Getting to Bruton, Somerset, can be a long journey after a very busy week, so it’s never an early start on Saturday. But I still enjoy opening the shutters, going straight into the garden and breathing in the air. It’s quiet, clean and fresh, the instant antidote to my frenetic life in London. Unless it’s raining, I have breakfast and coffee outside; I just pull on a sweater if it’s cold. Then I head off to Bruton, which has antique and bric-a-brac shops that I love browsing. I’ve furnished the house with particular pieces that fit with our modern things – stylish, mismatched vintage crockery and cutlery from Phillips & Skinner, and an amazing studded crocodile trunk with a heavy lid that looks like a pirate’s treasure chest from Quillon House Antiques. I’ve decided to keep all my stationery and papers in it, so now my desk is very tidy.
I also adore looking at antique jewellery, not so much for design inspiration but because I am fascinated by the techniques used and how fine and intricate the pieces are compared with those of today – except at the very highest level. Occasionally I am tempted – I found a beautiful ruby ring and a fabulous crystal ice bucket at The Antique Shop. We inherited miles of bookshelves with our house and the charity shops on Bruton High Street are great places from which to fill them – I’ve come across so many wonderful bindings and illustrations, especially at Brainwave, a charity that supports children with disabilities.
The best weekends are family ones when my daughter, 16, my son, 22, and his girlfriend join us and the house is full of chatter. A Saturday lunchtime meeting place is At the Chapel, a chapel that’s been converted into a cool, modern and spacious restaurant serving excellent food – it has its own pizza oven and bakery and uses fresh, local produce. As we have many friends in the area, clichéd though it is, we also gravitate towards Babington House as a Saturday-lunch spot. It still has such a great, relaxed atmosphere, and a menu for all ages.
The nearby church of St Mary the Virgin is very picturesque and popular for weddings, and a favourite Saturday-afternoon amusement is to go and spectate. I love to see what the bride is wearing, what vehicle she arrives in and so on. Some are quite bizarre and it’s always fun. Later on Saturday is time to be with friends; if we haven’t had a big lunch we might gather at The Talbot Inn in Mells – a 15th-century coaching inn, which is very smart now but still cosy. Some say it’s a mini-Babington, set in a very beautiful village and landscape where there are lovely walks.
Sunday morning’s alarm clock is church bells, but I’m not complaining. If we have friends staying who want to explore the area, we take them to Longleat, which is impressive but very touristy, or Stourhead, which is truly elegant and has the most stunning gardens. Otherwise we go for brunch at one of my favourite places, the Three Horseshoes at Batcombe, which does a really tasty version of a pork pie with homemade chutney, and then we go for a walk in the surrounding hills.
The tricky thing about Sunday is that I’m already psychologically preparing to go back to town, so there’s no longer that complete sense of relaxation. If we have time, we go to the new Tea Rooms at Cole Manor, which are cutely decorated and do amazing cakes. Even if we can’t have a sit-down English tea, we buy a cake to take with us. I like to get back in time to have a proper evening, preparing for the week – except in summer when the long hours of light seduce us into staying out and we don’t set off until nearly dark, when at least the roads are quiet. Avril Groom