SOMERSET: The Bishop's Palace

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Heidi, Henry and Daddy Saunders admire the tall sunflowers at The Bishop's Palace

By Tim Saunders

While coronavirus is around we’ve made the decision to only have day trips because at least that way we won’t get caught out by sudden quarantines.

Living in Hampshire it is surprising just how far you can travel in a day without the need to stay the night.

The Bishop's Palace at Wells in Somerset is under 100 miles away and takes around two hours to get to. We leave at just after 9am and arrive before 11.30am, which gives us plenty of time to explore.

Adjacent to Wells Cathedral, it has been the home of the Bishops of the Diocese of Bath and Wells for 800 years and has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building. It pays to be a bishop.

The children love the sound of The Bishop’s palace and little Henry is walking around saying, “We’re at The Bishop’s Palace.” It’s like something from Ben & Holly.

Recently the weather has been temperamental but today although there is some cloud, the sun shines making for a very pleasant trip. As soon as we arrive it is clear how popular it is because there is a healthy queue of visitors awaiting entry.

“You need to wear a facemask in the shop but otherwise there is no need,” we are advised. That suits us fine. We’ve brought a picnic and it’s not long before we find a bench and tuck in. This gives us chance to find our bearings and savour the splendour of the architecture and the well tended 14-acres. It is a perfect day out for a young family in these strange times because the children can roam freely. Although there are occasions where we have to obey social distancing generally it is not necessary because there is so much space and comparatively few visitors. Somerset’s hidden secret. There are some stunning flowers and plants, a large well tended allotment where we see onions, leeks, lettuces, courgettes, pumpkins and potatoes. The children are given some wonky carrots. Throughout the day we all take photos with the Palace’s Children’s Photographic Competition in mind.

We spend much of the day outside but do make sure that we visit the Bishop’s Palace itself where we see an array of portraits of the bishops since 1206. Current bishop, Peter Hancock, is yet to have a portrait commissioned it seems. While Caroline and I are looking, Henry and Heidi are trying to wake up the cat that is dozing on a chair underneath the portraits. Is it stuffed? Careful Henry. They find fun in anything. We also discover that The Bishop’s Palace featured in the recent BBC adaptation of Poldark.

Nearby is the welcoming Bishop’s Chapel where if we were not accompanied by our children it would be possible to spend time to gather one’s thoughts, read the Bible and pray. There are some appropriate prayers for our times dotted about and candles have been lit by the entrance. Heidi sits by the altar and pretends to be the bishop.

Later, we go back outside and find that haystacks have been placed at 2m intervals in a circle on the lawn. Initially we sit on them while the children play hide and seek and have a great time because there are so many places to hide. Then Henry and Heidi start jumping over them and then Harriett. Not one to miss out, Caroline, who used to win the hurdles at school then shows us all how it is done. One visitor congratulates her on her efforts.

An excellent day out for all the family. When we return home we post the children's photos on the Palace’s facebook page.

Open 10am to 5pm daily
Single tickets provide year long visits
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