Letter from Exmoor: …some summer days I hide away and wait for rain to come……..

Text and photos by Gary Scarlett who first published this post on his blog “Chunky Mamil” on 17 November 2013

Sundays off are a rare treat for me so I grabbed the opportunity to get up early and hit the hills on the mtb. I didn’t feel like it at first though, tired after going back on shift my and head felt clogged up with stupid thoughts, the first hill of the day felt like hard work even more than usual.

I persevered though, the weather was cold, still and grey my kind of weather, the cloud just sits on the hills and you can get lost in the mist. Went down some new tracks and up some tracks I usually go down you get the idea, even though the legs felt like lead I still rode up them.

There’s a little track someone has made out in the forest so I headed down that towards home. So quiet and peaceful in the trees not a sound even the squirrels must have been having a lie in. It was so quiet I wish I could capture the moment or portray it better, it was a good place to be……..

Letter from Exmoor: The Strange & Heroic Journey of the Louisa

The Lynmouth Lifeboat, Louisa.

I first became aware of this story some years ago.  What remains long after you have read it, is the heroism of the people involved, the unwavering commitment to save life, no matter what the effort, and the absolute belief, against all odds, that you will succeed.   I am grateful to John Lerwill for permission to re-publish this account, and to E.J. Fisher, the author of the article, for his enlightening account of this event.

Peter French, 2013


On 12th January 1899 Edward Pedder, who owned the post office in Lynmouth, received a telegram for Jack Crocombe, which he passed to the latter at 7:52p.m. Jack was coxswain of the Louisa, the Lynmouth lifeboat, and the telegram reported that a large ship was drifting ashore at Porlock Weir. Watchet lifeboat station reported shortly afterwards that severe weather prevented them from launching their boat, so the Lynmouth boat was the ship’s only hope.  A gale had been blowing all day and had already flooded several houses and a shop in Lynmouth, and it was clear that the boat could not be launched at Lynmouth. Not to be beaten, the coxswain proposed to take the boat by road to Porlock’s sheltered harbour, and launch it from there.  This meant using whatever horses and men could be obtained to haul the boat and its carriage (which together weighed about 10 tons) the distance of 13 miles, including climbing up the 1 in 4½ Countisbury Hill, reaching a height of 1,423 feet above sea level, and later taking it down the 1 in 4 Porlock Hill.  20 horses were brought from the local coach proprietor, and six men were sent ahead with shovels and pickaxes to widen the road. The combined efforts of the horses and 100 local men eventually brought the boat to the top of Countisbury Hill, where a wheel came off the carriage and had to be put back on.

Most of the helpers gave up at this point, leaving only 20 to help the crew for the rest of the journey. At one stage the road was too narrow for the carriage and could not be widened, so the boat was dragged on skids while the carriage was taken off-road over the moor to get round the obstacle. Porlock Hill was especially dangerous, but with the horses, and all the men using ropes, to hold the carriage back they managed to get down safely, only to meet another obstacle. Here a garden wall blocked the road. The old lady who owned the property was not pleased to be woken in the early hours by the noise of her wall being demolished, but when she discovered the cause agreed to a corner of her cottage being removed as well to let the carriage through.  The next problem was finding the road to the coast was impassable as a result of a sea wall having been washed away. During the diversion onto a higher road they had to fell a large tree, but they eventually reached Porlock Weir at 6:30a.m.  The crew were, of course, soaked, hungry and exhausted, but immediately launched the boat. It took an hour to reach the ship, which had drifted dangerously close to Hurlstone Point. It was the Forrest Hall, a 1,900 ton ship with a crew of 13 men and 5 apprentices, on its way from Bristol to Liverpool. The ship had been under tow down the Bristol Channel because of the headwind when the cable snapped and the rudder was washed away.  Since the ship was safe as long as the anchors held, the lifeboat stood by until daybreak, when the original tug appeared. The lifeboat was used to get a line from ship to ship, and some of the lifeboat crew even went aboard the ship to raise the anchors because the ship’s crew were too exhausted to do it.  A second tug was needed to avoid drifting into Nash Sands, but eventually the ship was towed safely to Barry, accompanied by the lifeboat in case the cable snapped again. Darkness had fallen by the time they docked at Barry.

