Where I enjoy a weekend away during the middle of the week and ponder why there is nobody else there in January in the middle of a pandemic.
After an endless round of public holidays we finally limped back to normal on 4th Jan. I decided to take a few days to recover from the forced jollity of the season and I picked Frome for my trip. I called it a weekend away, although it ran from Tuesday to Thursday.
Frome (it rhymes with room rather than Rome) is a small market town in Somerset. It has a very pretty and well-preserved historic centre. In recent years it has also cultivated a thriving art scene, and has become a hub for artisans and creatives.
The narrow cobbled streets are full of independent cafes and shops. The shops mainly cater to the local community; there isn’t a thriving tourist population although there are more in summer. Expect antiques, vintage clothes, arts and crafts, flowers and plants, a book store, a shop selling vinyl LPs… yes you get the idea; it is a teeny bit hipster.
I’m not much of a shopper and I got through the shopping area in 30 minutes; I think even a keen shopper would be hard-pressed to spend longer than an hour at the shops. But it’s a nice walk, up and down little hills and along cobbled streets.
In summer there is a huge market on the first Sunday of the month, which I’m sure would be worth visiting. However since I wasn’t there either on a Sunday or in summer I didn’t get to experience that.
There is a flea market on Wednesday and Saturday though, so I went to take a look at that. It was quite small but I enjoyed poking around in it. Also it is situated inside the Cheese & Grain, so it is a market that the British weather can’t ruin.
The Cheese and Grain have a programme of concerts and events, although there was nothing on whilst I was there. They have a nice cafe there anyway though, even if there’s nothing on that takes your fancy.
The historic centre has a range of boards and placards to follow. There are organised walks running from the Town Hall, which would save you having to do your own research, but nothing was running in January during a pandemic.
Out of town
If you have a car there are a few places dotted around the town to visit. However most of them are near impossible on public transport.
Nunney is possible on the bus using the 162 towards Shepton Mallet. There are only 4 buses a day (maybe more in summer but I doubt it).
When you get to Nunney you will find a picture-postcard type village, reminiscent of the Cotswolds, plus the fine ruins of a castle with a moat that is free to visit.
This looked nice in the pictures, and is popular for UFO spotting, but I couldn’t find a bus and it was too much for me to walk there and then walk up the hill.
Also nearby is Longleat. As a kid I always wanted to go to Longleat, where you could drive around the lions (they have other animals now but in the 1960s it was just lions). However my father said it was too far, so we never went. I’d still like to go but you need a car (for obvious reasons).
Also nearby is Marston Park, where they have several accommodation options, including a Futuro house.
For anyone not familiar with the Futuro, it is a portable prefab home, designed in the 1960s by a Finnish architect and shaped like a flying saucer.
The Futuro never really gained popularity, despite the designer’s insistence that everyone would be living in them soon. Many people complained that they were an eyesore.
The oil crisis in the 1970s sent the cost of raw materials skyrocketing and the Futuro’s days were over before they had even begun. There are only around 100 of them in existence today, dotted around the world.
To book the Futuro here you need some advance planning skills, as it seems to be very popular. You also need to be prepared to part with around £700 a night. Out of my price range unfortunately, however if anyone wants to comp me a stay, you know where I am 😊
Getting to Frome
There’s a direct train from London or it is quite easy with just a change at Westbury. It was a bit more of a kurfuffle from my Hovel in Hove, but never mind. The train station is around 15 minutes walk from the town.
Where to stay (if your budget doesn’t stretch to a Futuro)
Keen readers may recognise Frome as somewhere I almost went in the summer, but was forced to cancel at the last moment because of a problem with the room I had booked.
There aren’t so many options in the town centre, and it easily books out in summer. If you have a car there are a lot more places dotted around the outskirts of town.
I stayed at the George and Granary right in the main street and it was very good value.