No city, town or village is at its best in the rain – so I didn’t pick a good day to visit Peasedown St John for the first time.
A former mining village, Peasedown grew considerably towards the end of the 20th century and is well known as a bedroom community for people working in Bath and Bristol. Therefore, you expect it to be empty during the day.
However, even on a very wet Wednesday in May – when nothing very interesting or exciting was happening – I found a thriving village full of life and conversation. People were coming and going, going for coffee, taking the bus, or snooping around the charity shop.
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I spoke to Andy Day – a resident of Peasedown who traveled all over the world before being ‘brought back’ to the village. Today, he runs the aptly named The Meeting Place cafe.
Andy said: “When you look at Peasedown on the map, it’s definitely square. It has its own identity which is distinct from the towns and villages that surround it.
“And that’s what it’s like to live here – he’s got a big heart. I grew up here before I went to America and to St Helen’s to teach computer science in schools. But my faith kept me brought back to Peasedown and made me want to create a place where people could meet.
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“The church was going to buy a coffee shop and eventually this store came into being. I remember when I was little it was called Peggy’s and then Mandy’s. We wanted to make it a place that was always open – like a lifeline for the locals.”
At 11 a.m. on a very rainy Wednesday, The Meeting Place is jam-packed with locals and visitors. But it’s not Peasedown’s only social hub.
A short walk down the main street you will come across The Red Post – a huge pub that has been serving villagers for decades. Today, it is a crossroads for traders who meet there on Friday afternoons.
Simon Sandall took over as owner in 2007. He lives locally and said: “It’s great here – you’re eight miles from Bath, eight miles from Wells, eight miles from Keynsham and eight miles from You have two towns and two decent towns within striking distance – we have a great choice of places to go.
“I moved here in 1998, when there were big printing companies that everyone worked for. Nowadays more and more people work from home. I know a guy who went every days at MoD Abbey Wood by car and now he works from home.
“We get a lot of trades people at 3.30pm on Fridays, they use the pub as a sort of networking event. You know, if someone’s doing a job and needs a little help, they’ll find the good person. I can’t think of a job that we don’t have here.”
Simon added that due to the size of Peasedown the village had decent football and cricket teams. Their matches have brought people closer, he explained, and there’s nothing the villagers love more than a knee in the air.
“We have the party in the park on Friday June 3 on Beacon Field for the platinum jubilee. They had about 3,500 people the last time it happened and we hope it will be similar this year.
“When it was the Diamond Jubilee, we held a competition to name our own village cider. It’s called Peasedown Diamond and it was made at Lilley’s in Frome. We serve it at this Jubilee, but keeping the old name,” he said. .
David Gower-Spence, who runs the bookshop at the other end of the village, is a sad man to miss at this year’s party in the park. He said that unfortunately the knees fell when he booked to go on vacation.
David said: “We have everything we need here and I don’t often leave the village. I’ve lived here for 20 years and been a bookseller for 30, and it was the village post office at the time.
“I used to have a book business, then they closed the post office and left the bookstore to me. My book business is mostly online, but I like to keep the store open so it looks busy and people can donate.
“I would say the village has improved over the last few years. It used to be rather difficult, but it’s a nicer and quieter place now. We’re really in the countryside here. I have three dogs and it’s “It’s heaven for them. You walk out of your house and you’re in the countryside.”
As I drive back through the village, I pass a charity shop full of customers browsing the rails and Tesco Express with full parking. Although not as glamorous as Bath or Wells, Peasedown is definitely full of life.
Gone are the days when it was just a place to sleep. These days, Peasedown is a destination in its own right and a place people want to stay. If you don’t believe me, head over to Party in the Park and see for yourself.
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