Yeovil: The perfect place for an active breakaway
PUBLISHED: 10:53 06 August 2019 | UPDATED: 09:45 08 August 2019
For those with an active lifestyle, there’s lots to do in the Somerset town
At this time of year the South Somerset landscape really comes into its own, and it's a perfect place for those looking for leisurely days out, whether visiting its many gardens, parks or country houses. Yet it's also ideal for those seeking more active pursuits, and that is particularly true of Yeovil. It is a town that has plenty of things to do, rather than just see, and thanks to large areas of green space, a number of nearby stations and plenty of quiet or traffic-free cycling opportunities you can easily get around under your own steam.
Planning a cycle route around Yeovil couldn't be easier. There are lots of cycle maps of the area available, including a fantastic 129km (80-mile) South Somerset route which, thankfully, is broken down into eight easy-to-follow-stages. Its route passes just below Yeovil between Montacute and Sherbourne, and brown south Somerset cycle route signs have been installed along the roadside to keep you on track. If you are brave enough to tackle the full 80 miles, the winding, undulating route will take you through Sherborne, Castle Cary, Somerton, Langport, Ilminster, Merriott and eventually back via Montacute. However, with stations on the route at Yeovil Pen Mill and Yeovil Junction, Sherborne and Castle Cary, as well as Crewkerne nearby, for those who only want to sample a part of the route there are plenty of ways to do it without having to travel by car.
Perhaps take a circular tour of Yeovil, alighting at Pen Mill and returning to Yeovil Junction, or a linear route from Sherborne to Crewkerne. Ride along the National Cycle Network's route 26 and 30 and take a detour into the heart of Yeovil Country Park along a picturesque track north from the follies of Barwick Park. Maybe turn it into a weekend visit, and linger in Yeovil's lovely green spaces before making a beeline for Montacute Country Tearooms B&B, a wonderful Georgian guesthouse just a stone's throw from the National Trust's Montacute House. With single rooms from just £38 per night, power showers and optional packed lunches, it's the ideal stop-over on a weekend cycling jaunt through Yeovil. The quiet country lanes on the outskirts of the town provide the perfect opportunity to visit other nearby National Trust properties such as Tintinhull, as well as Lytes Cary Manor and East Lambrook Manor Gardens, reachable from town in 30 minutes by bike.
For a two-wheeled trip to Yeovil itself, however, the best option is to arrive by train at Yeovil Pen Mill. From here there is a green bypass that lets you cycle traffic-free straight into the heart of the town, from where the wide open space Yeovil's 40-acre Green Flag award-winning Country Park beckons. There is a cycleway through the park that follows the route of an old railway, a great cafe at Ninesprings and reclaimed Victorian pleasure gardens which have been lovingly restored, and give an insight into the original purpose of the park. There are also bat walks, pond dipping and ranger-led events here to keep little ones occupied.
If you'd rather use two feet than two wheels to explore the local area, there are numerous long-distance paths that visit Yeovil or pass nearby. The Leland Trail runs to the north of the town and runs 51.3km from Ham Hill to Alfred's Tower near Stourhead; the Liberty Trail starts from Hamdon Hill west of Yeovil and meanders 45km to the Dorset coast at Lyme Regis; and the River Parrett Trail travels 80km from Stert near Burnham-on-Sea to Chedington in Dorset, again passing just west of Yeovil. There are also much longer paths for more ambitious ramblers, such as the 467km Macmillan Way, which passes to the east of the town on its way between Boston in Lincolnshire to Abbotsbury in Dorset, or the marathon 932km Monarch's Way, which you can pick up from the centre of Yeovil Country Park.
If you have time
If the weather holds why not return to Pen Mill for a round of golf on the sculpted greens and fairways at the 18-hole course (visiting golfers are welcome for a nominal green fee), or head to Yeovil Rec, home of Yeovil and Sherborne Hockey Club and Yeovil Olympiads Athletics Club, to watch a hockey match or athletics club meet, or just for a game of pitch and putt or mini golf. The Flagship Playspace here is an exciting space for kids with tree-house walkways with rope bridges, net tunnels and climbing walls, a zip wire, sandpit and tunnel slides. Or if you are after a more serene afternoon, head to Sutton Bingham reservoir on the fringes of town, which offers seasonal fishing, sailing and canoeing. Another lovely spot for fishing enthusiasts is up at Ash Ponds near Tintinhull, where Bearley Lakes has two well-stocked carp ponds and caravans for extended fishing breaks.
If rain stops play, however, and you still feel energetic, then the Pen Mill trading estate is, surprisingly, the perfect place to head to. Here you'll find Ready 2 Climb, Somerset's only dedicated climbing centre, offering fun indoor climbing sessions for climbers of all abilities. They also welcome competent climbers to join them on excursions to Ham Hill, Portland, the Mendips and even the tors of Dartmoor, while experienced climbers can also participate with Yeovil mountaineering Club.
The innocuous trading estate also boasts the biggest specialist triathlon retailer in the country. Tri UK on Lyde Road has 17,000 sqft of retail space and offers professional bike fits and an endless pool, allowing customers to try wetsuits before they buy. Although Yeovil doesn't have its own triathlon club, most keen multi-sport enthusiasts in the town belong to the Wessex Wizards tri club in neighbouring Sherborne. In fact it's at Sherborne Girls School that the Wizards host their popular Oxley triathlon on August 11, now in its 11th year, in which some 250 competitors will swim-bike-run up to 50km on a course that will take them up to the iconic Cerne Abbas Giant. Yeovil is lucky enough to have another bike shop, Rock and Road in Merlin Road, which has a great community feel as well as a first-class servicing centre should you need running repairs. For a wide variety of group rides throughout the week the town's cycling club, Yeovil CC, are a friendly bunch who welcome riders of all abilities.
Nearby Montacute is also home to a local outpost of the ever-growing ParkRun franchise, a hugely inclusive and supportive community of runners who meet in local parks every Saturday morning in their hundreds. Expect to line up at the start with every level of runner from occasional joggers to county champions. For those looking for more mindful activities, ParkYoga sessions take place in Yeovil Country Park every Sunday morning, while the Nine Springs Natural Health Centre and the Open Pathway Retreat Centre offer meditation sessions and courses.
Perhaps the theme that underpins Yeovil's many recreational pursuits are the communities that support them. Whether it's a meditation session or a midweek club cycling ride, you will always be made to feel welcome.
Given how friendly the town's community as a whole is, perhaps this isn't surprising, but it is yet another reason why Yeovil is the perfect place for an active break, whatever pace you prefer your recreation.