The England I Love. Montacute

 The small village lost between the green rolling hills of Somerset, the place of my healing and my transformation…

Montacute is not going to be found in any traveling guide being  just one of thousands of charming   English countryside villages. Every respectable guide will list only the most well-known places from England. Such waste. The true England is the one you the traveler are discovering it by yourself and the best place to find that England, it is, of course, the countryside. Being everything you might expect to be..and even more.

Somerset Fields. by andyholmfirth
Somerset Fields. by andy Holmfirth

But maybe I should start with the beginning..after all…your curiosity might have been already stirred up and  you are already asking yourself“ Why is this Montacute so special?“. Montacute is not special because after all there are probably many other villages more beautiful,  but it special for me,  and I will try to show you why.

Barrow Court, Somerset by archidave
Barrow Court, Somerset by archive

When I went to England to work it was like having a leap into an abyss. Except for the fact that the place  where I was going to work it would have been somewhere in Somerset, I did not know anything else. Truth to be told, I did not want to know more.

Corton Denham, Somerset, England. © Brian Jannsen Photography
Corton Denham, Somerset, England. © Brian Jannsen Photography

Probably because I did not want to be influenced, and because I was ready to wait and see why did I end up in this part of the world. It was my blind faith in destiny, which drove me out of the familiar and put me in an environment I hardly knew anything about it. My life till then was like a mountain river, fast, banging me on the stone walls and my resistance to it was so futile.

Berrow Mump, Somerset, England by Andrew Cosway Photography
Berrow Mump, Somerset, England by Andrew Cosway Photography

But life is the way you make it, the moment I stopped fighting it and gone with the flow my life turned into a chain of an unexpected turn of events…It was this part of England that I was supposed to see, and here I was supposed to find myself, to heal and transform.

Aerial View, Montacute , Somerset, England, by Adrian Warren
Aerial View, Montacute, Somerset, England, by Adrian Warren

Let`s return to Montacute, shall we? This village lost between the surrounding hills I found it by accident. My attention was drowned  since day one by a tower placed on one of the nearby hills. Following my curiosity. my footsteps took me to the place which will become for the next 8th months my little piece of heaven far from the madding crowd, Montacute.

Entrance to Montacute House, Somerset, England, by Elena Steers
Entrance to Montacute House, Somerset, England, by Elena Steers

Placed at the foothill of St. Michel`s Hill on top of which was the tower of St. Michel`s, this small little village seemed to be forgotten by the passing time. Built entirely on hamstone taken from the quarry of the near Ham hill, it gave me the impression that I was living and breathing in one of Hardy`s novels. I haven`t felt like participating to the action, but being more of an observer.

The East Court, Montacute House, Somerset, England by PhilnCaz
The East Court, Montacute House, Somerset, England by PhilnCaz

It gave me the distinct impression that words from the pages of Hardy`s novels were taking shapes. Shapes which then will complete their transformation becoming  picturesque cottages and beautiful gardens, stone walls covered with colored crawling flowers surrounding the gardens, or the majestic cedar trees which were spreading their branches in the sun over the green meadows.

Montacute House Garden, Somerset, England, by Matt Bigwood
Montacute House Garden, Somerset, England, by Matt Bigwood

I was in love! The village was having a strong Elizabethan flavor, and for me a Shakespeare buff, it represented the true dimension of England I wanted to see, I was hoping to see…As I walked aimlessly just anxious to see what I might found at the next corner I found the true gem of this village, The Montacute House, a true Elizabethan Maison built in 1596 by sir Edward Phelips.

Montacute House West Facade Decoration by jacquemart
Montacute House West Facade Decoration by jacquemart

I will pass over the history of the manor because I included links with all the information might need it, and I will talk about the garden. After all, I spent there most of my weekends, I saw seasons passing, I saw clouds chased away by winds, and I saw the sun playing hide and seek behind  gray clouds every time it felt fit to do it.

Montacute House Garden. Somerset, England
Montacute House Garden. Somerset, England

That garden it was my Eden, from where my thoughts were carried away by winds and clouds. Although I knew by heart every feature of the manor or every corner of that garden I was always amazed by its beauty.

East Court, Montacute Garden, Somerset, England, by russavia
East Court, Montacute Garden, Somerset, England, by russavia

One of the things I learned to appreciate in England was the weather. Although it was a tough love, the omnipresent rain drove me crazy sometimes. I understood that in fact that rain was the gift of green for this rocky island washed by the ocean waves. Without the rain, England would not have had the lush garden I absolutely love or the green pastures dominated by the tall cedars which in my perception were the true lords of the manors. Without the rain would not be the running clouds on a sky which seem to be so close, I never had that feeling of sky closeness the way I had it in England. Without the rain would not be those sudden weather changes and I would not be able to have a rainbow, snow falling  and sun rays breaking through some bluish gray giant like clouds in the same time. I learned to love and hate the rain, but without the rain, England would not be what it is, a land of fantasy and evergreen gardens.

