This article came from the Chronicle published April 1986.  Page 71-73


Guided Visits During the Affiliated Societies Meeting


SUTTTON BINGHAM – Leader Tony Quirk

We were a very small party that left the Preston Centre for Sutton Bingham on October 5th; just myself, a lady from Yeovil and a gentleman from Bristol. Following the poor summer weather, we were fortunate to have a spell of warm autumn sunshine and we sped from Yeovil, through East Coker and on to the reservoir. Here we met Mr. Barrie Widden, a very keen and knowledgable local ornithologist who spends a lot of time observing and recording sightings birds at Sutton Bingham and also collates all the sightings from other bird watchers. He greeted us with a first; a Knot, a wader which breeds in the Arctic and winters on British coasts. It is usually found in flocks, sometimes thousands strong, but this was solitary and the first recorded at Sutton Bingham. It was conveniently sited right alongside the road and excellent views were afforded to us all. Further along the waters edge two other species of wader were seen; a Common Sandpiper, olive brown above and pure white underparts, characteristically bobbing up and down, and a Ringed Plover, distinguished by its black cheeks and white collar. Out in the water some Black-Headed Gulls and a few Mallard bobbed about, while a family of Great Crested Grebes were proceeding along the length of the lake, fishing as they went. As time was short, we drove the quarter mile to the next gate from where we walked alongside the lake, in company with the Grebe family, still catching their lunch.

In the trees on the opposite bank there was a party of Cormorants, identified as immatures by their striking white fronts, while nearby, at the waters-edge, a Heron was stalking his prey. We scoured the hedges and grassy banks for dragonflies but regrettably found none, despite the warm weather, so we strolled back to the car and returned to the Preston Centre for lunch and the afternoon lectures.

Author – Tony Quirk

EAST COKER – Leader Ron Gibson

A large party including the Chairman of S.A.N.H.S gathered outside Hymerford House in what is strictly North Coker. Unfortunately it was only possible to view the house from the outside but that was still very rewarding with the assistance of Ron Gibson’s expert commemtary. The house comprises a fifteenth century open hall with a well disguised extension at the north end. The most striking features are the two storied porch and the two light transomed windows in the west wall of the hall. Hymerford House was once owned by the Dampier Family.

The second part of Ron Gibson’s two stage excursion took the party to Nash Priory. He explained that it was not a priory at all nor really a house but originally the gateway and out-buildings of a lost manor house. It was probably built by the Courtney family between 1400 and 1410, from the evidence of tile corbel heads to either side of the east gable window, which are believed to portray Henry IV and Joan of Navarre. The party was able to go inside the priory by kind permission of the present owners and from within the true nature of the “gatehouse” structure could readily be appreciated. Ron Gibson embellished his excellent description of the building by passing round copies of drawings showing the 19th century alterations and by quoting from the notebook of local antiquary James Fussel Moore. A full account of Nash Priory complete with sketch and plan can be found in Chronicle Vol. 1 No. 2 (April 1979) page 12.

Author – B. Gittos

NEWTON SUMAVILLE – Leader Paul Gardner

As so many people expressed a wish to join this tour we had to restrict the numbers to 25.
We arrived at this imposing 17th c. ham stone house about 11.30 and were graciously greeted by its owner, Mrs. S. Rawlins. The present manor was rebuilt in 1612 by Robert Harbin. Mrs. Rawlins is a descendant of William Harbin who married the eldest daughter of Col. Francis Wyndham of Trent and her late husband, Cosmo Rawlins, was descended from mother branch of the Wyndham family. Some handsome pewter plates can be seen with the Wyndham arms and two needlework caps, handed down through succeeding generations, as having been worn by Charles II when he stayed in hiding at Trent after the battle of Worcester in 1652. The front door of Newton opens to a narrow entrance hall, to the left is the Hall, with large open fire-place, out of which opens the drawing room which retains its Jacobean panelling. One of the interesting features of Newton is that it appears to have remained untouched for nearly 250 years after it was built, although there are Victorian additions on the south side. Unfortunately, no inventory of the contents of the house exists before 1809. Some pieces still in the house can be identified from this list and date back to the 17th c. The contents of Newton thus represent, at the present time, the tastes and interests of many generations – a family accumulation of which many items, such as the Queen Anne walnut cabinets and the tallboys, are of intrinsic beauty. Books, pictures, china, needlework, yeomanry uniforms and equipment have been acquired in the same way, forming a collection of objects of interest covering 350 years, of a kind that is today becoming increasingly rare.

It was an easy-going and entertaining tour of the house; one member did drawings of parts of the house, another took flashlight photographs. Visitors were invited to slave picnics in the garden if they wished.

Mrs. Rawlins has said that sometime in 1986 she would be pleased to arrange another tour to give our own members a chance to visit her home. I am indebted to Mrs. Rawlins for notes on her house, after our visit.

Author – Paul Gardner.

NINESPRINGS – Leader Chris Cornell

Leaving vehicles on the car park of the Hendford Health Centre, our small group of enthusiastic naturalists ascended the grassy slope towards the Ninesprings. Crunching through leaves and sparsely spined husks of conker, we entered the sleepy dampness and shadows of the lower path, sunlight piercing the gloom, shone brightly on moss carpeted banks and revealed the rich, golden earth, where badger activity had newly exposed areas of Yeovil sand. A misting of silvery winged gnats buoyed about in the warming air. Many other flies settled on tree trunks and chestnut palings, soaking up tree last of the season’s warmth. Ivy in full flower offered nectar to the drones and hoverflies which hummed contentedly, high up in the mature canopy.

Although autumn was advancing, many trees, especially the oak, sported mid-summer greeness, whilst in the lush glade, ornamental prunus and parrotia showed good colouration. The hazel grove had an abundance of nuts whose shells, lying on the ground, revealed much evidence of the activity of grey squirrel and many other smaller mammals. The dark, juicy fruits of the cherry laurel showed little sign of having been eaten, save for a few longitudinally split stones beneath the trees. This could have indicated the work of greenfinches which often use these areas as evening roosts, when the weather turns inclement. The water lay still and darkly emerald amidst tangles of vegetation. A chill wisp of mist was moving over floating leaves, still falling softly onto the surface.

Winged fruits of lime, field maple and hornbeam were found amongst the general plant debris as we made our way, brushing aside many echinate skins of sweet chestnut and beech mast. A blackbird and great tit were foraging beneath the leaves for seed or plump invertebrate and nuthatch diligently probed fissures in bark, for some unsuspecting beetle larva or hibernating aphis.

On the hill slope, one could see bright yellow gorse flowers, whilst on distant hedgerows redwings gorged tnen,seives on haws, whose sanguine hues contrasted well with the ochres and umbers of other species.

Despite the time of year (maybe because of comparative soil dryness) fungi were few. However, ganoderma and beefsteak (Fistulina hepatica) were present on ancient boles and groups of white tipped candlesnuff (Xylaria hypoxylon) were observed on long faller, boughs.

The success of the visit was greatly enhanced by the fine weather and the party found much of interest.

Author – Chris Cornell.

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