“We took the landrover out to see if Exmoor got any ‘white stuff’ this afternoon. The sensible wildlife were hiding beside hedgerows sheltering from the icy winds… We spotted the ITV camera man doing his weather report from Dunkery Gate and the only other mad people out in the cold were the local photographers.”
Barle Valley Safaris.
Credit: Liz Mitchell
Category: Letters from Exmoor
Letter from Exmoor: Blown away on a Coastal Safari
Originally posted by Experience Exmoor on 15/07/2014 and by Ester Spears on 12/07/2014
We love the summer months as we get so many daylight hours to go out and explore Exmoor.
One of the safaris we go on in the evenings when the weather allows it, is the Coastal Safari Special. Visitors who book this experience are usually blown away by it. Metaphorically, just to reassure you ;-).
Of course a Coastal Safari along the National Trust track we can access, is spectacular at any time of the year and day, but when the light changes and the sun is setting on these summer evenings, the experience is particularly magical.
Last week we were joined by local photographer Ester Spears on one of our Coastal Safari Specials. He posted these pictures and comments in his blog:
Where Exmoor meets the sea
Please click on the pic to make it big, coz as you know bigger is better.
The starting point for most, Valley of the Rocks (above) and below (normal view).
Here’s the whole coast, looking across Woody Bay, Crock Point, Duty Point, Valley of the Rocks and Foreland Point in the distance with it’s lighthouse.
No photo trip to the moor would be be complete without a deer sighting, these two hinds obliged, chewing on some wild flower meadow in the late evening sun.
Woods, ponies and sunset.
Many thanks to my mate, Neil Osmond of Exmoor Experience, what a great safari. Please check out the website and enjoy the experience of someone who born on the moor (well in a village on the moor); http://www.experienceexmoor.co.uk/
Canon 5D mk 3 with some L glass: 600mm IS f4, 24-70mm f2.8 ll, 70-300mm IS f4-f5.
Letter from Exmoor: Green and Pleasant Land Meets the Sea
By Keith Hunt. Originally posted on Keith Hunt’s blog on 7 July 2014
On Sunday, the weather was perfect for a walk to Lynmouth and back again. With just two weeks until I take part in the Race to the Stones 100k this was my last chance to go for a long walk in preparation for it.
Once I had taken James to Bishops Lydeard for his day helping on the West Somerset Railway for their Thomas the Tank Engine weekend (another one next weekend if you missed it!) and Poppy to work in Minehead, I headed to Porlock for a day’s walking. I ended up parking the car near West Porlock and walked down to Porlock Weir. Back at home, there were some clouds about but here, the skies were blue and the views were really clear with the sun getting quite hot by now at 10.45 as I set off. It was still quiet with just a few visitors and the Ship Inn getting ready for a busy day on their festival weekend – The Weirfest. It was nearly high tide with a few boats bobbing on the calm water.
The coastpath is accessed from behind the Anchor Hotel or alternatively up some steps past the local businesses. The path runs alongside a couple of fields until it joins a small road which you walk along until reaching the Worthy Road Toll Lodge. To the right is an arched gateway to walk through before the path climbs up and through some unusual archways which I read were the creation of Lord Lovelace after spending some time in Italy. The path zig-zags up for a while including diversions after landslips in recent years. The path continues though woodland where dappled sunlight, birds singing and small streams trickling down to the sea below make this an idyllic walk. After 2 miles, I arrived at Culbone settlement – a few cottages and England’s smallest parish church.
From here, there are a choice of two paths of which I took the lower path through Culbone Woods and the combes towards the Glenthorne Estate. At this point, you can walk down to the beach through an impressive Pinetum with it’s giant Redwood trees. Tucked away is also an old victorian Ice House. Continuing my walk, the coast path passes Sister’s Fountain, a natural spring below a man-made cairn and a large slate cross. The path then rises and meets a track going through a pair of stone pillars with a boar’s head on each one before passing a pretty victorian woodland lodge. Further along the track, the path leads off to the left along Glenthorne Cliffs and the first views of Foreland Point and looking back, views to Hurlestone Point as well as clear views across the Bristol Channel to Wales.
