Day Four: 4th May 2009
Locomotion: Bipedal & Steam

Day Four Walk Dunster Castle Steam Rly Evening Features Read Me

May 04 - Dunster & Sightseeing

On the last half day, Helen (Rundall) led a short walk up along the MacMillan West Path and down into Dunster. There were nice views on both sides - seawards and landwards. We nosed into a bit of history by looking at Dunster village, church and castle. Then we said our goodbyes after what was a very nice weekend. Thank you, Helen!

Later in the day, I revisited the West Somerset (Heritage Steam) Railway, this time, travelling its usual full length to Bishops Lydeard. In the evening, I witnessed the ancient Minehead custom involving a brightly decorated "horse" - not your four legged variety, but in Minehead propelled by a two-legged human!

Our Walk

Our morning walk was about four miles long and used the first part of the "Macmillan Way West" as for our Dunkery walk. Having "scaled the heights", we then struck out east along a wooded ridge which afforded good views northwards towards the Bristol Channel and southwards towards the wide open spaces of Exmoor.

We reach MacMillan Way West above Minehead.

Onwards to Dunster.

Nice sylvan scenery graces our progress to Dunster.

Our "leaderene" diligently leads her flock ever onwards and upwards.

Minehead is still in our sights as we head towards Dunster.

Dunster village comes into view.

Dunster Church

Dunster's Grade I listed Church, where our walk "officially" finished, is dedicated to Saint George. It is mainly 15th century but the 12th and 13th centuries also feature in its fabric. As can be expected, many of the monuments are connected with the Luttrell family who used to own Dunster Castle. Anyway, the church simply oozed history - lots of history. What is interesting is not just the artistic aspect of many of the monuments, but what can be read into them regarding the conditions of the time - a historical feast indeed! We found that the church was well worth a visit and certainly a fitting end for many of us to our Minehead away-break.

Dunster church with Dunster Castle peeping out from behind the trees.

We come to Dunster's old parish church, full of artistic and historical delights.

We appreciate the artistic and historical delights of Dunster's old parish church.

Here we see "John Wythe and his wife whose bodies rest under this stone". This appears to be brass rubbing of the monument set into the stone floor of the church. Closer inspection suggests that this monument is dated 1495. The text is partly in mediaeval English and partly in Latin!

This is a very fine monument to members of the Luttrell family,
including a John Luttrell Esq. and his wife.
Sorry, I did not chance to get the all-important date, but it looks like early Tudor.
(The little notice is just a warning about something or other).

This looks like a hatchment for a member of the Luttrell family.

This monument bears the following Latin inscription.

Hic jacent Cinerea
filia et haeredis
Quam post breve sed felicissimum spatium vitae
Conjugalis, Mors immatura abstulit :
Grata Amicis, benigna Pauperibus Omnibus cara
Omnibus deflenda
30o die Octobris 1731 Aetat 21
Relinquens unicam filiam
Spem et Solamen
Conjugis moestissimi.

Here is my humble translation. Latin scholars might wish to suggest improvements!

Here lie the ashes
the dearly beloved wife of FRANCIS LUTTRELL
and daughter and heir of
the bearer of arms CHARLES STUCLEY of PLYMOUTH.
After a short but very happy term of married life,
she was snatched away by an untimely death.
She lived
loved by her friends, kind to the poor and beloved by all.
She died
mourned by all
on the 30th day of October 1731 aged 21,
leaving behind a single daughter
[a source of] hope and solice
to her most unhappy husband.

Here are my initial humble observations.
(1) Anne died when she was only 21. No indication is given in the inscription, but her passing away may have been as a result of child birth, or its immediate aftermath.
In the 18th century, medical knowledge, even for the more privileged members of society, had not advanced to the level we can enjoy today.
(2) Even in 1731, cremation was an option instead of interment.

Dunster Castle & Village

Those of us who revel in the history of the realm, then visited the castle. Dunster castle has its roots in late Anglo-Saxon times. At the end of the 14th century the Luttrell family obtained the castle, and continued to occupy and modify it until the late 20th century. As is so often the case with such properties, the National Trust then took it over. Howzat that for an extremely potted history!

Inside, the castle is heavy Victorian restoration stuff from about 1850 - interesting indeed, and to some extent aesthetically appealing, but certainly not the mediaeval and Tudor splendour exuded by Penshurst and Hatfield in the Home Counties. At the time (2009) no photography was allowed inside, overtly for security purposes, but I don't have room at home to collect a whole load of illustrated guides to this place and that, that only gather dust and will be junked after my demise!

Visitors are welcomed by the Luttrell coat of arms. These boldly pronounce, "QUAESITA MARTE TUENDA ARTE". In other words, "What has been acquired in war, by skill should be protected". This neatly illustrates the cut and thrust of international mediaeval politics.

The castle entrance is graced by this splendid cast iron grate.
Visitors to the Luttrells had to be given a warm, indeed often a right royal, welcome.

This looks like a means of transport for an infirm member of the Luttrell family,
the conveyance perhaps canine powered.

This view from the castle grounds over the mediaeval village of Dunster and the distant folly, helped the erstwhile occupants - the Luttrell family - to keep a watchful eye over the locals.

"I'm the king of the castle ... " etc.

"The king" might well have looked out through these windows ...

... to survey the scene ...

... which extends as far as the distant Quantocks and beyond.

I took this picture in the gardens of Dunster Castle.
To me this rose looks like a painting, and I find it aesthetically appealing.

It's time to say goodbye to Dunster Castle.

Down in Dunster village, there is "The Nunnery", without the nuns.

Here is the actually quite busy (with tourists) Dunster high street,
with the Folly and the famous market building in the background.

West Somerset Railway

I was able to stay on, but as the weather drew in, I went for a nice train ride, this time, a far as normally possible, right to Bishop's Lydeard and back. I was able to savour both the means of transport and the views from the carriage window of the Bristol Channel, the Quantocks and many interesting old villages, both by the sea and inland.

A vintage bus - over half a century old - takes me to Dunster Station. I had to leg it to catch it (the words of the driver) after taking this picture!

Dunster station - they don't make stations like this anymore.

Going round the bend - on the way to Bishop's Lydeard.

This is a wartime baby from 1942, but with a pedigree that stretches back to 1905. As it pulled the train it gave it a "forwards-and backwards" movement; I'm certainly no expert, but I wondered if a re-tweak of the mechanics connecting wheels and cylinder pistons might have been useful!
Our wartime friend, a GWR Collett 2-8-0 freight loco, is seen at Bishops Lydeard, taking water and running around the train, ready to haul it back to Minehead. It was the last train of the day, so I did not have time to visit the Broad Gauge Museum. There will probably be another occasion.

This is how to drive our wartime friend.

Trains about to cross at Blue Anchor.


After everyone else had left, I concocted a DIY meal (salad, ham and oatcakes!) at the hostel. No cooking of course, for cooking takes time and usually attacks the vitamins - in other words, a "double whammy", to use an American expression so beloved by members of Thatcher's government. So it was then time to nose a bit more around Minehead, and, lo and behold, I witnessed the old Minehead custom of parading the hobby horse, a custom which was meant to bring good luck, although there does not appear to be any scientific evidence for this. In Minehead there are three rival hobby horses, the one I saw being either the "Traditional Sailor's Horse" or the "Original Sailor's Horse" - I know not which. So ended my Somerset evening.

I witnessed an ancient Minehead Custom.
Here's one of the two "Sailor's Horses", albeit without the apostrophe!