The world's tallest three-sided obelisk, our striking landmark seen by everyone for miles around, fully restored and ready for climbing!
For over 200 years, our beloved Wellington Monument has stood proud on the top of the Blackdown Hills overlooking the town of Wellington. A wonderful landmark on one's journey along the M5 motorway and something that all locals aspire to seeing from their house or garden. It was first proposed to create a monument to the Duke of Wellington (who had taken his name from our town) in 1815 following victory at the battle of Waterloo. Initially funded by hundreds of people, from the Duke's top of society friends to soldiers from the Somerset regiments, like all grand designs, it ran out of money! The foundation stone was laid in 1817, witnessed by a group of 10,000 locals who had processed up there from the town. Despite all the enthusiasm, with money running out and with setbacks such as lightning strikes, the monument wasn't completed to its current height of 53.34m until the 1890s.
The Wellington Monument has played a huge role in our family's life for over 40 years and continues to do so. It's only 5 miles from us and the drive there is beautiful. It is so glorious driving through tree lined avenues with dappled light. Striking in winter, vibrant in spring, cooling in summer and stunning in the autumn. It's a great place to walk, bike and picnic. We witnessed the last solar eclipse back in 1999 from there, along with a large crowd who thought similarly to us that it was a great place to be. However, our most memorable visit was back in 1991, when in the middle of the summer holidays we decided to climb to its top! It was through local knowledge that we'd learnt that it was possible if you could get the key to the door at the base of the monument from the farmer who lived at Monument Farm. So off we trekked. Just myself and 4 small, keen climbers, aged between 3 and 7. Luck would have it, we found the farmer, but when we asked for the key, he looked at us motley crew and said are you sure? Of course we were! So he cautiously handed us the key and as an afterthought asked if we had a torch. Why would we need a torch? He leant us his. Well, thank goodness he did. There are 365 steps in a continuous spiral to get to the top, and what we hadn't realised was once you'd completed one revolution you were in total darkness! Climbing up was exciting and the small people nipped up it like mountain goats. I seem to remember having to lift them up to see the views out of the window, but then came the descent. The steps were worn, it was steep and we only had the one torch - I suddenly came over all Health and Safety and feared getting the mountain goats down in one piece. The older ones were given a stern safety lecture and were allowed to go ahead, whist I took to my bum and instructed the 3 year old to do likewise......it was a very long descent but we lived to tell the tale! Soon after the Monument closed to the public as the National Trust were concerned about its state of repair and huge quantities of finance were needed to fully restore it. It was a very long, painful process but the tenacity of those in charge paid off and with the use of 8 miles of scaffolding 1,508 stones were replaced, the internal staircase made safe, lighting installed and once again visitors can climb to the top (without the need for a torch!). Tours of the inside of the monument are available and must be booked online. Currently it is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until early October, but having talked to the National Trust volunteers it seems they are finding their way and could be adding more dates this year. They will definitely shut over winter, as the cold and damp may jeopardise safety, but will open again in spring.The site and it's car park are always open, so you are welcome to go there at anytime. It is a beautiful short, accessible walk at any time of the year. I was blown away by the wonderful resoration work that they have achieved and love the fact that they have repurposed old stone from the monumnet into seat bases for the public to enjoy. There are many information boards.