Local Charm in the Quantock Hills | A Stay at Parsonage Farm, Somerset
Nestled on the edge of the Quantock Hills in Somerset, in a little village called Over Stowey, you will find the delights of Parsonage Farm - a traditional 17th century farmhouse complete with log fires, beautiful gardens, cosy bedrooms and delicious food, with rambles into the countryside beginning right from the front-door. Run by Suki Lilienthal and Richard Ince, Parsonage Farm is the perfect place to escape and relax amidst the rolling hills and purple heather fields of the Quantocks. And that is exactly what I went to do earlier this month, spending two nights at the farm and becoming accustomed to slow-living and the peace and quiet of the hills - it was somewhat difficult to leave.
Words and Photography by Athena Mellor
Arriving at the farm, I was greeted at the front door by Suki who welcomed me inside and led me straight to a cosy sitting room with a roaring log-burning fire to warm my hands and toes. Hints of the old parsonage that the farm once was are ever present; visible in the stone floors, high-ceilings, big windows and multiple fire places - a whole five of them, I later learned from Rich. It’s how I wish they still built houses today - spacious yet cosy, with kitchen windows that inevitably look out onto grand gardens, trees, flowers and open skies. As the stresses of the city and the drive in the dark I had taken to get here dissolved into the air, it was quite clear that Parsonage Farm was exactly what I didn’t know I needed for a relaxing pre-Christmas retreat.
Every morning, Suki lays out breakfast for guests in the dining room; homemade granola with fresh milk, bread from the local bakery and an assortment of jams and homemade honey. The deliciously, sweet apple juice is also homemade and coffee beans are ground from a perfectly old-fashioned Dutch grinder mounted onto the wall. After breakfast you can wander around the gardens or go for a hike in the hills; from the front door at the farm, you can head up into the moors and walk the spine of the Quantock Hills from north to south, with views to ocean and valleys, thick purple heather and distant forests.
The Quantocks are modest and compact; their peaks are gentle and not quite as dramatic as other parts of the UK. Yet for local people who know and love them, they are a sanctuary of escape only an hour from both Bristol and Exeter. I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty adjacent to Exmoor National Park, but what I found was a lovely area of quintessential British charm; lush green forests, wild, blue oceans and hardy ponies roaming through purple moorland, nestled together with cosy villages, friendly people and an abundance of local business and produce.
That day, Suki had arranged for a wreath-making workshop with a local florist in the B&B. Indeed, activities and workshops are not uncommon at Parsonage; especially in the summertime when pizza nights are held every Friday in the garden using a real wood-fired oven. Pottery lessons also take place throughout the year in a studio with its own kilns at the side of the house. The wreath-making workshop began with coffee in handmade mugs and ended with a a delicious meal of chilli and homemade apple juice; with that perfect cloudy colour and just the right amount of bitter sweetness.
What I was slowly discovering was how much Suki has put into making as much as possible at Parsonage Farm homegrown, organic and local; from the homemade mugs, honey and apple juice to the workshops held by local businesses. Indeed, even in my bedroom there was an abundance of maps to local walks and wanders, perfect for a keen rambler like myself. I enjoyed an evening walk down to Nether Stowey, a lovely village complete with tea-room, pubs and the National Trust-run Coleridge Cottage, home of the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge whose presence in this part of the world is ever-strong; from the romantic landscapes that he took much inspiration from to the aptly named Coleridge Way.
On my last morning at the farm, Rich told me about how different the place looked when they acquired it 25 years ago. With a beautiful building and a vision of what they wanted to achieve, Rich and Suki set out to make a cosy bed and breakfast that people would love; visiting as young adults and later revisiting with their own families and children. Parsonage Farm is small and quiet, the kind of place you hear about from a friend of a friend who visited and “had the most marvellous time” at this secret little spot at the foothills of the Quantocks. It’s yellow walls and blue front door will lead you into a calm oasis of slow-living and quiet life, where the rich, somerset air is but a few footsteps away at the top of a gentle peak somewhere.
Parsonage Farm has three bedrooms, two ensuite and one with a shared bathroom. All bedrooms have either a double or twin beds and a pull-out sofa bed for extra sleeping accomodation.
Read more about the farm here: parsonagefarm.uk
Find out about walking in the area here.
Learn about walking on the Coleridge Way here.