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  • Writer's pictureRoyston Nicholls

East Coker, Somerset

In a few weeks, if all goes to plan, Jodi and I will be moving to the little village of East Coker in Somerset. It is a quiet and peaceful village, typical of so many in Southern England. The houses are mostly old, many of them thatched, but all built with a warm, amber-coloured Hamstone, a Jurassic limestone from a local quarry. In the spring the small village green is alive with daffodils and bluebells, and surrounding the village are a network of country lanes and field paths, making it a delight to explore the area.

Cottages in East Coker. Photo: Public photo

East Coker Farmhouse. Photo: Roy Nicholls

The village has had its share of famous residents, most notably William Dampier (1651 – 1715), who was probably the first Englishman to see Australia, and the poet T. S. Eliot (1888 – 1965). Dampier was born at the historic Hymerford House, a 15th C thatched manor house, which stands by the local millstream. A mariner, explorer and privateer, in 1699 he explored the South Seas, and at the age of 40 he wrote is Voyage Round the World and a Discourse on Winds, Tides and Currents, a work still being studied over a 100 years later. Dampier died in London, but was buried in the village church, the church of St. Michael.

Hymerford House. Photo: Public photo

St. Michael's Churchyard and countryside. Photo: Roy Nicholls

St. Michael's Church. Photo: Roy Nicholls

Also interred in the church is T. S. Eliot, the British-American poet, who wrote East Coker, the second poem of Eliot's Four Quartets, while staying in the village. The poem does not do the village any favours, but, as the writer Simon Jenkins points out, evokes a vision of mystical misery for all humankind. T. S. Eliot was not a cheerful chap.

The Helyar Aimshouses. Movie: Roy Nicholls

Memorial to the villagers who died of the plague in 1645. Photo: Roy Nicholls

Should the traveller wish to explore the village, there are easy train connections from London and Bath to Yeovil Junction from (where you can pick up a taxi or you can walk the 2.5 miles to the village via country lanes and footpaths) and there is a teashop and pub, the Helyar Arms, in the village, both perfect for lunch.

The Helyar Arms. Photo: Roy Nicholls

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