The Benefice Community

The Benefice Setting

The Benefice covers a number of welcoming and varied rural communities in a wonderful part of Somerset, where the church is often at the heart of that community. Set close to the Blackdown Hills, the area offers all the pleasures of rural life, with its outstanding countryside. The villages benefit from being only a few miles from Ilminster and Taunton, with a range of shops, schools, entertainment facilities, and ease of access to other areas by either road or rail. The M5 is within 10 minutes and the A358 which connects the A303 and the M5 runs through the Benefice. 

All seven villages are predominantly rural based and have all developed from a farming background.

Farming and the countryside are still at the heart of the communities which include farms, smallholdings, stables and nurseries, although fewer people are employed in these areas than in the past. Most working residents (mainly professional) commute daily to Taunton, Yeovil and further afield for their employment. There are also many people who have moved to the villages on their retirement.

The villages are predominantly middle-class, with owner-occupied housing. There are some housing association properties in most of the villages but on the whole the cost of housing makes it difficult for young families to move into the villages. There are approximately 300 children and young people living in the Benefice, nearly half of this number in Hatch Beauchamp and Curry Mallet.

Each village has its own Parish Council and they are situated in either Somerset West and Taunton Council or South Somerset District Council areas. The populations are as obtained from the civil electoral rolls and do not include anyone under 18 years old:

There are five well maintained village halls in the Benefice at Curry Mallet, Hatch Beauchamp, Staple Fitzpaine (Neroche), Stoke St Mary and West Hatch. They are well used by many local clubs and organisations.

Beercrocombe (pop 134)                  Website www.beercrocombe.org
A small community with no shop, pub or school, the church being the only public building in the village. The village hall in neighbouring Curry Mallet is shared with Beercrocombe. The predominant local economic activity is farming and most people in employment commute to work by car. The population is generally older than the national average but includes a broad mix of working and retired people and a number of younger couples with dependent children.

 

Curry Mallet (pop 345)Website
A Duchy of Cornwall village with a Public House/Restaurant (The Bell) , a Post Office and  General Store, a village hall and a church Primary School (80 pupils).  There is an irregular bus service to Taunton.  A small, affordable housing development has been completed in the village. 

Hatch Beauchamp (pop 511)     Website www.hatchbeauchamp.com
This village has light industry in the form of a fencing company, a pre-cast concrete works and several units built on the site of the old station yard.  There is an inn (The Hatch Inn), a hotel (Farthings), Beauchamp House Nursing Home, a garage and a church Primary School (25 pupils).  The Post Office and Stores closed in 2001.  A village hall is located adjacent to a playing field and multi-use games area.  A small, mainly private, housing development was completed in 2007.  Hatch Court and Hatch Park are large country house estates in the village.


Orchard Portman (pop 60)
This is a small village on the edge of Taunton Racecourse and Polo Club.  The Cygnet Hospital and Lemon Tree Nursery School are in the village and the church has connections with both.

Staple Fitzpaine (pop 330)        Website: www.nerochevillages.org.uk
Staple Fitzpaine is the largest of the three villages/hamlets in the parish of St Peter’s.  Staple Fitzpaine (pop 133), Bickenhall (pop 81) and Curland (pop 116) are situated on the Blackdown Hills in an area of outstanding natural beauty.  There is an inn (The Greyhound) at Staple Fitzpaine, Alms Houses and a small, affordable housing development.  Neroche village hall is situated midway between Bickenhall and Curland, and hosts monthly community lunches.  Staple Fitzpaine is on a bus route with services to Taunton, Chard and Ilminster.  Each year there is a lively calendar of social events.

                   

Stoke St Mary (with Thurlbear) (pop 426) Web www.stokestmary.info
Stoke St Mary is a compact village within easy reach of Taunton (3 miles).  There is a congregational chapel, an inn (Half Moon), a village hall and a landscape gardening company.  Thurlbear is a scattered village just under a mile away with a large church primary school (210 pupils), which draws children from the outskirts of Taunton.  There is a redundant church in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.

West Hatch (pop 243)
A scattered village on either side of the A358 between Hatch Beauchamp and Stoke St Mary.  There is an RSPCA rescue centre, a Public House/Restaurant (The Farmers Inn) and a village hall adjacent to the church.  The Huish Woods Scout Camp is located in West Hatch.