Luggage unpacked, we hurried off to explore Cricket St Thomas. The drive down by Cricket House had piqued our interest. Rolling hills with wandering cattle and sheep over lush fields surrounding the regency manor house on approach had impressed us.

Built of a burnished coloured stone in 1786 by the 1st Viscount of Bridport, the Grade II listed Georgian architecture glowed in the afternoon sun. Contemporary transparent biomes shone on the lawns parallel to the terrace. They looked very snug inside with sheepskin-covered seats and neatly set tables ready for lunch or afternoon tea.

The clink of crockery could be heard. Lemon drizzle cake and tea beckoned. The historical building now houses Hamilton’s Tearooms. Lord Nelson and his mistress, Lady Emma Hamilton, often frequented the estate. My, I bet the walls have many stories to tell, especially when the cast and crew of the popular TV sitcom, ‘To the Manor Born’ started filming there in 1979. Framed photographs of actors Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles, who played Audrey fforbes-Hamilton and Richard DeVere, rest on antique furniture surfaces everywhere and are a fond reminder of the programme.

These days all of the rooms, including the library, are arranged with tables for dining. The walls are adorned with oil paintings and ledges with other artefacts.

In a central hall, a splendid staircase swirls up to bedrooms. However, our room was situated at the back of the property along passageways. No – not in the servants’ quarters, but in the Walled Garden close to the Parish Church of St Thomas. Thought to have dated back to the 14th century, with gravestones, sculptures, and potted flowers, it makes a picturesque sight.

Through ornamental gardens, fragrant with lavender and rosemary flowerbeds bordering a water feature at the side of the house, the orangery’s glass radiated spangles over the bowling area. I learned that it had at one time been a parrot house.

There’s a croquet lawn and putting green, but for our whole week’s holiday, we never played any of the pursuits, although we intended to.

We did try air rifle shooting and archery midway through our stay, though. It turns out that I’m a pretty good shot and Mr Word Loft made a fine Robin Hood. Nevertheless, I’m not much of a Maid Marion, even with the instructor’s kindness and patience, but it was fun having a go.

A leisurely swim in the pool is a must, and what better way to relax, than in the beautiful and warm waters, where we never encountered more than five people.

Grand ancient trees add shade to the lawns, and there are several old and new sculptures within the grounds. Most are a series portraying one of the owner’s grandchildren at play. Like the little girl doing headstands on a lawn. One morning a group of people attempted the feat, but unsuccessfully – I might add.

In the valley, bridges span the lakes over manmade weirs and waterfalls created from a waterway flowing to the River Axe where ducks and swans’ glide. I’ve never seen so many dragonflies, their iridescent turquoise colours reflecting in the ripples.

The relic of a miniature railway, an ornate bridge at one end is now out of bounds and links to a pathway where the track used to sweep around and transport visitors.

One day, as we trudged along one of the rambles, hikes or trails, we came across terrain that showed signs of the wildlife park from days of old. Such an exciting landscape, with a varied past.

I peered through the bars of a hefty gate. It was locked, I wondered what was in there. Later, I found out, ‘Blobbyland and Crinkley Bottom’, are hidden in the foliage and undergrowth but unsurprisingly, Mr Blobby, and his antics aren’t a celebrated part of the local history.

Set in the beautiful parkland, and more refined, are the Cricket St Thomas leisure hotel’s, themed holiday breaks.

In the evenings, we were taken on a journey of big band music for the first part of our stay. Numbers performed by the Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra swung the audience through the era, accompanied by vocalists and dancers.

For the weekend, a Sixties-style show, featuring The Fourmost, a band for the decade; comedian James Birmingham; the entertainment team, who all amused guests to the end of their Somerset getaway break.

Until next time,
Sue. X