The South Somerset Circle: PR guru Lynne Franks on why Wincanton is the next ‘in’ place to livePosted: 06th Mar 2021
Wincanton, Bruton and Castle Cary make up The South Somerset Circle – the next property hotspot in Somerset. We spoke to PR Legend Lynne Franks about why she made Wincanton – aka ‘The Gateway to Somerset” – her home.
“I didn’t move here with any plan” says the grand dame of PR, Lynne Franks, over the phone, just after an online fitness session. “I joke I flew in on my broomstick!” She laughs and continues “It was pure serendipity. I was renting nearby and then fell in love with the house I bought. I seem to have a way of knowing what the next ‘in’ place is going to be. Not that I go looking for it, it just seems to happen.” Lynne, now in her early seventies, certainly has an impeccable record for choosing the upcoming property hotspots; she’s lived all over the world and bought in Notting Hill and Venice Beach way before they were fashionable. But her latest tip? Wincanton in South Somerset.
Lynne moved here around three years ago and now owns two heritage properties side by side. This is where she lives and works, running her ethical empire; Hub at No3, which is described on her website as a ‘Holistic Healing Destination’ and where she holds workshops, retreats and gatherings. There’s also a plant-based café (The SEED Café), vibrantly-decorated “Eco Bedrooms” and a special secret walled garden. Next door at No 4 is her SEED store which sells sustainable lifestyle products. (SEED stands for Sustainable Enterprise and Empowerment Dynamic).
That’s a lot of work. But hardly surprising, given her drive. She started a groundbreaking PR agency from a kitchen table at the age of 21, soon representing fashion industry leaders like Katherine Hamnett and Jean-Paul Gaultier, later helping to establish London Fashion Week as a prestigious event and working with leading 1980s brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Brylcreem and Harvey Nichols. Her eponymous agency also represented stars like Annie Lennox and Ruby Wax.
Even during the money-mad 1980s, however, Lynne was always involved with charitable causes like Amnesty International and Live Aid and attended the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in 1984. In the nineties she stepped down from her role as Chair and started campaigning for women’s empowerment, something she hasn’t stopped doing ever since. Which brings us back to Wincanton, where she’s created a space for women – and men – to be nurtured and feel healed – and where she’s also thrown herself into the community.
“I’m really lucky to be here,” she explains energetically. “There are some lovely, creative people and it’s really community-focussed. Together the community has started a community fridge [to reduce food waste], begun rewilding, planting trees, teaching children to plant vegetables with the Balsam Centre [Community Centre] and we are all working to create a sustainable environment.” Sometimes called “The Gateway to Somerset” the town doesn’t have a train station but is just five minutes from Templecombe where you can catch a train to Waterloo, it’s right off the A303 giving you access to both the capital and the South West, it sits on the north eastern edge of the Blackmore Vale and is closely located to Wiltshire, North Dorset and the Mendips. Wincanton Racecourse draws crowds (in normal times) as does the official Terry Pratchett Discworld Emporium, albeit different ones.
And the other shops? Wincanton’s high street is, well, as Lynne put it – normal – “practical as well as creative,” with everything from butchers to the Bootmakers (makery) and The Lovington Bakery, mostly independents, apart from Boots the Chemist and the Co-op, much like neighbouring Castle Cary. Bruton, however, just 10 miles away has a more rarefied high street, with must-be-seen-there eateries like At the Chapel and coffee-table book boutiques like Caro Somerset.
Bruton often appears in Sunday magazines as one of the coolest towns to visit in the South West and is a favourite with celebrities and Londoners, being known as “Somerset’s Notting Hill.” And the three towns together, perhaps including Sherborne just across the border in Dorset making a fourth, are becoming known as the South Somerset Circle – the next up-and-coming-area to relocate to, particularly when you think the award-winning country house estate The Newt in Somerset is down the road as is avant-garde art gallery Hauser & Wirth. And Wincanton in particular seems attractive when you learn that the South Somerset District Council has ring-fenced a substantial amount of money for the town’s regeneration, including remodelling the street architecture – widening and flattening pavements and roads – and encouraging events to increase footfall.
“It’s going to have a special feeling” affirms Lynne. “It’s a work in progress, which is fun as it has a lot of potential.” And what does she think about more people moving here from out of town? Without hesitation she says, “Why not? It’s all good. It’s very clear to me that this will be the next place for Londoners to move to and this will bring in jobs and a healthy economy for the long-term inhabitants. Wincanton should be a town for everyone – newcomers and long term alike.” One thing’s for sure though, after a lifetime of moving, Lynne is not going anywhere, concluding. “I’ve found my home.”
By Cath Rapley