The crew of the lifeboat were:

  • Jack Crocombe (coxswain)
  • George Richards (second coxswain)
  • Richard Ridler (bowman)
  • Richard Moore (signalman)
  • Richard Burgess
  • Charles Crick
  • David Crocombe
  • William Jarvis
  • Bertram Pennicott
  • Thomas Pugsley
  • George Rawle
  • John Ridler
  • John Ward
  • William Richards (age 16)

Edward Pedder, the post office owner, also sailed in the boat.

Four of the horses used died as a result of their labours on the journey.

E.J. Fisher 1999

A fuller account is given by John Travis in his book “An Illustrated History of Lynton and Lynmouth” (ISBN 1 85983 023 4)



The Docea Chapman is displayed at Lynmouth as a reminder of the Louisa and other Lynmouth lifeboats

The Docea Chapman is displayed at Lynmouth as a reminder of the Louisa and other Lynmouth lifeboats

Letter from Exmoor: Exmoor’s Forgotten Neighbour

Reblogged. Posted on by John Shortland on November 20, 2013 on his blog  

Sandwiched between barren Exmoor to the west and the rugged Quantocks to their east, the Brendon Hills appear remarkably fertile with their neat, small fields testament to a rich farming tradition. Now incorporated into the Exmoor National Park it seems to be as devoid of human life as it’s more visited partner.  It has, however, a surprising past: travel back in time one hundred and fifty years and you would find yourself in a thriving community at the forefront of Industrial Revolution technology.

A corner of the ruined building

For years, I had been intrigued by a ruined building close to one of the few roads that leads onto Exmoor proper.  Obviously once substantial, what could this building, miles from anywhere, have been and who lived there? There were no clues as I first approached but the  ruins, now stabilised, have had information boards giving its history placed within.  It was the site of an extraordinary Victorian venture that extracted iron ore and then transported it to the coast to ship to Wales for the steel industry.  Although, there was now just this one ruined building, in its heyday over two hundred miners and their families lived close by in houses built especially for them.

 Click on the image to enlarge the poster

The explosion of railway building in the mid 1800′s had created a huge demand for – and, consequently, a shortage of – iron ore.  Mining had taken place in the region on a very small, localised scale for many centuries but the small quantities found had never been a commercial prospect.  With the rapid rise in price and with advances in extraction the Ebbw Vale Company – Welsh steel works – developed the mines. A major problem was how to transport the ore the eleven miles from the furthest mine to the coast from where it could be shipped across the sea to Wales.  The first six miles from the port of Watchet was straightforward enough, the final six miles along the top of the Brendons, although more costly, also did not create a major problem.  It was the mile that included the climb of a 1 in 4 hillside that proved to be a challenge and a costly one at that – over ten times the amount required for the same length elsewhere and over £2 million in today’s prices.  ‘The Incline’ was completed in 1861 and took just four years to build, rising almost 800 feet in just 0.6 of a mile.

The ruins of the winding house as seen from the top of the incline

Trucks of iron ore were lowered or raised down the incline on twin rails, their steam locomotives held in place by steel cables.  The huge drums that were required to do this were housed in the ‘winding house’ with the cables travelling through stone tunnels, now the silent home of bats.  The force of gravity brought empty trucks to the top in twelve minutes as the weight of the full ones descended.   At the top of the incline the trucks passed over the roof of the winding house.  Communications between the men at the top and bottom were by semaphore.

The winding house – the trains passed over its roof

The cable tunnels

The price of iron ore and the methods of extraction continued to change rapidly and the railway never made a profit, with the mines closing just eighteen years later.  Remarkably, the railway continued to carry passengers for a further five years seated on wooden planks bolted to the tops of the iron ore trucks.  It must have been an extraordinary experience to be hauled up the incline and travelling back down couldn’t have been for the faint-hearted!

