Wells, England’s smallest city is nestled on the edge of Somerset’s Mendip Hills. Named after the well pools found in Bishop’s Palace, this pretty little city has the market square at its heart. Here you’ll find lively markets every Wednesday and Saturday.
The overflow from the well pools runs down the wide stone gutters of the high street making it an incredibly pretty walk up to the Square. Here you’ll also find the Cathedral – famed for its 300 statues and carvings on the West front (which really are magnificent), and the Palace; the 800 year old home of the Bishops of Bath and Wells.
As you stroll towards the Palace you may spot the Bishop’s swans in the surrounding moat. In the 1870s the Bishop’s swans learned to ring a bell for food. The tradition continues to this day. I saw no bell ringing (it was after lunch so they were obviously full) but I did spy the 9 Bishop cygnets born a couple of days beforehand.
Crossing the drawbridge, under the portcullis, I entered the 14 acres of garden, paid my £7.99 entrance fee (had I taken my husband and two of the children it would have cost £19.25) and was told by the very enthusiastic volunteer at the entrance gate that I could come and go as often as I wanted throughout the rest of the afternoon. Had I arrived earlier I would have been free to do this all day. Sadly this was a fleeting visit.
The peace and tranquillity of the gardens immediately took over my senses and I wished I had more time, and a book to sit and read. Instead I scurried along the rampart walk with an occasional stop and peak over the moat wall, in the hope of spotting a deer or two.
Over the willow tree draped bridge I found the well pools and it was here that I took a while to stop and consider the significance of these to the city.
Sadly I didn’t have time to join one of the building or ground tours, both of which happen twice a day between 11am and 3pm. Nor did I visit the Bishop’s chapel. But if the tours and walks are given by guides half as enthusiast as the volunteers that I came across, I am sure they’ll be both educational and energetic.
Driving back towards Taunton taking in the stunning Mendip scenery I passed the Cider & Ale Barn in Draycott. Now this was a place I hadn’t heard of, so on returning home decided to find out a little more via the good old world wide web. It turns out I should have stopped. Tripadvisor reviews don’t come better and it would seem both regulars and visitors love this place for its ‘decent pint of cider or real ale’, the fact ‘it isn’t a fancy pub’ but has a ‘roaring wood burner’ and regular live ‘folk type music’. Sounds like the perfect way to end the day.