Month: September 2018

Why I love Watchet and the Steam Coast Trail – Sarah Ellwood

Who are you?

A 36 year old ex-waitress/ cheese-monger/ TV runner/ ship’s First Mate/ Account Manager/ Chair of local charity Watchet Roots; currently a mum to two, wife to one, sister to five, good food and wine fan, pilates, cycling and walking enthusiast, Parent Governor to Knights Templar School and, as of last month, full-time Project Officer for the brilliant Steam Coast Trail!


How are you connected to Watchet?

I connected to Watchet after visiting friends who had moved here and I fell in love with the place. I’ve lived in many places: from growing up in Bath, moving to a grim flat in Dalston, sailing around dozens of Caribbean islands then most of the Mediterranean coast, returned to Bath, on to Bristol, then, since 2010, moved to the unique, eclectic, and very, very fun Watchet. My husband wasn’t convinced of the idea at first, saying ‘who wants to live in a seaside town in winter?!’ It took me three years to convince him but I proved him wrong; we both love it more and more each year and there’s so much to do (even in winter) thanks to organisations like the Onion Collective, Contains Art, Watchet Summertime and Watchet Town Council who put on fantastic events all year round.


As a Parent Governor I am also connected to Knights Templar School and love how it nurtures my kids and teaches them to love learning. I also feel deeply connected to Watchet through my friends and family. Having our kids here has been a brilliant decision as they’re growing up with a huge group of close friends and an enormous ‘village’ style family where everyone goes out of their way to lend a hand.



What do you love most about Watchet?

I love doing the very weird but hilarious Watchet Wheelbarrow Race (trophies in the downstairs loo!), I love the sea and beaches (just got a kayak!), I love Watchet’s sense of community, and seeing a steam train never gets tired. I love dipping chips in curry sauce from Harbour Fish Bar whilst sipping a cider in Pebbles Tavern, I love the Spice Merchant’s saag chana, I love a veggie breakfast at the Corner House Cafe. I love the Old Mineral Line, the fact we have a Town Crier and our own festival, I love being near Exmoor and the Quantocks (just got a mountain bike!) and that my kids can travel almost everywhere in town by bike. I love that I had the outdoor gym at the Memorial Ground installed, that I helped build the structure at Splash Point with a huge team of locals, and I love that I now have a job where I can continue to improve my local area by creating accessible, mixed-use paths for the community and visitors to enjoy in beautiful West Somerset countryside. Hopefully, in the not-so-distant future, I will also love the fact that the Steam Coast Trail includes Watchet!


Where is your favourite spot to take family/guests?

On a cold winter’s day, you can’t beat taking visitors on my favourite walk: up the hill past St Decumans Church, down past Snail Holt (say hello to the geese) and Kentsford Farm (say hello to the ducks and horses), then join the Old Mineral Line, see a steam train, say hello to the sea at West Beach then sit next to the open fire in The Star in Watchet for a roast dinner and a pint of craft ale. The. Perfect. Sunday.


Tell us something we didn’t know

In the UK, the average economic benefit-to-cost ratio of investing in cycling and walking schemes is 13:1 Yet,  the UK government spends around £1.38 per person on cycling per year (for those living outside of London) – far less than the recommended £10 (rising to £20 by 2025) from the Get Britain Cycling report.


The Steam Coast Trail is, I’m proud to say, contributing to the far-reaching benefits of encouraging cycling and walking where cars would otherwise be used. Who doesn’t hate driving, let alone cycling, on the A39?! The Steam Coast Trail is working to develop a network of safe, accessible paths that can be used by cyclists, walkers, runners, responsible dog walkers and wheelchair/ mobility scooter users throughout West Somerset. There are also huge benefits to the local economy from increased tourism and access to employment and education, as well as improved health and wellbeing by linking rural, isolated communities. Please show your support by liking our facebook page or you can donate via our website


We will be holding a public launch event to celebrate Phase Two of the Steam Coast Trail opening on Sunday 21st October, 2 – 4pm behind Washford Station and all are welcome – hope to see you there!


– Sarah Ellwood


If you would like to guest blog for us, get in touch!

Somerset Art Weeks 2018

Guides are now available in libraries, Tourist Information outlets, galleries and museums for Somerset Open Studios 2018. Between 15- 30 September, artists are opening their studios and working spaces to the public for Somerset Open Studios. The event allows a rare opportunity to meet and talk to artists and makers in their workplaces and learn first-hand about their creative processes. And, of course, there is the option to buy or commission work direct, at best prices.