Once the path joins the road at Foreland, you can take the coast path or like me, walk down the access road to the lighthouse and taking great care, walk along the scree path around the point to rejoin the coast path at Countisbury where the cliffs are the highest in England. From here, you can see straight ahead to Lynmouth and Lynton as you walk down the hill, making sure you take time to enjoy the views in all directions. I arrived in Lynmouth at 2:45 so just 4 hours walking from Porlock Weir although I did walk at a fairly brisk pace. I would recommend this walk to anyone who enjoys walking as it is not that hard going. Allow around six hours to give yourself time to rest and enjoy the views and the peacefulness of the surroundings. The coastal 300 bus service is available to take you back to Porlock and Minehead. The last one leaves Lynmouth at around 5pm but check times online.
At Lynmouth, I had my packed lunch followed by a Styles ice cream before my return walk heading back up Countisbury Hill to the Blue Ball and a little further before turning right, down into the Doone Valley to walk through Brendon, Malmesmead, Oare and Robbers Bridge where it was time to take my boots off for a while and let my feet recover before heading back up the hill to the A39 where I crossed to walk from a path at the top of the main toll road down through woodland to Porlock Weir. As I reached the Worthy toll road, there were signs informing no walkers or cyclists were permitted and alternative paths should be used. I will enquire as to why that is as that seems a very strange rule. If I had my bike, I would not have wanted to take that anong the very rough path and would probably damage it by doing so. Hopefully, there are signs informing cyclists before they take the long descent. As I arrived back at Porlock Weir, the Weirfest was in full swing with live music playing to a large gathering. After my long walk, I was looking forward to getting home and a relax in the bath! An excellent day’s walking though a few miles short of what I planned.
Here are my Fitbit results: 53,557 steps. 25.85 miles. 4,680ft ascent. 475 active minutes. 6315 calories burne
Letter from Exmoor: THE OLD WAYS – Exmoor Walking Festival 2014
This post was originally published by Davina Jelley on the Number 7 Dulverton blog.
Not all the group were keen to tackle the steep climb that leads to Court Down, so we said our farewells at Marsh Bridge and they walked along Northmoor Road with the River Barle to accompany them back into town – leaving the keener walkers to continue on the advertised route.
Reading The Old Ways has sparked an inclination to read other non fiction nature writings. Although why I was perturbed I don’t know, as I loved Roger Deakin’s Waterlog, sometimes it’s good to be gently reminded and nudged back into forgotten territory, surely that is the beauty of a book club. On my list are a couple of proofs that look interesting including Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel and just published Dip by Andrew Fusek Peters.
Thank you to all who joined us on The Old Ways walk, our regular book club members and those who were discovering the woods around Dulverton for the first time.
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If you’d like to find out more about Number 7 Dulverton and join their Walking Book Club, then please pop over to their website. The next walk will take place on 31 May 2014.
Letter from Exmoor: Out with #Hibernot, in with glorious spring!
By Neil Osmond from Experience Exmoor
(first published on the Experience Exmoor website on 26 March 2014)
As we leave the wild and wet winter behind, I would like to share some recent events and news with you.
November was actually pretty nice and for the first time we had many safaris in what is normally a quieter month. The red deer were still active with the action of the rut and huge flocks of starlings were evident high up on the moor. One day, when I was out with a young couple on holiday, I managed to capture some fantastic wildlife video images which my wife Christel put into a short film.
I also hooked up with my friend Ken Blakey, award-winning filmmaker and owner of Lee House in Lynton. We went out and about one clear day and Ken produced another wonderful video to capture the essence of our Exmoor safaris.
ADAPTING TO THE WEATHER
The winter proved violent and dangerous, with a huge impact on people’s daily lives, but while out on Exmoor I sort of enjoyed nature’s power and how, regardless of what is thrown at the wildlife, they just carry on.
Right now some early spring Exmoor Pony foals are appearing and their coats have already adapted to the fresh winds high up on the moor!
The Discovery 4 is just an outstanding vehicle and this winter we were backing the Land Rover catch phrase #Hibernot. Social media helped us here when one of my photos of a Highland cow got re-tweeted by the Land Rover PR team to over 79,000 followers!
The 4×4 we use provides height, great comfort and superb visibility for all on board. It wasn’t me who won the big £108 Euromillions Lottery, but if I had done I would just get an extra Discovery!
