One of the good things about parkrun tourism is that it gives me a chance to see some of those places that I had always meant to visit. I must have driven past the village of South Petherton hundreds of times on my way down to Devon or Cornwall, but I had never stopped there. I put that right today with a visit to Frogmary Green Farm parkrun.
South Petherton is a smallish village (population circa 3,500) in the southern part of Somerset, in an area of gently undulating farmland. The name is believed to derive from the old Anglo-Saxon when it was a small town, ‘ton’, on the River Parret. The settlement of ‘Sudperetone’ was part of the Kingdom of Wessex. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records there being a major battle here in the year 680. In the eighth and ninth century a grand manor house was built here, also a fine church and there was also a short lived mint. After the Norman Conquest the estate became the property of the crown and later was governed by the monks of Bruton Abbey. After the dissolution of the monasteries, it briefly reverted to the crown, before ending up in private ownership.
South Petherton still boasts some very old buildings. There is a 14th century manor house in Silver Street, nicknamed King Ina’s Palace, after the original Anglo-Saxon ruler. On the outskirts is Wigborough Manor House. Nearby is East Lambrook Manor, famous for its gardens. In the village centre there are many fine old buildings, made from the local hamstone. South Petherton seems like a pretty nice place to live with a good selection of shops and cafés, a local arts centre and a small community hospital. In a recent Sunday Times listing, it was named a one of the ‘coolest’ places to live, though how you measure coolness, I don’t know! If you’d like a quick glimpse of the village as it is today, here is a short video.
On the outskirts of the village lies Frogmary Green Farm. Being a farmer in these testing times can be a challenge and, if you want to survive, you may well need to diversify. FGF is very much a working farm. They grow a variety of crops in the surrounding fields, including pumpkins for Halloween. There is a field full of sunflowers and a wild flower meadow. They also raise poultry. You can enjoy a short break in one of their shepherd’s huts. There is a shop and a café, which is always popular. The large barn has been converted into a wedding venue - I think they were hosting a wedding today. The farm hosts a number of events over the course of a year and, since March of this year, it has been home to a parkrun.
The parkrun course at Frogmary Green consists of a run out to a loop around some fields and then back the same way. The first/last few hundred metres are on tarmac but most of the route is around the edge of fields. It is undulating throughout, no steep hills but lots of ups and downs. The surface underfoot is rather bumpy and uneven and I was to find it pretty hard work.
There was some debate today as to whether parkrun should take place in the light of recent events. In the end it was decided to let events choose which way to mark the Queen’s death - we had a minute’s silence. There were over 200 starters there today, which seemed quite a lot for a village. I think there were a lot of tourists there. After the terrible weather of earlier in the week, it was quite a nice, bright morning. Off we went, down the main road. I found it pretty tricky. I had to watch my footing constantly - I didn’t want to fall over again. There were quite few testing little climbs. The views were lovely but I didn’t have too much time to look around. I was glad to come back to the main road. I had thought that I might finish with a fast surge along the tarmac but when I got there I seemed to run out of steam and plodded in to the finish. 30th place in 23:54. One of my slowest times of the year and I found it hard work! It reminded me of cross country races across farmland from many years ago.
My statistics for today - my total of parkrun venues is now up to 264. I was first in my age group and sixth overall on age graded scores.
So my overall verdict - South Petherton is a beautiful little village. Frogmary Green is a nice place to visit. And the course … is one I’m glad I don’t have to do again!
If you would like a quick view of the course, this couple visited Frogmary back in August.
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