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Where to live in Somerset?

(43 Posts)
GregorSamsa Thu 22-Sep-16 10:54:38

We're looking at the Taunton area, but could be flexible with location.

We want a house in a rural area, but with access to a reasonable-sized down and good secondary schools. I gather Weston is meant to be not very nice, but are there any other particular recommendations/places to avoid?

I've looked at Rightmove and can see that the area between the M5 and the coast is cheaper, and the area around Taunton is cheaper than eg. Frome. Budget is about £700k, so we're looking to get a balance between getting as much for our money as possible, without ending up somewhere that is cheap for a good reason, iyswim. confused

Sprig1 Thu 22-Sep-16 19:23:07

We lived in the Quantock's (between Taunton and Minehead/Bridgewater). It's lovely, you will get e great house for that budget and it is easy to get in and out of Taunton (and on to the M5 at Bridgewater). Bridgewater and Weston aren't very nice in my opinion.
Why are looking at Somerset and what are your budget constraints? It's a huge county. Frome and the surrounding area is nice too and then you have easy access to Bath but you will get much less for your money.

Wells is lovely, Cheddar area too with great schools. Wedmore the most expensive in this part of the county but £700k would still get you a large house.
Shepton Mallet, Street, Somerton Glastonbury all cheaper. 700k would go a very long way in these areas.
Further south - villages round Yeovil are cheaper and pretty.
I like Taunton to visit, not sure about living there though.

GregorSamsa Fri 23-Sep-16 09:00:58

Thanks all, lots of food for thought!

What are your reservations about living in/near Taunton?

And any info on which secondary schools are good or ones to avoid?

trinity0097 Sat 24-Sep-16 07:07:41

Schools in the cheddar valley are very good, try to get in the catchment for Hugh Sexey Middle School.

Ditsy4 Sat 24-Sep-16 07:14:20

A friend of mine has moved to Clevedon and loves it.

MirabelleTree Sat 24-Sep-16 07:20:36

This is where I would live in your situation. That's catchment fir Hugh Sexey's and Kings of Wessex. Bristol, Taunton, Wells and the Airport all in fairly easy reach and Wedmore is lovely. Bit of a project with that house but could be fabulous and you'd have potential to get an income from it is the future if you wanted to.

GregorSamsa Sat 24-Sep-16 07:35:47

Mirabelle -that's exactly the kind of place we've been looking at! Including the idea of having a separate letting unit for income.

I'll have to start looking at school catchment areas -we're currently in London where you have lots of options, but also very small catchments. I guess in rural areas they're a bit wider.

Is it the case that only a few specific schools in Somerset are considered good, or are most schools likely to be reasonable?

Other things being equal I'm not mad keen on the Levels, would prefer blackdown hills or Quantocks areas, but schooling is definite a major factor. We'd be looking at a y9 place though, which is upper rather than middle school? I'm not familiar with the three tier system.

MirabelleTree Sat 24-Sep-16 07:51:40

I'd love to buy that house, it could be gorgeous ! I'm not sure about the school situation further down into Somerset but I'm sure someone will be. As with everywhere they do vary. Yes the catchments are much bigger and most of the children come in by bus.

Year 9 is Upper School. I'm quite a fan of the 3 tier system. DD was due to start first school in that area but DH was made redundant so she didn't but we ended up in another area with the 3 tier system. I find the Moddle school aspect is a positive move for them, they get quite a gentle transition to secondary school. The schools work together so although they are transferring mid key stage 3 it all flows well.

Great big tall 18 year olds are less intimidating when you're 13 and Upper school has a rhythm of its own, each year had a function which keeps them busy. It worked well for DD who has gone through pretty much and working well for DS.

BellaOfTheBalls Sat 24-Sep-16 08:04:58

Bridwater and the coastal towns (WSM, Brean etc) are cheaper for a reason; they have fairly poor reputations. Agree with what has been said above; Glastonbury, Wells etc all good. Personally, I would avoid Yeovil itself but the surrounding villages are very pretty - Ilminster, Shepton Beauchamp, North Perrott, Montacute. You could consider Sherborne as well, you won't get quite as much house for your money (Dorset postcodes are very desirable) but the town is pretty and lots of excellent schools nearby. Consider somewhere close to a train station as well; links to London Waterloo, Bristol and Exeter are good, particularly during the summer when Jct 25 of the M5 becomes a car park.

Some local towns (not all) in Somerset operate the first/middle/high school system, so you can potentially end up with siblings in multiple schools. However the middle school system in particular works very well and the transitions are managed well, meaning it's much less daunting for children going from primary to secondary.

We moved from the North West to Somerset about 5 years ago. Although my parents live fairly locally they live across the county border so we're not au fait with Somerset. I can honestly say it's been the best decision we made.

MirabelleTree Sat 24-Sep-16 08:05:27

I think the thing you have to think about with a year 9 is access to things as they get older. Rural Somerset is going to be potentially a bit of a shock after London and I would want to be within reach of a decent sized city really.

Depends on the child though I guess and I'm being coloured a bit in my views by my own DD who finds where we are on the South coast limiting and has buggered off out of the country at the first opportunity! I had a friend who lived in Somerset and her DS ended up boarding in Bristol as was at a day school there and didn't want to come home . Recently another friend's DS has got a sports scholarship for a Bristol school and is now boarding during the week and going home to Somerset weekends. You'll be shocked at how fast the upper school years go so I'd think this through really carefully.

BellaOfTheBalls Sat 24-Sep-16 08:10:13

Agree mirabelle. We have friends whose children board at Millfield, a compromise because it's still rural but has more going on for ex-London based pre-teens.

The other thing to consider for your children is transport. Public transport (buses) in the local area have been really heavily cut back by SCC so you will end up driving them everywhere.