The gorse bushes are in full yellow bloom, lambs and foals are entering our world and the clocks are about to change, giving us longer days and extra opportunities to discover more and enjoy this special area. So… out with #hibernot, bring on a glorious spring!
Early in the year we got contacted by one of the best local professional surfers, Lyndon Wake. As of this year we are planning an exciting partnership to provide sea, surf and land experiences in North Devon and Exmoor. We will also be working with the fantastic Sea Safari team in Ilfracombe to provide a combination of land and sea discovery adventures!
Last year I took out two delightful ladies from the USA who had come over to the UK on the Queen Mary and were staying at The Old Rectory Hotel in Martinhoe. We got along really well and kept in touch through social media. They said before they left that if they won the lottery they would come back to Exmoor and buy me!! Well, a few months ago, believe it or not, they actually won and guess what? They are coming back to Exmoor in August and have booked up 2 safari days with me. We will also try to see the Dark Sky of Exmoor and dance with the stars. I cannot wait to see them again.
NEW AND OPEN FOR BUSINESS
The new National Park Pavilion in Lynmouth will no doubt attract many visitors. The centre is a great point of information , offering interactive displays and even a theatre room. Visitors to the centre are also able to book their Exmoor safari with us with one of the helpful staff members at the Pavilion. The Coach House at Kentisbury Grange has a brand new kitchen in full view of the restaurant and we are looking forward to working closely with the team there. The new Moorish Farm Shop and Café has just opened on the western edge of Exmoor and is already proving a hit with locals thanks to excellent produce and service.
It’s so exciting to keep learning every day. Did you know, for instance, that the guillemot sea bird doesn’t actually build a nest for its eggs? It uses Exmoor’s cliff ledges to roll the eggs onto. The angle of the ledge as well the pear-shape of the egg holds them there. How amazing is that?
I wish you all a truly glorious spring and hope to take you out on a journey across Exmoor sometime!
Note from Exmoor4all:
Experience Exmoor are one of our valued Exmoor Club partners – members save 10% on their bookings. See our Exmoor Club website for details.
Letter from Exmoor: Snowdrop Valley – Tearoom, lunches and dinner at Exmoor House
Exmoor House at Wheddon Cross is for locals as well as visitors to the area! Once again we’re opening the Exmoor House dining room as a daytime tearoom for Snowdrop Valley (our 2014 dates: 1st February to 2nd March inclusive). Come and enjoy our fabulous mega ploughman’s lunches or some delicious soup. Popular sandwich fillings include home-smoked breast of chicken and real corned beef (not like the stuff that comes in a tin). There are home-made cakes and teacakes, and of course our sweet and savoury cream teas. ‘The best scones I’ve ever tasted’, says Julie atThe Wedding Genie. Find her review of Exmoor House here.If you are taking part in an excursion, for example the West Somerset Railway’s Snowdrops and Steam days you might like to combine it with lunch at our place. Booking is advisable.Remember that you can enjoy our great food in the evenings too: we’re open for dinner most days during the year. Frank the chef combines lovely local ingredients with expert cooking and everything is home made, including bread, ice creams, and our famous proper pies (‘exceptional evening meals’ – Hilary Bradt, Slow Devon & Exmoor). Advance booking is essential as we plan each day’s menu around our dinner guests’ dietary requirements and preferences, to make sure everybody has a good choice. To go with your meal, we’ve a nice selection of wines (including some from Exmoor), local beers, Somerset ciders…Planning a celebration? You can reserve sole use of our lovely dining room for private lunches at any time of year, subject to availability of course. The minimum number is 4 people; maximum about 12. We’ll devise a menu to suit your group. Call Rosi and Frank on 01643 841432, we’re happy to help.Try Exmoor House and find out why our food and hospitality get rave reviews.Never been to Snowdrop Valley? Here’s why you should go there.
Letter from Exmoor: ……..the path I walk’s in the wrong direction……..
Text and photos by Gary Scarlett
(first published Saturday, 21 December 2013, on his blog “Chunky Mamil“)
Went out on the road bike last week, the weather forecast was a bit dodgy but I wanted to get up the Toll road one last time before the year was out. You can break up the ride up into two really, the first half just past the toll house is nice and sheltered in the trees and I did my best time of the year. The second half is more exposed and if the wind is in the wrong direction it’s hard going, and it was. Once up and after catching my breath I went straight back down, battling across the moors in the wind didn’t appeal. Did a loop around some lanes and a sprint down the seafront, the wind in my favour this time.
