Category Archives: Light

A-Z of Somerset: Walton-in-Gordano

W is for Walton-in-Gordano

There is no village beginning with the letter V in Somerset, so here is another one that starts with a W.


In the north west of the county, between Clevedon and Portishead, lies the charmingly named Walton-in-Gordano. Named after the river valley in which it sits – to nearby villages of the same name – Walton-in-Gordano is a small, picturesque place.

The village has a small population – less than 300 people – but there is a real sense of community about it. While I was there, a couple of the locals were keen to know what I was photographing and why, suggesting other spots I could photograph in the area.

There is a sense of history about the place too; the old village shop may be gone, but the house that replaced it sits proud in his heritage.


The heart of the village is the local church, St Peter & St Paul. Originally a grain store, it changed use when the parish church, in nearby Walton Clevedon, was razed to the ground by fire. It was rebuilt, but by that point, the new building in Walton-in-Gordano had established itself as the main place of worship.


A short walk from the village centre is Walton Castle. Originally built as a hunting lodge in the fifteenth century, it appears from the main road like a folly on the hill, and it now available to hire out for functions.


Quiet and unassuming, Walton-in-Gordano has the charm of a small village, and the feel of a community. It also has links to the music industry, as it was the birth place of Geoff Barrow, co-founder of the influential trip-hop band Portishead (who took their name from the nearby Somerset city).

Walton-in-Gordano is certainly a pleasant place to visit, and acts as a good starting point for coastal walks south to Clevedon or north to Portishead.



A-Z of Somerset: Withypool

W is for Withypool

There are no villages beginning with the letter W in Somerset, so we are moving on to W in the alphabetical tour.

In the far west of the lies the quiet village of Withypool. With a history dating back to the Bronze Age, the name derives quite literally – a withy is a willow branch and the pool related to the River Barle, which flows through the village.


Withypool occupied a truly beautiful part of Exmoor, and, on a less damp and dismal day, it would have been a pleasure to explore its lanes and walks more readily. It is situated in the quiet countryside, around halfway between Minehead to the north east and Barnstaple to the west, and has a population of around 200 people. It does have, however, the required constituents that make up a village; a church and a meeting point.


Withypool’s houses are typical, stone-built cottages. They wind down the valley, from one side of the valley, across the river and up the other side. These are workers cottages, and give the village a real sense of community, even in the pouring rain.


At the heart of Withypool is a well-used post office and store. Outside stands an old-fashioned petrol pump, and on the other side of the road, next to a small café, is what was another petrol station; Exmoor is a place for tourists, and, situated at the heart of the rolling countryside, Withypool would have been the ideal spot to refuel.


The main focal point for the villagers themselves, however, would have been the local pub. This particular pub, The Royal Oak Inn, had a lot of its own stories to tell, though.

Author R. D. Blackmore wrote part of Lorna Doone in the bar, while artist Sir Alfred Munnings, celebrated for his portraits of horses, had a studio in the loft.

In the 1930s, the inn was owned by Gwladys and Maxwell Knight, a spy-ring leader and radio broadcaster upon whom Ian Fleming based the character of James Bond’s boss, M.

During the Second World War, Woolacombe beach, situated a short drive tot he east, was used to simulate the invasion of Normandy, and General Dwight Eisenhower planned some of the operation from The Royal Oak.


The spiritual centre of the Withypool lies not far from the Royal Oak. The Church of St Andrew is of medieval origin, although the main tower has been restored and rebuilt a couple of times since then, most recently at the start of the twentieth century.

The approach to the church is up a steep path; while a relatively small building, its location has been designed to dominate and spread awe. The hill is stands on ensures it can be seen from most of the village, ready to call everyone to services and make them difficult to avoid.

Having said that, the views themselves are stunning, underlining how beautiful a setting the village is in.


Withypool is definitely a place to stop off and explore, if you are ever in the Exmoor area. The ting to remember is that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing, so make sure you’re prepared for whatever the Moor decides to throw at you.