Visit Crowcombe by Mouse
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Crowcombe in Somerset, is such a small village that it is not listed in the AA route planner. It is about  166 miles west of London.  We visited Crowcombe because we have friends who live there. As our photos show, it is an utterly charming village. It has a small provisions store, a new community center, an old stone church with a rectory, a church house across from the church, and several thatched roof cottages.
 
 
The church is one of several in surrounding villages forming a benefice. As we understand what the term means in this part of the world, a benefice is a kind of religious co-op, with all the churches sharing one vicar who makes rounds visiting each of the churches in the benefice. This arrangement is forced on the villages because they are so small and cannot afford the cost of having a vicar in each.
The church has pews that have artfully carved pew ends. The pews were not always in this church. As the letter we wrote from Crowcombe states, some of the the carved pew ends had pagan themes such as depictions of "the green man". We were given to understand that many churches did not have them. I think that we are talking 15th century here, which is when the church was built. But the problem was that the open space in the church nave invited partying by villagers who had no other place for such an activity. By the end of the 15th century, it was decided to build a church hall, across the street from the church. Then pews were installed in the church nave, and there was no more "unseemly" behavior in the church. The construction of a church hall provided a space for community activities, including partying, for a long while. But in the 17th century, the Puritans turned part of the hall into a place to house the poor residents of the village, and part to run a charity school. Today there has been a complete renovation of the building and it has returned to its original function as a center for village community activities. The Crowcombe web site above has a section on the  history of this church. This history states that the town's origins date back before 854 when there is the first written mention of it. It also states that it was given to King Edward the Elder by his father, King Alfred the Great.
Ron was treated to a climb up to the bells in the tower. and was given a short lecture on "change ringing", the art of ringing the different church bells according to a set routine. Unfortunately we did not get to hear a peal of the bells.
Crowcombe is near the Bristol Channel. Our friend took us for a drive around the area, stopping at a town named Watchet which Samuel Taylor Coleridge had in mind when he penned these lines in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, "The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared, Merrily did we drop Below the kirk, below the hill, Below the lighthouse top."
 
Then our friend treated us to a short stop at a nearby town's train station still served by a steam train.  One came in just as we arrived at the station--just in time for Ron to photograph it.
As we drove on, we came upon hills steeper than any we ever have traveled, grades of 25% up and down. At the end of the roller coaster road was the beginning of a hike on the former road bed of a mine railway on cliffs that skirted the Bristol Channel. The views were spectacular. You could see as far away as Wales across the Channel. And , at the end of the hike, there was a very pretty pub where we lunched.

It does not get any better than this.

It does not get any better than this.
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