Liz Rowlinson

A house-hunter’s guide to Somerset

The county is attracting creatives rather than commuters

  • From Spectator Life
Frome, Somerset [Alamy]

It’s famed for cider, cheese and Glastonbury, but there’s much more to love about Somerset.  Alongside a popular private members’ club (Babington House) and a global gallery outfit (Hauser & Wirth), its most in-vogue country house hotel (The Newt) has helped to attract a steady stream of creative emigres.

Among those embracing the county’s way of life are internationally known designers such as Alice Temperley and Bill Amberg and landscape gardeners such as Lulu Urquhart and Adam Hunt, whose rewilding garden won best in show at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show (which happened to be sponsored by The Newt).

But from Frome via Bruton and Ilminster west to Chard there are plenty of entrepreneurs ‘slow living’ in and around Somerset’s quintessential market towns, where local craftsmanship runs deep.

Freelance seamstress and mother of four Leni Donaldson lives near Ilminster (where Alice Temperley has her atelier) and makes traditional childrenswear at Maggie Rose Clothing. ‘There’s a great small business support network – I meet local artists at craft fairs through the Somerset Collective,’ she says. ‘Life is not lived at high speed down here and I like the independent spirit.’

Ilminster, Somerset [Alamy]

She’s not a Down from Londoner (DfL) and living in Somerset is not all about the ease of the commute to the capital. It’s a good two-hour train journey from London, so it’s more often a place where people want to be for its own sake (rather than just donning their Barbours and Hunters for a weekend of five-star comforts).

Buying agent Jo Henry, of Jess Simpson Property Search, says: ‘People looking to move to Somerset will find their tribe there. It’s open-minded, eclectic and less materialistic than other areas.’

That said, while it’s a lower-profile beneficiary of the post-pandemic ‘race for space’ than the Cotswolds, the average Somerset house price has been creeping up.

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