My Somerset – Kit Chapman MBE
This article first published in Somerset Living Magazine in May 2018 is published here by kind permission of the author Kit Chapman MBE and Somerset Living Magazine.
Kit Chapman and his family are the owners of The Castle at Taunton. In 2015, he founded ArtsTaunton, a registered charity constituted to promote the arts for the public benefit. Kit is also the author of four award-winning books, and he has written and presented two television series about British food. In 1989, he was appointed MBE for his work in the hospitality and tourism industry.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT LIVING IN SOMERSET?
It has to be Somerset’s magical landscapes. It is a county of stunning contrasts. The Levels or Wetlands often take on a mystical, medieval aspect, especially in a soft autumn mist. The Quantocks grip you with an austere and rugged beauty, offering walkers fabulous views to the east and west, and north across the Bristol channel to Wales. Exmoor, the land of RD Blackmore’s Lorna Doone, oozes romance with its dramatic seascapes, its stark moorland, hidden Coombs, rushing streams and leafy woodlands. And then there are the beech-clad Blackdown Hills, the quieter, gentler uplands of our county. The church of St Peter and St Paul at Churchstanton is Grade I listed and a 14th century gem.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT WEEKEND IN SOMERSET.
My wife, Louise, and I have an affection for Wells. We love browsing round the market on Saturday mornings. Then a leisurely lunch at Goodfellows. Adam is a highly accomplished chef and we love his cooking. His French wife, Martine, runs the front of house with typical Gallic wit and enthusiasm!
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE PEOPLE FROM SOMERSET?
Mercifully, in this manic digital age of ours, Somerset exudes a unique sense of peace over the land – an atmosphere I haven’t found anywhere else. So, people here have time for people. We care, and we are fiercely proud of our county. Watch out for Somerset Day on May 11 – honouring the moment Alfred the Great defeated the Danes in 878.
IS THERE SOMEWHERE IN SOMERSET YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN, BUT WOULD REALLY LIKE TO GO?
I am ashamed to confess that I have never visited Cheddar Caves. For me Cheddar is only about cheese, the best being Montgomery’s mature unpasteurised Cheddar from North Cadbury – a world class cheese.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE PLACE TO ‘EAT OUT’ IN SOMERSET?
Putting Castle Bow Restaurant and BRAZZ aside, there are two special favourites: Augustus in Taunton which is run by two outstanding Castle alumni, Richard Guest and Cedric Chirossel. The other I have already mentioned, Goodfellows in Wells.
WHAT ARE YOU READING AT THE MOMENT?
Balkan Ghosts, A Journey through History by Robert D. Kaplan.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT?
My award-winning books, I guess. But more recently, it has to be the launch of ArtsTaunton in July 2015. We are now a Registered Charity and our mission is to promote the arts for the public bene t and transform Somerset’s County Town into a great centre for arts and culture (see artstaunton.co.uk for more information).
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Nurture your talents, understand your limitations. And be fearless pursuing your goals. Life is short and you don’t want to end up in your dotage reacting on a life wasted. Go for it!