Montacute Garden, Somerset, England, by anthsnap!
Montacute Garden, Somerset, England, by anthsnap!

It was in the Montacute Garden while contemplating nature show that I understood that there are experiences and emotions no money can buy, and those are in fact my true richness…

Wobbly Hedges, Montacute Garden, Somerset, England, by Kirsty Jayne Goddard
Wobbly Hedges, Montacute Garden, Somerset, England, by Kirsty Jayne Goddard

I can`t say for sure what I loved more about Montacute. If it were the wibbly, wobbly hedges looking like it were shaped by the winds… Or the East Court Garden with its balustrade surrounding walls adorned with obelisks  and stone lanterns having Summer pavilions in both corners.

Cedars of Montacute Garden, Somerset, England, by Jacqui Hadden
Cedars of Montacute Garden, Somerset, England, by Jacqui Hadden

Or if it was the Abbey Farmhouse with its beautiful garden where I was dreaming that one day I might sit there and sip my English tea eating a lemon cake. Which I did eventually on the day of the open gardens…Or my walks along the Hollow Lane which were taking me up on Ham Hill…Or the strange friendship I had with a swan named Pegasus…Sadly only after its death, he was eaten by a fox while sleeping,  I found out his name..

Montacute Abbey and the Pond of Pegasus the Swan, by Julie Woolacott
Montacute Abbey and the Pond of Pegasus the Swan, by Julie Woolacott

The more I write I realize that there are so many things I loved about Montacute and I haven’t covered yet Ham Hill.  After delighting my senses with my walks through Montacute village, I was always going up on nearby Ham Hill, the place with the best panorama over Somerset. I had my favorite spot, a metal bench where I was staying, and I knew that if my eyes could see further I  could even see the sea.

The Metal Bench and the Obelisk on Ham Hill, Somerset, England, by Twoshoes3
The Metal Bench and the Obelisk on Ham Hill, Somerset, England, by Twoshoes3

From up there I watched the sun going down sending some last sun rays through clouds so many times. Or the slow float of hot air balloons over the entire region, I proposed myself that one day I will be on one of those hot air balloons, it did not happen yet but the days are not over yet…one day I will be there floating above the places which gave me so much happiness..

Somerset and Hot Air Balloons, by Suzanne Pugh
Somerset and Hot Air Balloons, by Suzanne Pugh

Or I saw the clouds carrying rain releasing their load over the near villages. I felt like being the dweller of the top of the world, from where I could see how life was following its calm path. I felt so blessed in those moments. because, after all, this was what I was dreaming for..to taste, feel, live, connect with England..

The view from Ham Hill, Stoke-sub-Hamdon, Somerset, England
The view from Ham Hill, Stoke-sub-Hamdon, Somerset, England

Montacute and Ham Hill were looking so idyllic, like being taken from the pages of some novel, and there is one which I love “Far from the madding crowd“. Underneath this appearance though lies the ghost of drama passed.  Ham Hill also known as Hamdon, meaning “the hill between the water meadows“ it was inhabited since neolithic.

Stone circle, Ham Hill, Somerset by Alpinaboy
Stone circle, Ham Hill, Somerset by Alpinaboy

The quarry was a source of the precious limestone of which all the cottages in the region were built, called hamstone, since early days. I was conquered by Romans and common graves containing bones from what seem to be defleshed bodies were recently found in the region, archeologist does not know yet if the Romans did that or those graves are the source of some gruesome events which took place there on the Ham Hill.

Walking on Hollow Lane, Montacute, Somerset, England
Walking on Hollow Lane, Montacute, Somerset, England

Leaving aside the nebulous past I enjoyed my moments of freedom and relaxation up on that hill, or when I walked on its tall grass meadows listening to the wind, seeing the threads of grass waving under wind`s touch. I can say that the stories the wind was telling me..were the most interesting one…

Wrote so much and I still did not cover Martock and the concert in the local church I attended to featuring Sinfonia Westminster Orchestra conducted by John Wilson, nor the following concert they had in Long Sutton, in the garden of Sutton Hosey Manor courtesy to Sir. Roger Bramble. A beautiful garden with a charming host,  where I sat on the grass and listen to the music and for a while I felt like the orchestra was playing just for me. It was a Sunday afternoon to remember because it had in it the quintessence of English countryside living.

Montacute Village, Somerset, England, by Christine Ashworth
Montacute Village, Somerset, England, by Christine Ashworth

It is the beauty and tranquility of Montacute which looks like a part of the world lost in time, who let me have my own pace in finding myself and heal. Somerset changed me but also gave me so much inspiration…Although I am always traveling towards new destinations Montacute became part of me as I became part of Montacute. Montacute embraced me and took me to its bosom at a time when I need to lose myself on its paths and meadows. Ironically …I had to lose myself, in order to find myself…