PUBLISHED: 10:07 15 April 2010 | UPDATED: 09:32 28 April 2010
Surrounded by stunningly beautiful countryside, the ancient market town of Axminster is situated just five miles inland from the coastal resorts of Seaton and Lyme Regis.
The beauty of Axminster is that it combines the old and the new. Full of history, it also has most of the latest modern facilities you would expect from a larger town.
There is a real community atmosphere, especially on market day (every Thursday morning), and the best way to explore the town is on foot. The layout of Axminster displays its Saxon origins at the centre is its splendid church, the oldest building in the town and there is a central square plus a curving main street.
There is a wide range of shops, offering everything from farm and dairy produce to gifts, souvenirs, fashion and all basic essentials. Modern facilities are available too, including supermarkets, an excellent sports centre, and a superb swimming pool.
Axminster is very easy to reach, and features several long and short-stay car parks, all clearly sign-posted. It is also the perfect centre for touring the area.
Thursday is market day in Axminster, with a hustle and bustle of activity. Livestock may no longer be auctioned at the cattle market but the general market continues to take place. The market, that is so much a part of modern day Axminster, was chartered by the Crown as long ago as 1204.
Exploring Axminster allows you to view its historical past, and also enjoy its shops and modern facilities. An excellent place to start is the splendid Church of St Mary the Virgin, situated on the central Minster Green. As the oldest building in Axminster, it enshrines the history of the town, and has much of interest within and without. The church is almost certainly the only one in the country bedecked with the famous Axminster carpet. There is a beautiful 12th century effigy, and the Tudor porch is also worthy of note, as are the distinctive gargoyles. The impressive organ has recently been renovated, retaining many of the old pipes, and adding new ones to maintain the superb tonal quality.
A visit to Axminster Museum, in Church Street, is very rewarding. Packed with fascinating displays depicting the towns history, the museum is housed in the old police station and courthouse, and collections range from agricultural tools and archaeology to old photographs, and of course some splendid examples of Axminster carpets. Open from the end of May to the end of September, details can be obtained from the TIC.
Visitors will enjoy a visit to the Axminster Arts Caf in Church Street, a fascinating cultural centre with exhibitions of work by local artists that are changed regularly. Much of the centre is based in the former police cells, and there is a lovely courtyard garden to relax in, plus a thriving art and craft shop.
There is also the absorbing Discover Historic Axminster, and the Axminster Art Trail, giving details of interesting artwork in the town produced by the local community under the guidance of professional artists.
If you would like to explore further afield, the town is the ideal centre for enjoying the surrounding beautiful countryside, with pretty, unspoilt villages to visit and many walking and cycling opportunities.
Throughout the year Axminster has a busy social calendar, with plenty of events to enjoy. Among the main annual events is the Axe Vale Festival of Gardening & Crafts. Held at the nearby showground, this popular event features floral exhibitions, trade stands, arts and crafts, food hall, antiques fair, live music and much more.
Another major annual event is the Axminster Community Festival, where there are concerts and events held throughout the town.
The Axminster Carnival always draws large crowds. Many of the large, colourful, floats that take part in the carnival circuit enter so, if you enjoy bright lights, music and a true spirit of fun, this is an event not to be missed.
For fun for all the family dont miss the Dalwood Country Fayre.
Full details of these and other events are available from the TIC. If the centre is closed, Chris Scott, of Archway Bookshop, will happily provide information, and also stocks many interesting books on the local area.