When I first joined the Life Boat aka the Bereavement Group(I call it LB as in ‘we are all in the same boat’ and it helps to get your life back on track) we had extravagant plans about trips we could make. However - after two disastrous evenings – one of which involved dancing – when only two turned up, we decided to set our sights lower, hence small steps.
One of our men made a list of places we could visit in half a day, with comprehensive details and brought them for our perusal. Incredibly – amongst a dozen or so individuals - we came to an agreement: Doniford Farm.
One of our members, C is a volunteer for the West Somerset Railway and she told us she was allowed to take three guests on the train to Doniford Halt so the four ’Minehead lot’ could go free and we agreed that we would share the cost of any extra persons. The rest from more distant places would drive straight to Doniford.
C was a teacher for many years; we knew she would take good care of us and promised to be at Minehead station at 10am in plenty of time to be escorted onto the train in the correct carriage. It was another warm sunny day which made standing waiting on the station a pleasant nostalgic experience and the holiday makers and their excited children were reminiscent of that lovely old film ‘The Railway Children.’
Minehead is the end of the line and always had a turntable but it was scrapped when the line closed. The present one was rescued from
over 30 years ago and was finally renovated and installed in 2008. The two- man crew can turn a 100 ton engine
using their muscle power alone provided it is carefully balanced about the
Once we had established who didn’t like going backwards we took our seats and felt privileged to be with C who knew all the crew and there was much banter and badinage. All the country–side was unspoilt and when C spotted my camera she told me the best place to get a shot of
. None of us could remember the name of Dunster
Castle Conygar Tower
- a folly built in 1785 to enhance the view from
but a crew member obliged. Dunster Castle,
The next station was Blue Anchor one of the three stations where trains can pass so some times there is a wait. Then comes Washford with its radio transmitters built by the BBC in 1933 and plainly visible for miles around –especially at night.Watchet was our penultimate stop where Coleridge got the idea for the Ancient Mariner and we like to think that Watchet was the port the mariner sailed from.
Finally we reached Doniford Halt – a request stop. C checked there were still four of us and we walked crocodile style along the road to the farm.Gradually we met up with the rest of our group who inadvertently had ignored the table booked for us and claimed another. Meanwhile some of us wandered round taking photos of the animals who seemed to delight in hiding from our cameras. C – more patient than I got a lovely one of a meercat.
The menu was extensive and catered for both large and small appetites and there was plenty of time for relaxed chat.The loos were excellent and the shop great for edibles ad small gifts.
Over the years we have visited many farms and animal centres in the area and my impression was that the animals in the fields – sheep, goats and llamas were much more animated than the ones in cages – especially when the lunch bell rang.
Thanks to perfect weather and everyone’s friendship and goodwill our small group returned on the train feeling we had taken an important small step.