Fossils, brandy and intrigue on the Somerset coastline

samuel-coleridge-home-low-res-croppedThe coastline of the Exmoor part of Somerset has an interesting history making it the perfect place for an intriguing weekend break this spring (2018).

Here you can find fossils, hear about smugglers, poets and spies and visit the places where they frequented while making your own magical memories to take home.

On Kilve beach it is also fairly easy to find ammonite among the pebbles. The locals called them ‘St Keyna’s serpents’ thinking they were snakes turned to stone by the saint.

In Georgian times, local free-traders landed contraband along the shore at Kilve and used a ruined chapel to store their brandy.

In the Napoleonic Wars it was common for officers to drink brandy with the smuggler ship’s captain while the illegal goods were being unloaded.

But it wasn’t just smuggling that was rife during the Napoleonic Wars, malicious tall tales, damaging gossip and reputation ruining rumours also prevailed and the Romantic Poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge fell foul of this.

Wordsworth and Coleridge loved the area. William and his sister Dorothy lived at Alfoxden (now Alfoxton) Park, near Kilve, to be near Coleridge whom they had befriended.

Coleridge lived with his wife and baby son at nearby Nether Stowey but he spent as much time as possible with the Wordsworths, striding about on the hills and saying they were: “Three people, but one soul.”

But their tranquility was marred when they were accused of being spies by a local doctor who wrote to the Home Secretary. He accused them of having a wild appearance, of wandering the hills day and night, and in all weathers, spouting odd ideas and having strange accents.

A secret agent was dispatched from London who reported they were harmless cranks, but locals were still not convinced and the Wordsworths’ lease on their house was not renewed.