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Picture Somerset - celebrating the county's magic

On Somerset Day it's become a tradition for me to share some of the county's beautiful sights, captured by some incredibly talented photographers.

This year I'm trying to pick my top eleven 'ever' - taking into account all the photos I've featured so far (eleven because of course, Somerset Day is May 11th. See what I did there?;))

Anyway, grab a cup of your favourite tipple, sit back, relax, and enjoy eleven magical Somerset moments, some of the stories behind them, and see why Somerset is celebrated every day by so many of us who are lucky enough to call the county home.

First up is this stunning capture from Jonathan Warner. Every May, Jonathan heads to this field in Dowlish Wake, to capture a vista of sunshine. I love it because at the moment, when we drive to the BBC Radio Somerset studio, we pass full-to-the-brim fields of bright gold exactly like this. It always lifts the soul to see nothing but yellow stretching out in front of you and it's one of the things that always reminds me of May in Somerset.

Next, we head to Glastonbury Tor. It's certainly a magical place and there have been so many magical photos taken of it so it's hard to choose just one... I've narrowed it down to three! ;)

The first is this sunrise stunner by Jason Sturgess with the Avalon mists rolling in.

As Jason says:

“I remember looking out of the window one morning, seeing it was foggy, and I went to the Tor hoping I could get a great shot. It all just came together. The mist was drifting slowly around the Tor, with the sun's rays shining over it – pure magic, just like the location.”

Never a truer word!

One of the reasons I love the Tor is that where we live, you can pretty much see it from most places when you're out and about locally... also, you can spot it from our bathroom, so for me it's part of the very fabric of being in our part of the county!

Someone who heads there every day to photograph this special Somerset landmark is Michelle Cowbourne, and I had to include her photo looking out from the Tor at some very inquisitive sheep! Those faces... and that sunrise...

As Michelle says:

“My very favourite scene to photograph is when the sheep are up on the hill. On this particular morning two of them seemed to look at me as if to say "Take photos of us not the sunrise!"

Quite right too!

The other thing I love about Michelle's shot is the detail of the surrounding countryside - like an intricately stitched blanket, stretching for miles... and talking of detail, how about this unique shot of the Tor by Vitaliy Bobrovic. I remember the first time I shared it and many people commenting on the unusual angle and detail. How different the sheep look here!

As Vitaliy tells it:

"I took this in early spring, the day was sunny and really windy and because of that I was only able to lift my drone 60-70 meters, but the sheep looked like bugs on the hillside and I liked it!"

There are so many special landmarks in Somerset and with 11 stops on our Somerset tour in this particular blog, we can't fit all of them in but we can head to Cheddar Gorge and to Rich Wiltshire's shot of it.

Pure 'wow' for me. I love all of Rich's photography. He has a unique way of capturing some of the most well-known Somerset spots, and sharing some of the less well-known ones too. Like much of Somerset, his shots certainly stand out in a crowd!

Here, Rich conquered his nervousness of heights, climbed up Jacobs ladder with all his photography gear (passing a few mountain goats along the way), found the perfect spot, but after all that, the sky was totally overcast so he was stuck there wondering if he’d ever get a great photo. Then, as Rich tells it:

“The winds really picked up. The clouds seemed to come to life and suddenly, the sun popped out from behind them lighting up the countryside spectacularly”.

Couldn't agree more... and talking of beautiful lighting, head back up to the very first photo would you? That's at Cheddar too. It's a mid-December sunrise over Cheddar reservoir, from Wavering DoWell, captured by Paul Stockall.

As Paul says:

"The sky and clouds were bright red when I parked at King's Wood, but unfortunately I didn't quite make it up in time to get that in the shot. That's the great thing about Winter sunrises though - you don't need to get up at silly o'clock to capture them!"

Well, the shot Paul did get was wonderful. For me, I love the two people staring out over Somerset. Anything is possible when you're drinking in that view.

Talking of views, I love this one from above Triscombe Quarry on the Quantocks. As photographer Mike Stuckey says:

"Is there a better view from a quarry anywhere in the UK"? That's a VERY good question!

Now, as we're on the Quantocks, I've got to share this magical moment again - captured by Zoe Cox.

As Zoe says:

"The Quantock Hills are my sanctuary. There is always something new to be seen and this pony stood out as it wandered alone, chewing the cud, with its white colouring against the purple heather, completely unaware of my presence in the distance".

Such a beautiful memory of Zoe's.

Some of my own favourite Somerset memories have happened at the wonderful Clevedon Pier... from dancing in the rain at their 150 year celebrations, to gentle, impromptu strolls to read more of the plaques adoring the pier, with their messages of hope, love and remembrance.

There are some amazing photos of the pier in the sunshine, with calm seas and fluffy white clouds breaking up the bluest of Somerset skies. There are incredible sunset photos too, as the sky turns purple when the day bids us farewell... but I love this shot by Jon Rees. It captures the moodiness of a stormy Somerset afternoon perfectly, and the drama of the sun pushing its way through.

As Jon says, of taking shots like these...

" I get a few odd looks, but for me it's well worth a soaking - dramatic conditions, moody skies... exactly what I'm after."

I absolutely love that. Get soaked for your art!

Anyway, one of the most beautiful times of year in Somerset has to be Autumn. The trees put on a show stopping display, the lanes burst with the promise of hedgerows full of blackberries, and the crackle of an open fire isn't too far away. One of the photos that sums all that up for me is this stunner by Mike Jefferies.

As Mike says,

“ I'm very lucky to live close to this lane and it's one of the walks I do most mornings or afternoons with my dog, so I see it changing throughout the year”.

We're lucky to see that shot of it I reckon! It's one that's always stuck in my mind. Those reds and that twisty lane... leading you to many more beautiful Somerset sights.

And we stay with trees for our final shot in this 'favourites' selection, as we sprinkle a little wintery magic over the county now.

I've always loved this capture by James Markham, showing a different side to Somerset - the forest at Gare Hill on a freezing, frosty Winter morning. As James puts it:

"We're so lucky to have so many wonderful areas of woodland in Somerset. This is close to my home and on this particular morning, I wanted to get a different perspective. I love this the solitary van providing a perfect focal point at the break of day".

And that, as they say, is that for our Picture Somerset tour of the county... well, kind of! I know I said eleven photos, but I couldn't resist sneaking in four more that bring to mind some of the most magical things about Somerset for me.

  1. The starry skies, perfectly summed up by Kris Avery in his shot ‘Stars, sails and daffodils’.

When we arrived in Somerset ourselves, in our removal vans, it was almost midnight. It had been a very long day, I pretty much tumbled out of the drivers door, and through exhausted eyes I looked up to see a sky just like this...packed full of millions of twinkling lights. It was the most stars I'd ever seen in my life, and Kris' gorgeous shot of Ashton Windmill always reminds me of that.

2. Starlings... masses and masses of starlings, with a little taste here by Mark Pickthall.

One of the most magical things to see in Somerset, from November, is the starlings gathering in nature reserves, across countryside, and putting on quite a show! Mark's brilliant photo captures a murmuration... or is it a swan?

3. Cider. Drink it up... or as @harrynevard's shot at Burrow Hill Cider Farm shows us, just ring the bell!

4. Finally, I wanted to finish with this photo taken by @meyouandmagoo.

Nicola took it at Brean Down and it was one of the first photos that inspired me to share the joy of Somerset through photography, and other people's incredible pictures of the county. The reason? Well, because to me, the photo always sums up how it feels to live here. I can honestly say I do jump for joy waking up here - not necessarily literally, but Somerset is always in my heart. Quite simply, there's no place like it.

Happy Somerset Day - today, and every day x


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