Stepping out in Yeovil
PUBLISHED: 17:18 29 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:38 20 February 2013
From its glove-making heritage to its diverse shopping, and from its wonderful walks to its sports facilities, the historic town of Yeovil has the heart of the country and the mind of a city. Words and photos by Neville Stanikk
Yeovils been there for a long time, since the Stone Age in fact. In that time its name has been spelled 67 different ways (starting with Gifle in AD 880), it has burned down and plague has wiped out half the population. Its been the central market town for South Somerset, a nationally famed centre for glove-making, the target of German bombers during the Second World War because of its aircraft factories, a sometime home for Ian Botham, and its still going strong with a bustling town centre and its aviation industry intact in the shape of Westland Augusta, the towns largest employer.
Get off to a good start
If you get to Yeovil early, walk up Summerhouse Hill, look north east and youll see a view divided neatly in two, with solid Yeovil on the left and clear rolling countryside on the right. Its quite a contrast and a fairly neat illustration of Yeovils slogan: The heart of the country, the mind of a city. Note the industry but wander into the town and find people relaxing in the sunshine on benches and on the grass of The Beach, as the parish churchyard is known locally.
The best things about Yeovil are the woodland areas and the good variety of shops. On a sunny day its a very nice place to be and its improving all the time, especially with the new leisure complex.
Tim Bird, Traffic Officer with the Highways Agency
Why visit now?
Yeovil is a town with a lot of greenery and it prides itself on its flowers but while youre there to have a look around, bear in mind that its got its new Yeo Leisure Park, with gyms, restaurants and cinemas. The towns two theatres are well regarded and offer top-quality drama, music, dance and entertainment. The Swan Theatre will be putting on the play Sextet by Michael Pertwee in September, and the Octagon Theatre will be hosting, amongst various productions, Lesley Garrett in July and a production of Romeo and Juliet in September.
There are a lot of historic buildings in Yeovil and Id wholeheartedly recommend following the town councils Historic Plaque Trail around the town but make sure you end up at St Johns parish church in the centre, and be impressed by not only the church itself but by the fact that nearly every window in it is filled with beautifully crafted stained glass.
For anyone with children, you must visit Yeovil Recreation Centres Flagship Playspace, where the slides are built into giant skulls and dragons and there are enough rope bridges and other adventuresome bits and pieces to keep children occupied for hours. And while youre there, marvel at the Athletics Arena and ponder, as I did, just how a small town like Yeovil acquired something that a lot of cities dont have. It must be that mind of a city idea in action.
The Octagon Theatre is Yeovils greatest asset, because it has so many different types of events. I like the town centre and the high street because of the variety of shops. If I have visitors, I take them up Wyndham Hill to see the view.
Jessica Vale, Museum Curator (though not in Yeovil)
Everyone in Yeovil loves Yeovil Country Park. Its very evident that the locals treat it as their lungs and their countryside. The hills, woods, river and parks of the Country Park border Yeovils south-east side and provide a verdant boundary to the town. The highlight of the area must be Ninesprings, a Victorian landscaped garden wrapping itself round the hill and containing a string of clear ornamental ponds with paths, bridges, waterfalls and grottoes. The cascade reaches a lake at the bottom where the Goldenstones Pool stands a short distance away. Again, this wonderful recreational natural resource is huge for a town of Yeovils size and I think the locals know how lucky they are to have it. Its certainly been well and enjoyably used every time Ive been there.
Yeovil has something for everyone. It has its heritage, its shops, its walking and its sports, especially Yeovil Town football team. It has lovely restaurants and the Country Park.
Justine Parton, Supervisor, Yeovil TIC
Enjoy the view
If youre visiting Yeovil, just make a short detour south to the village of Barwick where youll find the folly, Jack the Treacle Eater, a rough stone arch surmounted by a round tower, in turn surmounted by a winged Mercury figure. The locals decided that the figure represented Jack, a local runner/courier who, it was claimed, kept fit on treacle. Whatever the truth, its a symbol of Yeovil and a curiosity worth seeing for its own sake.