It was a familiar footpath that I’d walked countless times before with my grandparents, my parents, my brother and now on which I walked with my wife. Crossing through fields, over a small bridge and down a path between overgrown hedges, we soon arrived at a small dairy farm just outside the village of Sampford Brett, tucked away in the rolling hills of Somerset, England.

There we met an old farmer on crutches who I gave a brief introduction to–telling how I used to visit the farm and watch the cows get milked with my father and brother over 20 years ago–before asking if we could continue onto his land on a hill beyond.

“Well that would have been me then, doing the milking,” the farmer said with a smile, years after the last of the dairy cows had been sold.

OneWorldOneYear.comWhile some things hadn’t changed in the quaint village where my grandparents Hugh and Joan Johnston once lived–ever-present peace and quiet and the regular passing of an old, steam train between Bishops Lydeard and Minehead–the passage of time was certainly obvious since my last visit to Somerset 18 years ago.

My grandparents had both long since passed on and the view of the steam engines was obscured by tall bushes in their old backyard, which a new owner welcomed us to visit. The dairy farm was now silent, trees were overgrowing the small bridge on which I played Poohsticks and the red phone booth in Sampford Brett had become the village book exchange.

Somerset, England, Minehead, Great Western Railway, Watchet, Exmoor, Travel, Backpacking, Travel Photography, Canon 5D Mark III,As we walked I happily snapped photos of my wife while we toured the fond memories of my childhood holidays. But I did wonder if taking those photos and introducing a new face into that landscape from my past, might somehow distort fond memories I’d tried so hard to keep clear. Maybe this would replace the irreplaceable now that my grandparents were gone.

Then, standing on a hill by a red-stone quarry above the village, we heard the whistle of the Western Somerset Railway approaching, just as it had for years, (the train on which my father rode to school in Taunton every day for a year in his childhood). My wife pulled out her camera and smiled as the whistle blew again and the old steam engine appeared around a bend, puffing smoke skyward as it carried fellow tourists who waved back to us on the hillside.

Somerset, England, Minehead, Great Western Railway, Watchet, Exmoor, Travel, Backpacking, Travel Photography, Canon 5D Mark III,Watching Britnee take such pleasure in this, as I have done so many times in my life, added yet another fond memory to this trip and our lives together, reminding me what this visit was all about. Finding our way back through the village, we passed through a farm yard I used to play in as a boy—Manor Farm—stopped to admire a big, grumbling pig in its pen, then started down an unfamiliar footpath toward home, finding something new for my very first time.

Somerset, England, Minehead, Great Western Railway, Watchet, Exmoor, Travel, Backpacking, Travel Photography, Canon 5D Mark III,Many thanks to my first cousin once removed Pauline and her husband Gary for taking such good care of us during our stay in Somerset, putting us up in their lovely home, driving us all over Exmoor chasing ponies, providing such delicious meals—pub dinner, local fish and chips and Paulines own wonderful home cooked meals—and providing some welcomed family history lessons.

Thanks to Malcolm and Elaine for offering the same love during our restful stay in Southampton and to friends Andrew and Nicole who first took care of us upon arriving in England! It was wonderful to see you all and thanks again for all the help.

About The Author


Mark quit everything to travel the world for a year with his wife, Britnee. Along the way, he picked up a love for many other things, including illy coffee, Nepal, Bolivianos bills, and Thai beaches. Now happily home in Utah, Mark is a balding marketing professional with a mountain biking addiction.

One Response

  1. Catherine

    Sounds like such a lovely trip – it’s always good to take a trip down memory lane! Glad that you’ve managed to preserve old memories and make new ones all at the same time :)