This week I’ve been mainly mountain biking, wet,windy and freezing cold on the road bike didn’t appeal so I rode up some hills on the big green bike for a couple of days. Quite pleased with how I’ve progressed this year with my fitness. Eighteen mile mtb rides used to be a major expedition and take most of the day but now I just want to keep riding, what used to be two separate rides I’m now doing as one.
On Thursday I did a loop which took in some hard climbs, even trickier when its wet, muddy and still mulchy out on the trail. It’s a balancing act going up hill on the mtb, trying to keep your weight distributed, fighting to keep the front end down whilst the back wheel is slipping did get a bit annoying and led to some expletives. Whacked my shin slipping off, it smarted, didn’t cry though.Lucky with the weather again though but it was cold on top of the hill before heading back to home. A herd of Exmoor ponies came and said hello though which was nice., went like this.On Friday I went in the opposite direction but just went where the mood took me. I did consider keeping low and riding some lower paths but that doesn’t make sense so headed up then down Dunster Path to the red mud. Went this way to see how I fared on the fireroad slog up after riding yesterday, not my quickest but did it, nearly 6000ft of climbing in 36 miles, is that classed as hill repeats?
Letter from Exmoor: The Hidden History of the Brendon’s
Posted on December 4, 2013 by John Shortland on his blog
The Brendon Hills, part of the Exmoor National Park, are less well-known than the barren moorland to its west that gives the park its name. Here the landscape is a patchwork of lush, green fields and of woodlands bordered to the north by the sea. It is a quiet landscape with only the sounds of birdsong and the occasional farm vehicle to disturb its peace. It wasn’t always like this, however, for during the nineteenth century it was the centre of a great, albeit relatively short-lived, mining venture. Today, much of this has been forgotten.
The West Somerset Mineral Railway was built to link iron ore mines with the seaport of Watchet for transportation to the steelyards of south Wales. Much of its route can be walked and there are several ruins, some of national importance, that have been conserved. One of the most dramatic is the Incline, where trains hauled truckloads of ore – and passengers – up a 1 in 4 steep hillside, climbing 800 feet in just over half a mile. I have written about this feat of Victorian engineering in an earlier post and this can be found by clicking on the link here.
A ruin less impressive than that of the Incline but no less extraordinary in its day is the Langham Hill Engine House built in 1866. All that remains now is the footprint of the building but a good idea of what it must have looked like and how it worked can be had from the artist’s impression by Anne Leaver shown on the nearby information board.
The engine house was created to draw the iron ore from three separate workings to the surface by sinking a new shaft at Langham Hill. Powered by steam engines, the ore was pulled up to ground level by trams rising from a depth of up to 650 feet. The miners who had to descend by ladder were protected from falling by a series of wooden platforms upon which the ladders rested – if they fell they would only drop the length of each ladder, reducing the risk of serious injury. The steam engines also powered underground pumps to keep the shafts clear of water; this was filtered, stored in reservoirs and reused by the engines – an early example of recycling. Once the ore was brought to the surface it was tipped into trucks to be carried away by the railway.
Another extraordinary feat of engineering was the aerial tramway that brought iron ore to Langham Hill in buckets from another mine over half a mile away. A length of the steel cables, which are over four inches in thickness, can be seen coiled by the engine house. The figures are staggering: the overhead cable was a single, endless 6700 feet length supported on wooden pylons, at times carrying the ore 300 feet above ground level and crossing a 2000 feet wide valley. No wonder the miners called it ‘the flying machine’.
It is hard to imagine, when visiting the engine house now, the noise, bustle and industry that took place here just 150 years ago. Two hundred miners and their families, mostly from Wales came to live and work here, yet within fifty years all mining had ceased. The engine house only survived for ten years: its engine and even the house itself, dismantled and reused in mines elsewhere. The aerial tramway lasted an even shorter time being in use for only three years before new transportation technology overtook it.
