Nunney Castle near Frome, Somerset comes close to perfection. Here water laps a small rectangular island, out of which rises a tall, ruined castle with four cylindrical towers.
A terrace with short grass and vertical sides with revetted stone (apparently a later addition) surrounds the ruin. The perimeter grassy banks are, in turn, encased by a low stone wall. A simple wooden bridge has replaced the drawbridge, and the moat is fed by the Nunney Brook, which flows on through the village.
England In Particular, Moats
We often drive through Nunney on family visits to Somerset but we’d never stopped for a closer look. In early May we started a circular walk from Nunney Castle.
It’s a great hulk of a building towering over the village,
a man-made eminence, a natural edifice, an inverted stone quarry.
Jessie found a natural spotlight and lit up like a natural diva.
It’s an open air theatre; it’s a cliff face; it’s a cave with the roof fallen in; it’s a hollow victory.
Nunney brook and the castle through the trees. A good place to wash a fleece or to feed the ducks.
Nunney church watches over the village.
Effigies in the Church of All Saints, Nunney. Cosily rearranged in St Katharine’s Chapel are the tombs of the Lords of the Manor. The effigy of a knight on the window sill is thought to be that of Sir John de la Mare, builder of the castle. He died in 1383. The Elizabethan couple, dressed to the nines to meet their maker, are Richard Prater and his wife. He bought the manor in 1577. The most interesting tomb is that of Sir John Paulet, who died in 1437, and his wife Constance. He wears full armour, his surcoat emblazoned with the De la Mare lions. Lady Paulet wears her hair long like an unmarried woman.
Through the village, up the hill and turn left into Donkey Lane.
An inlaid panel of wall camouflage, a cunningly disguised portal into a parallel Minecraft world.
The lane soon became a private drive bordered by ornamental fruit trees, but there was an escape route through a gate into the woods down beside the brook.
We entered a realm of magic carvings, a secret space behind the village,
Please Mr Crocodile, can we cross the water to see your lovely daughter!
There were giant wooden tortoises and a rickety-rackety bridge and a troll fol-dee-rol.
But then the realisation gradually dawned that this was probably not a children’s playground after all. Hadn’t I once heard of the Nunney Horse Trials? Could this be where they’re put through their paces?
We had unknowingly stumbled into the lower reaches of the cross country course. Luckily for us the horses were not running today. We wandered on downstream into the tranquil and verdant woods.
Yellow archangel, guardian against evil spirits and spells and black magic elf-shot.
We crossed the brook and continued along the opposite bank, passed traces of old industry, weirs and sluices and a cast iron pipe spanning the water, later identified as Late Hoddinots Mill. It was another of Fussell’s Iron Works, like those we’d found earlier near Mells on a previous walk – Wells & Mells.
It dates from 1776. The record of its sale in 1846 lists – ‘a mill, water wheels, water courses, sheds, smiths’ shops, carpenters’ shops, grinding house, store houses, workmen’s cottages, gardens and other premises’. What little remains is now overgrown and reclaimed by nature.
We climbed away from the river to cross over on a high-arched stone bridge then up and out of the valley, passed the last remnants of the old iron works.
The gatekeeper sees us safely on our way.
The path leads us to a spectacular field of stripes, like an artwork by Daniel Buren.
Strip light sky reflections.
Polythene seedling germinations.
Cling film ribbon striations.
Cuckoo-Pint (Arum Maculatum), variously known as Cuckoo-Flower, Lords & Ladies, Adam & Eve, Jack in the Pulpit, Friar’s Cowl, Adder’s Root, Starchwort, Dog’s Cock, Priest’s Pilly, Sucky Calves, etc.
We followed the old drovers’ road down a well trodden holloway, so enclosed and littered with fresh cowpats that it seemed more like a farm outbuilding.
The track led between over-arching hedgerows to rejoin Donkey Lane just as the heavens opened and a sudden torrential downpour sent us running to The George for shelter and recuperation.
Walk the walk: Nunney Village, Castle & Combe