MirabelleTree Sat 24-Sep-16 08:21:07

Yes Bella, agree . You'll need to budget for petrol as you will be driving everywhere, sort a cheap to run, sturdy run. I'll never forget the look on my friend's face as she worked out that her hard earned part time wage was just covering the oil bill (Aga and boiler) and the family's petrol costs.

BellaOfTheBalls Sat 24-Sep-16 08:29:46

I don't drive and it can be an absolute nightmare. Even if I did I'm not certain we would afford to run two cars, but yes many people locally have a sturdy, cheap to run second vehicle (and an excellent mechanic). And you've reminded me of another thing I didn't consider when we moved here. Outside of the towns there are no gas mains, so heating is generally oil fired. It's pricey, especially if you do one big tank fill as and when required but you can arrange for monthly top ups. The very rural houses will also have septic tanks instead of mains sewerage.

GregorSamsa Sat 24-Sep-16 08:29:50

Yes, the freedom for teens aspect is my main concern tbh. Dd is used to being able to travel around London independently, it will be a shock for her.

Agree re the train lines, esp as I may need to be in Lodnon one day a week or a fortnight, hence thinking Taunton as a first option.

mateysmum Sat 24-Sep-16 08:34:13

We moved to live in a village near Taunton about 5 years ago and really like it. There are some lovely villages round here and a good train service and easy M5 and A303 access. Wells is lovely but much further away from the major roads - that's good or bad depending on your needs. As others have said, Bridgwater and Weston are not so nice.

Schools in Taunton are normal entry at 11. Castle and Heathfield both have decent reputations (though I don't have personal experience), but there are 3 independent schools in the town all of which are well rated and popular.

Taunton itself has pretty much everything you need on a regular basis and if you need more, Exeter and Bristol are both within an hour.

When you say you want something in a rural area, how rural? Just outside the town, a large village with facilities, a market town or really rural towards Exmoor. Most of Somerset is rural to some degree. We live near an attractive, large village with a doctor's, primary school, shop/post office/hairdressers/community run coffee shop and active churches/cricket club etc about 20mins from Taunton which suits us very well. You do have to be prepared for the "agricultural" smells and the gigantic tractors that plough the lanes and if you're sensitive to traffic noise, you need to avoid anything within earshot of the M5/A303.

If you have specific questions about Taunton, by all means pm me.

mateysmum Sat 24-Sep-16 08:36:01

It's not quite true that the villages don't have gas - some do, including ours. Sadly it stops before you get to our house!

MirabelleTree Sat 24-Sep-16 08:42:18

Ours had gas and we didn't have a sceptic tank, depends where you are. We did have loads of power cuts though which I don't miss one bit ! Don't miss the spiders either...

ImAMorningPerson Sat 24-Sep-16 08:44:32

Somerset? Then definitely Bath if you can afford it, it's the perfect location in my opinion.

I'm in Wiltshire but I'd love in Bath if it wasn't so expensive! The expense is justified though.

MirabelleTree Sat 24-Sep-16 08:57:34

That is a good point, I'd assumed you'd said Taunton due to a job being down there ? if not around Bath surrounds would be lovely. The train line to London line is being electrified or something and supposed to taking just over an hour from 2017. You'd then have Bath and Bristol for teens. Bristol as a teen was great !

GregorSamsa Sat 24-Sep-16 09:03:57

Ooh, thanks for all the replies! smile We do have family links to Devon and Somerset, so know the area a bit, but have no recent experience of actually living there, particularly from a schools POV.

We want to be reasonably rural (hence not Bath) partly because the whole point of moving is to not be in a town, and partly because we want more house for our money than we would get in one of the Bath satellite villages.

But we also want reasonable access to a city and to mainline train station, hence not the Exmoor side of Somerset, lovely though it is.

So the area around Taunton (blackdown Hills or Quantocks) would seem to fit the bill. I've looked at lots of houses, and the kind of thing linked to upthread, ie detached rural house with reasonable amount of land and a letting unit for extra income seems to be pretty doable for around £700k.

So the main variable seems to be the schools issue, for the three years from Y9-y11, since Taunton has a good 6th form college that would seem to fit the bill. Private is not an option, but possibly Sexey's in Bruton as a weekly boarder? Though I've heard variable things about it. I wondered whether the large number of private schools in Taunton had a knock-on effect on the quality of the local state schools, as sometimes seems to be the case.

mateysmum Sat 24-Sep-16 09:59:25

I take your point about the knock on effect of private schools. All I would say is that the catchment for the private schools (which are all at least 50% boarders) is huge and many of their pupils would not be in Taunton if they went to their state catchment school.

As you say, Richard Huish at Taunton is an excellent 6th form college. For secondary, if you are outside the Castle catchment, which you probably would be if you lived in a village, look for info on Heathfield which covers the area to the east of Taunton, but be careful as many many new homes are being built in its catchment. both these school are rated outstanding.

Could you afford private with a bursary/scholarship? Might be worth a look.

Wellywife Sat 24-Sep-16 10:08:01

Chew Valley? Bristol is on your doorstep and the countryside around is lovely. Chew Valley School is highly rated too. Second Wells too. Also lovely.

Darkswan Sat 24-Sep-16 10:17:35

I live in Taunton and I do like it. If i had your budget I would be looking at villages just outside of the town, Iwpuld love to live in Cheddon Fitzpaine or Kingston St Mary. Something like this
Or Milverton is nice, but further out

Darkswan Sat 24-Sep-16 11:53:00

Actually, I think I'd consider Trull. It's just out of town, the secondary school is quite good or it's close to a private school if you wanted that and it's a good community in the village. They have film nights, fun days, a good quiz at the pub and sometimes days out.

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