Today all is silent, the site surrounded by trees and ferns. For many years the remains of the mines remained hidden until the combined efforts of a number of individuals and groups fought to preserve them. The West Somerset Mineral Railway Project came into being and has succeeded in doing so; it has also created a permanent exhibition housed in the museum in Watchet. Its research of the history of the mines is available online – visit their website here.
Letter from Exmoor: …….. can you hear the silence? ……………
By Gary Scarlett. First published on his Blog “Chunky Mamil” on 5 December 2013
I’ve been neglecting the blog a bit lately and riding my mtb so I thought I’d put both of those straight today. I have been riding though and meeting interesting people so although the keys have been idle I haven’t. With my rest days falling during the week and a last minute window in my good friend Jennifer’s schedule, I grabbed the opportunity to visit her and ride some of that flat stuff last Wednesday. Nice riding around the levels a real haven for birds, swans, herons, starlings the odd magpie and even a partridge but no pear tree 🙂 We rode some of those long straight roads they like around there but thankfully with little wind, stopped for coffee, chatted and even found a hill to ride up on the way back.Yesterday started a bit damp but I had to get out so did a quick loop on the road bike, it wasn’t too bad and was glad I got out. Still lots of colour about but as a friend of mine commented about this photo, winters coming over the hill 🙂
In the afternoon I was invited to lunch by the lovely Elke who promotes all things good on Exmoor through her Exmoor4all website. She had organised a Christmas lunch for some Exmoor business folk and kindly invited me along too as I always try to show how wonderful it is around here through the blog. The location was The Culbone, a pleasure to get to as it means driving up and along Porlock hill with great views to enjoy on the way. The food was excellent and so was the company, nice to meet people I sort of knew through twitter and some new people too.
So to today, very windy so definite mtb day, getting blown across the road on the road bike didn’t appeal at all. The usual slog up to Hopcott but sheltered and the trails were dry after this cold snap and rapid progress to the top of Grabbist hill with the wind behind me. Although it was dry the tracks are covered in leaves and hide roots, rocks and toxic dog leftovers, luckily just the odd stone whacked me in the shin today.
I went for a loop around the Crown estate woodland on the other side of Dunster, hard going in the wind on the exposed climb up and around Black Hill to the trig point. The descent was very quick but a bit boring on the fireroads but once nearer Dunster I rode some more interesting tracks before heading back up Grabbist Hill.
After negotiating the ascent of Grabbist I headed back up the ridge and down some of my favourite tracks back towards home, felt good, rode up stuff, not a bad ride at all.
Letter from Exmoor: Lynmouth Storm – 2nd of November 2013
Text and photos by Amanda Perkins who published this on her blog “Amanda’s Adventures in Wool Land” in November 2013
We live in Lynton which is half way up a hill, at the bottom of the hill is Lynmouth, which is 2 minutes drive away.
About a week ago we had a severe weather warning for a massive Atlantic storm, the storm didn’t really happen here, although I know other parts of the country were badly affected.
But we had our storm on Saturday.
It was high tide at 5 pm, so Phil and I decided to venture out to buy fish and chips for our tea and see what the sea looked like.
We weren’t disappointed, as we drove down the hill the sea looked higher than the land, I have never seen it look so dramatic.
Stupidly we had left the camera in the office and so the following photo’s were taken with my iPhone.
The photos are dark, because it was getting dark
This is from outside the fish and chip shop looking west towards the Valley of the Rocks.
This was taken from the same place, if you look carefully you can see a small black line, which was a surfer, there were several out surfing – Mentalists!!
The harbour and the Rhenish tower, which shows how high the sea was.
The 2 Lyn rivers meet at Lynmouth, there is a small harbour with a wall that divides the harbour from the river, the tide was so high the wall had disappeared completely.
We walked the dogs over the bridge to the other side of the river, this photo is taken east across the bay looking towards Countisbury hill, you can see a very windswept Phil and Loki, (there is a small black dot in the distance which is Tinks)
And another shot from the same place looking west, the boats you can see are inside the harbour, the harbour wall was under water. When we walked back over the bridge the water had flooded the road in front of the buildings and waves were crashing over the wall in all directions.
The noise of the wind and water crashing twinned with twilight and the fact that the whole village had turned out to look at the sea made it a very surreal experience.
In a very strange way it was magical and I’m glad we braved the storm.