By Harry Mottram: My first memory of Axbridge was on the TV news in 1973 when the town became known around the world due to the tragedy of the Basle Air Disaster. At the time I lived with my mum in West Lambrook in south Somerset near South Petherton which was not unlike Axbridge. As a member of the Women’s Institute and the local church she was very shocked as the disaster resonated with so many people in towns and villages across the country with its shocking death toll of mothers and daughters.

Setting off for Scotland

Then in 1976 I cycled to Scotland from Somerset and noticed the town as I cycled through Wedmore and Shipham – but didn’t stop. It was to be another 20 years before I visited it briefly in the car of a friend who lived in Lower Weare. “You’ll like Axbridge Harry,” said Debbie, “it’s your sort of town.” Well, she was right – we drove down the High Street, then up Houlgate Way on a bitterly cold winter’s day – and despite the grey drizzle and darkening sky I remember thinking it did look like the towns of my childhood in East Devon like Colyton and Musbury – and its namesake Axmouth.

The home we left behind in Bristol

In the mid-1990s we lived in Lakewood Crescent in North Bristol near Henleaze Lake and Badock’s Wood – it was not quite in any of the neighbouring suburbs. When I couldn’t pay the poll tax I said we were in Southmead, when I pretended to be a local I said we lived in Westbury-on-Trym and when I put the house up for sale we said we were in Henleaze. As the children grew up and our oldest Giles was set to leave Henleaze Juniors there was no obvious local senior school – we attended all the open days locally but there was no place – in the end we were offered Nailsea which was more than 10 miles away. Madness. If we moved to Somerset there was a likelihood your children could go to the local school. Giles was now 11, and with Ashley and Lawrence in primary school and Milena in pre-school finding a town with schools was vital.

The 1990s was an era of very high interest rates meaning it had become almost impossible to pay the mortgage and so we decided to sell up and move. Linda and I house hunted in Frome, Nailsea, Backwell, Peasedown St John and all points south – looking at the cheapest end of the market. And after one house purchase falling through in Axbridge due to our buyer pulling out we finally bought a house in Old Church Road to our huge relief. I remember that first day after we had unpacked as the school over the road was holding a summer fete – which we visited – so much smaller than Henleaze Juniors but still welcoming. And on the doorstep the mayor Mike Taylor had left a bottle of wine and a card: ‘welcome to the town.’ We knew we had made the right decision.

One the first Axbridge Carnivals I remember – possibly 1999

In the late 1990s Axbridge still had a feel of a town of an earlier decade. People still sold their excess vegetables and fruit from small tables outside their home. The carnival still featured a large number of vintage tractors and the town council had elections for new councillors due to the demand of those wishing to serve in the town hall. I remember playing in the annual cricket match on the Furlong Field between the Mayor’s XI and the Rector’s XI that summer and of organising a football match for dads to raise cash for the PTA. For Linda and the children, it was much more of a change as they missed their friends. Ashley had two weeks at Axbridge before starting at Fairlands in September with Giles. Both having to catch the parents’ run double decker bus to Cheddar while Lawrence found the change and the wrench from his friends in Bristol almost too much. And for Linda although Axbridge has its charms it is not Henleaze with its cinema, Waitrose supermarket, library and wide range of shops.

Now some 26 or more years later it seems we’ve always been here although I would not call myself a local – that has to wait for another 50 years.

End of Part One.