Somerset: England’s only bearded county

Somerset is a friendly kind of place where people still know their postman’s first name, even if they would prefer him not to open all their letters and read them out aloud before eating them.’

Bearded and missing a few teeth, Somerset is the cheery, gibbering drunk who sits next to you on the bus. A little dishevelled and prone to spouting gibberish at you in a surprisingly soft burr, Somerset means well, and tips his straw hat to you after falling off the bus at his stop.

Long associated with farming thanks to its rich arable lands and constant rainfall, the county contributes a disproportionate amount of cereal crops, apples and facial hair to the UK economy. The loneliness of farming has seeped in to the region’s character, and while the cities of Bristol and Bath have become increasingly metropolitan, rural Somerset still maintains its well-deserved reputation for genial strangeness.

A place of simple, odd pleasures, Somerset happily welcomes outsiders to a round of welly wanging, line dancing or just an uncomfortably smelly hug. Its relaxed nature and rolling countryside has attracted many tourists to explore the county, with the total incomprehensibility of the accent just adding to the sense of adventure.

Facts

  • LANGUAGE – Ooo (34%) Aar (64%) Moo (2%)
  • MOST UNCOMFORTABLE WHEN – Wearing a suit and tie
  • BRAND NEW COMBINE HARVESTER? – Dependent on the Rural Payments Agency getting its shit together
  • EXPORTS – Hair, fruit, mud, and if you pay cash there’ll be no VAT, but let’s just keep that between you, me and the gate post
  • IMPORTS – Crusties
  • ONCE ACCIDENTALLY IMPORTED – Shaving cream

History

3900 BC – Works begin on Britain’s oldest known road. Initially expected to take eight weeks, resurfacing is finally completed in 1967.

8th Century – King Arthur is taken to Glastonbury Tor having been mortally wounded in battle. On his deathbed, the ailing King decrees that his resting place must henceforth become a place of needlecraft and tie-dye t-shirt printing.

1885 – After a lovers’ tiff, Sarah Ann Hedley attempts suicide by jumping from the Clifton Suspension Bridge. However, her voluminous petticoats float her to safety, forcing her to try again, After nineteen attempts, Hedley eventually dies of starvation.

1952 – The harbour town of Lynmouth is hit by a devastating flood, killing 34 people. Surveying the terrible cost, the council agrees to examine less severe methods for reducing traffic congestion.

1996 – Sightings of a mysterious beast terrorising sheep on Exmoor are reported, with resident’s fears only laid to rest after newsreader Huw Edwards confesses to the incidents.

1999 – Glastonbury receives national media coverage after cannabis plants are found in its floral displays just after the town is awarded the ‘Most, like, amazing town when you really look at it’ prize by the Britain In Bloom judging panel.

Did You Know?

 

The undulating hills have attracted many poets to the area, with Wordsworth and Coleridge both spending time in the Quantocks. The latter produced much of his best work while staying in Somerset, including the unfinished epic ‘Kubla Khan’. Having seen the vision of the poem in a dream, Coleridge immediately began to put his thoughts to paper. Unfortunately, he was interrupted by a stranger, and forgetting his dream, and left his best work unfinished. Coleridge’s output declined sharply afterwards, unable to start any poem without the line ‘To a stranger from Porlock did Samuel T. Coleridge, a punch in the face decree.’

First held in the 70s, Glastonbury has grown massively to become a globally renowned celebration of music and performing arts. Past headliners have included Oasis, Jay-Z and dysentery.

Bath, one of Britain’s most beautiful cities, is home to a flood of inventions aiming at satisfying the discerning geriatric. Bath Buns and Bath Olivers were both invented here to sustain invalids residing at the famous spa, and Bath chairs – a 18th Century hooded wheelchair – inspired the motorised chariots favoured by today’s thrill-seeking oxygen thief.

Making the most of its excellent orchards, Somerset’s traditional drink is cider. Most locals dismiss the fizzy and clinical modern interpretations of their favourite brew as ‘piss’, compared with their own authentic yellow, warm and cloudy product.

 

The West Country music scene is extremely broad, encompassing everything from traditional and modern folk all the way to alternative folk. Many Somerset bands start together as young men and never stop performing, even after being repeatedly told to.

Much acclaimed for bringing West Country music to a wider audience with their 1976 hit The Combine Harvester, The Wurzels are still regular tourers. The current line-up is Tommy the accordion player, Pete providing banjo, drummer John and Sedge on the accent.

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