It is twenty-five miles between our house and MrElaineous’ hometown. Due to the “you-can’t-get-there-from-here” phenomenon, it takes us about an hour to drive there on winding country roads, which allows us to avoid the often grid-locked city of Bath, and instead takes us through picturesque towns like Bradford-on-Avon and small villages such as Faulkland.
I hadn’t paid much attention to Faulkland before, and there were only a few things that stuck in my mind when thinking about it. The first was architectural: one of the first buildings you drive past is the Faulkland Wesleyan Chapel. Although now converted into a private house, the unusual architecture of it is due to its origins as a Nonconformist (i.e. non-Church of England) church. Then there was the small village green, with two signs that I had read but not necessarily registered. One pointed to a lavender farm, the other was hand-written and cautioned drivers to mind their speed: “SLOW DUCKLINGS!!!!!”
It wasn’t until my Instagram feed began to fill up with shots of gorgeous lavender from across the south of France that it dawned on me that a local lavender farm would be an ideal place to explore. And so this was how I recently found myself standing at the edge of a sea of purple, listening to the deep hum of bees and watching butterflies flit from flower to flower – too fast for me to photograph well, but too beautiful not to at least attempt it.
The place whose sign I had neglected for too long was Somerset Lavender and it made for a perfect morning out. There are two large lavender fields to circumnavigate, a flower garden that, during my visit at least, was absolutely bursting with colour, and a café and gift shop where you could sample culinary treats and purchase great smelling souvenirs. One of my favourite bits, however, was the lavender garden. Twenty species of lavender are planted side by side, allowing you to easily see the difference in colour and shape … and perhaps pick out a favourite for your own garden.
What surprised me most was that the lavender fields themselves didn’t have much of a scent. It wasn’t until the flowers were crushed between your fingers to release some of the oil that the classic fragrance wafted out. Despite this, the lavender plants were absolutely mobbed by bees, and if you’re interested in providing food for pollinators, any of the lavender varieties are a good choice.
At one point MrElaineous and I took an unexpected detour during our visit, accidently ending up outside of the farm at a small pond with adorable ducklings that couldn’t have been more than a few days old. The second sign now made sense and I completely understood the sign-maker’s fondness for exclamation marks. The cuteness of these ducklings was enough to reduce me to a quivering pile of “Awwwww”, and I do hope all drivers in Faulkland take it easy near the pond. [And, in a separate public service announcement, bread is bad for ducks.]
While on our diversion, Tuppence Cottage also caught my eye. I am a collector of fun house names, but have to admit it was the sabre-toothed tigers guarding the gate that were more noticeable than the name itself. I’ve seen statues of lions and dogs, but these were a first for me!
My view of Faulkland changed over the few hours we spent there, fleshed out by experiencing it as living village rather than a simply a place to drive through while going from A to B. It was a useful reminder about giving places a chance to show you their colourful side and their quirkiness—and how you should stop to smell the lavender whenever you have the chance.[ If you’re interested in stopping to smell the lavender yourself, please check out Somerset Lavender’s website for opening information. And it’s not just lavender … keep scrolling to see the lovely flower garden! ]