEG, Miele, Everhot, Wolf and Rayburn.
To find out about forthcoming events visit cookercentre.com. The proof of the pudding, as they say, is most definitely in the eating!
5 Chard Museum
Chard has a rich and fascinating history which prompted some enthusiasts from Chard History Group to campaign for a museum to celebrate the towns story. It finally opened in 1970 and has its roots in a collection of curiosities donated to the town council in 1880 by local man Arthur Hall but now covers cider making, local pottery, costumes, farm machinery, a Victorian kitchen and has exhibits of national importance. The stories of the early pioneer of powered flight, ex-bobbinmaker John Stringfellow, the development of good artificial limbs by bootmaker James Gillingham and the first woman to become part of the cabinet, Margaret Grace, are all told here. The museum is open from Easter to October, but will open at other times by prior arrangement.
I moved here three months ago and love it because I can just walk out the door and everything is right here.
Trisha Newman, Shopworker
6 Dillington House
Just seven miles from Chard is Dillington House. It dates back to the 16th century and since 1950 it has been Somerset County Councils residential centre for adult education, the arts and professional development. The courses offered range across subjects and study styles day courses, weekend study breaks or leisurely summer schools, and can be informal, purely practical or more academic. Most courses only require an enthusiasm for the subject. The programme is ever-changing and on offer in January is a typical eclectic mix including Hedgerow Basket Making, Researching your Family History, Grow Your Own Fruit and Mathematics and Astronomy in Ancient Egypt. Dillington House is also a great place for conferences, weddings and concerts. More information on courses and events from dillington.com
7 A Walk in Neroche
The northern ridge of the Blackdown Hills is a few miles from Chard and is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Neroche is the area from Culmstock Beacon in the west to Castle Neroche in the east, and is blessed with walking and horse riding trails, abundant wildlife and a rich historical landscape. Its special throughout the seasons and the Neroche Scheme (nerochescheme.org/index.php) has devised a series of waymarked walks to highlight some of the unique nature of the hills. Castle Neroche to Curland is four miles (6.4 kilometres) and circular, giving way to spectacular views en route. Starting at Castle Neroche, earthworks which were occupied in Neolithic times, it takes you through woodland, down to Curland village and back up to the castle.