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Village Life: Holford

PUBLISHED: 09:52 22 January 2019

The pretty village has twisting lanes lined with stone walls (c) Mike Richardson

The pretty village has twisting lanes lined with stone walls (c) Mike Richardson

Mike Richardson

In our special series Andrea Cowan takes a look at village life in Somerset. This month she visits Holford...

Holford is a small village in West Somerset sitting at the foot of the Quantock Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, through which the River Holford runs as it flows to the sea at Kilve.

The A39 from Bridgwater cuts through the village, with the newer part on the right and older part on the left. Bear off left at the local pub, The Plough Inn, and you’ll be in for a real treat. This area is a walkers’ paradise so the best way to explore it is to park the car and set off on foot.

The narrow and twisting lanes are lined with stone walls and beautiful houses and cottages of mixed styles. There has been a settlement in Holford since the Iron Age, but it was during the 16th century that it really began to thrive when a flourishing textile industry utilised the fast flowing river. A remnant of this prosperous time is the ruin of a Huguenot silk factory nestling in Holford Glen. Just round the corner next to the village car park, is the ‘bowling green’ where the French Protestants played their traditional game of boules.

Combe House Hotel is on the site of the village tannery and mill. The original water wheel was replaced in 1892 with the existing wheel, the largest of its type in Somerset, which was still in use until the early 1960s. It is a lovely destination hotel and worthy of its slogan ‘Somerset’s Best Kept Secret’. This would be an ideal base for walking in the Quantock Hills, perhaps following in the footsteps of William Wordsworth and his sister who lived at Alfoxden Hall from July 1797 to June 1798 and regularly joined their friend Coleridge on rambles across the hills.

Alfoxden Hall, although now empty, is worth exploring along with further buildings of note including an ancient dog pound and the pretty 13th century church, St Marys the Virgin, which is now designated as a Grade II-listed building.

Sadly there are few modern day facilities left – the nearest shops and schools are two or three miles away - but, as with so many Somerset villages, there is a great sense of community. The 40-year-old village hall which lies on the north side of the A39 is currently undergoing a major refurbishment following the securement of £580,000 in grants and fundraising. It will also provide parking for the popular cricket club next door. The hall’s committee surveyed the residents to find out what they wanted for the hall. As a result, when it re-opens in May, the plan is to hold a monthly evening of music or theatre, in addition to the usual clubs and societies. Yet another reason to visit!

Did you know...?

Holford Glen, with the silk factory ruin, was the setting for the video of Bryan Adams’ hit song (Everything I Do) I Do It For You.

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