Monday, 9 December 2013

Minehead Day 1 (Sat 7th Dec)

Monty the motorhome is parked in one of the last spaces available at the Minehead Caravan Club site. On the face of it this seems unusual at this time of year, as although this is a small site there are 50 pitches.
However this is the weekend that the neighbouring village of Dunster holds it's Christmas by Candlelight festival, which is very popular. Actually very, very, very popular, as we were about to find out. The festival was our reason for coming and we were quite looking forward to it as we wandered down to the centre of Minehead to catch the 'park and ride'.
Dunster is a small village, full of touristy shops, and dominated by the castle which is dramatically sited on a wooden hill. The castle has existed here since at least Norman times and is now run by the National Trust.
The festival is now in it's 27th year and the whole village is lit up with lanterns and candles, with all the shops staying open for late night shopping. Music and entertainment is provided by an assortment of choirs, morris men, street performers and small bands.
As we arrived by the first bus (about 3.15pm) it was relatively quiet, but soon the numbers began to swell and by the time it was fully dark (about 5pm) it was crammed with hordes of people.

The quiet before the storm
A bit busier after dusk - but it got even more packed than this!
Just as it was getting dark we had mulled wine and mince pie at the watermill, which was working away for the evening. It was not grinding any flour, which was just as well as the whole place was eerily lit by candles. Flour is extremely combustible!

We also visited the local church - St George. It dates back to when the castle was started and it's crowning glory is a long rood screen that spans just about the entire width of the building - reputedly the longest in England. This was the setting for various musical events, but we only caught the tail end of one - a local choir who were really rather good - just the sort of thing Gareth Malone does.

The castle was lit up and we were expecting that to be lit by candlelight as well, but not so. It was an all electric affair - still very atmospheric though. There was a small group of violinists playing, with some very young members, probably no more than 10 years old. They were not so swiftly followed by a group of hand bell ringers, who were at the other end of the age spectrum - some of whom looked like they had trouble reading their music scores!

Overall it was worth going, but there were just too many people in the end. This became quite apparent when we came to get the bus back. The queue seemed endless and snaked around the parking area, before tailing back into the village itself. However there were plenty of coaches running and in the end it was only a 30 minute wait.

Back in Monty we just flopped and had an early night.

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