Today we spent an interesting Saturday in West Somerset, organizing some Christmas festivities but also just looking around. Minehead, that wonderful Victorian resort on the Bristol Channel has been dunned down in recent years by the addition of a Butlins holiday center, yet in many ways the presence of Butlins seems to have revitalized the town. The town center is as attractive as town centers are these days with a wide main street busy with people even when a strong northeasterly blew cold air along its length. In a very clever move the old Victorian area on North Hill has been preserved from too much encroachment, providing a pleasant contrast to the inevitable seaside "attractions" along the promenade.
The West Somerset Railway is undoubtedly another positive reason for the areas success in attracting visitors. In a few weeks time we are taking part in an excursion train from Bishops Lydiard near Taunton to Minehead and then by bus to Dunster for their annual "Dunster by Candlelight" evening. The fact that the train is just about fully booked (there were only three seats left on the one we selected) is a very good sign in these trying times.
As we drove home we discussed what makes the area so different and therefore so special. Like so much of Somerset, it seems, you get what you see, not some hype that doesn't exist. Somerset is an honest county in a country where there is too many a promise that doesn't hold true.