The event is an ideal time to experience the different aspects of West Somerset in a new way. Venues can be found in all sorts of unexpected locations and buildings, from farmyard barns to quayside shipping containers. A number of venues, such as Lanacre Barn Gallery, near Withypool, and Ford Farm Studio, near Wootten Courtney, lie in beautiful, out of the way locations on Exmoor. Others lie near rural villages on the edges of the Brendon and Quantock Hills, such as Lyn Mowat’s Secret Studio, near Brompton Ralph. Guided by directions in the Open Studios guide booklet and looking out for the distinctive bright yellow signs, a day seeking out these artists’ studios can be an adventure in itself.


Other venues, in Minehead, Blue Anchor and Watchet, are a short side-step from the recently-opened stretch of the England Coast Path from Brean Down to Minehead. These coastal venues can also be easily visited on foot from a ride on the West Somerset Railway from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead. Within Minehead itself there are five venues to visit, offering work in a range of media, including watercolour and oil painting, fine art prints, jewellery and textiles. It is worth going a little way out of the town centre to see Joanne Horrobin’s enameled copper vessels and sculptures.


Watchet offers the largest cluster of venues on the art weeks trail, 6 venues featuring 10 artists. Studios are dotted around the town, several in artists’ houses. On the quayside, Contains Art houses four artists’ studios in converted shipping containers and an exciting, colourful installation by Georgina Towler will be extending into the welcoming courtyard. In addition to its open studios Watchet also offers two gallery exhibitions during the art weeks fortnight, Lydia Halcrow’s ‘Mapping Place’ at Contains Art and a retrospective of the artist John Wealthy at The Lynda Cotton Gallery in Swain Street. All in all, easily a packed, full day out for art lovers.


Another highlight of the trail will be Andrea Oke’s residency project ‘Shadowlands’ at Halsway Manor, The National Centre for Folk Arts, lying on the slopes of the Quantocks (NB 27 – 30 Sept only). Halsway is imbued with a rich folk heritage encompassing dragons, murder and ghosts. Andrea’s work is bringing these stories and other local legends and folklore to life through delicate papercut silhouettes and animations. Combine a visit here with other venues around the Quantock villages of Crowcombe, Bicknoller and Stogumber and Cecilia Leete’s jewellery workshop at Upcott Farm.


The influence of West Somerset’s beautiful landscape, coast and colourful heritage can be seen in much of the art on display and can add a new dimension to a visit to the area.


Be careful to check artists’ open days and hours in the 2018 Open Studios Guide, which can be found in Tourist Information Points, Libraries, Museums, Galleries and other cultural centres as well as cafes, bookshops and other selected outlets. To receive a copy by post please email or you can browse an online version at


For more information, enquiries and images contact: Sue Lowe or Paul Newman


Somerset Open Studios is presented by

Somerset Art Works

The Town Hall, Bow Street, Langport, TA10 9PR

Tel: 01458 253 800

Website: twitter: @SAW_Somerset instagram: somerset_art_works


About Somerset Art Works (SAW)


Somerset Art Works is part of the Arts Council England’s National Portfolio of funded organisations for 2018-2022. As Somerset’s only countywide agency dedicated to developing the visual arts, SAW initiates a wide range of projects in a variety of settings, working in partnership with other arts and non-arts organisations. SAW works to increase public engagement, weaving together communities and raising the profile of the vibrant contemporary visual, digital and applied arts in Somerset. Somerset Art Works aims to support artists who want to work professionally and are looking to promote their creative businesses.

Image – ‘Lee’ by Georgina Towler

Fossil Fun!

The first summer season of fossil walks at Watchet with local geologists Dave and Andy (‘DnA’) proved to be a big hit with fossil enthusiasts ranging from 6 to 60 years young attending. The weather was good – the fossils were great – with plenty of Devil’s toe-nails (oysters) and large ammonites seen on all the walks which finished with a look at the unique 200 million year old ‘Fossil Islands’ with their Nautilus shells, sea-lilies (‘star stones’), clams and giant worms!


Andy and Dave are already planning more fossil walks at Watchet and elsewhere along the Somerset coast next year. The guys are always interested to hear of any unusual or large fossil finds – or if any individuals or groups want a fossil / geology walk or tour arranging. Contact details and further information are available from Louise at the Watchet Visitor Centre, 01984 632 101.