The incline today belieing the industry and grit of the men that created it

An even more short-lived attempt to re-open the mine was thwarted by the outbreak of the Great War and in 1916 the sleepers and rails were requisitioned and the drums blown up, demolishing part of the winding house building.  A further attempt  to rebuild the winding house for agricultural use was abandoned during WWII and it was only with the help of a National Lottery grant that the buildings were recently stabilised and the incline cleared of scrub and restored.

Marker stone

For further information including many early photographs and drawings visit the West Somerset Mineral Railway website by clicking here.

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Memories of Exmoor: The Exmoor Bug

Annette Strauch kindly shared her memories and photos of Exmoor with us:

Nine years ago I visited Exmoor for the very first time with Mark. He had been there many times as it had been a family tradition for him since he was a little English boy with his red hair ready to explore with his boots on and sticks in the hand what he could find next.

It was in the autumn of 2004 – and even back then we stayed in Holy Tree Cottage – in Exford when we came together and stayed for a week. We did many walks then as we did on any visit (the rain never put us off), went to see Dunster, including the castle, of course. On the cobbled stones we even met a giant!

Every time I have visited Exmoor, it was in the autumn. A mysterious time when it gets dark quite early and the local people celebrate Halloween. We’d see some deer in Horner Woods as well and notice the hunting. This last time Mark brought his binoculars.

Then we came again two more times until 2009. Afterwards we were busy working and committed to other things. On all those occasions when we were in Exmoor we had always found new places to explore. One time we did a long walk to Dulverton along the river which Mike, Mark’s Dad had recommended (as well as another walk to Withypool, the place with the beautiful bridge) where this October we visited Gallery Number Seven and bought a book, had a Cream Tea with the tasty clotted cream. In one of the shops there we spoke to two locals who had not walked to Tarr Steps for years and were inspired. They were two elderly ladies but happy to see us so active. One time we went to Bampton Fair which is close to Exmoor and really worth experiencing. Culbone Church is always great to walk to. We have done it twice or even three times now, this autumn from Porlock Weir. Oh, Porlock! I do love the cottages there. Mentioning houses, one needs to write about Selworthy with the lovely buildings there. Wherever you go it is lovely to come back to Exford, seeing Dunkery Beacon (we walked there once, too!!) or maybe a deer or a few – then going out to the White Horse Hotel, having a pint of traditional cider and maybe a venison baguette which seems to be very popular.

So romantic (in a nice way) indeed!

One time we walked in the Lorna Doone Valley with the rucksacks on our backs, fully prepared for a picnic. Along the river we walked – and the characters of the Lorna Doone story became alive. The moorland is breathtaking! In our rucksacks we also had fudge from the fudge shop in Dunster. My favourite is the maple and walnut one.

Watchet plays a role in the Lorna Doone story – and we were looking for fossils there once. If you look long enough you might find an ammonite.

Next time we’d like to bring our bikes and come in spring or in the summer. I’d like to see the heather when it is purple!

And the Exmoor Beast? Well, that is still a mystery!


Letters from Exmoor: “Picture this. Webber’s wood, Arlington Court…”

Reblogged from Diary of an Internet Nobody, first published on 10 November 2013.

After the heavy rain of the last few days it was good to see the sun rise in a clear blue sky this morning, so Elaine and I decided to go for a stroll in the woodlands on the Arlington Court estate.

Located on the edge of Exmoor not far from Barnstaple, the sprawling estate has been owned by theChichester family for over 500 years, although the house has only stood in the grounds since 1823.

Instead of entering the National Trust-run property at the main entrance near the house however, we took the back way in via the gate that leads into the working forestry land on the lower end of the estate, the gateposts topped with the Chichester family emblem, a heron brandishing an eel.


From the gatehouse we made our way along the track that gives a great view over the Yeo river valley to the hills opposite – also owned by Arlington – where we have often spotted the resident herd of deer.
No deer today, but a noticeable change in the trees as autumn colours begin to show themselves.




All along the winding track there is evidence of forestry conservation in progress.





The most vivid autumn colours are provided by the rows of bright orange beech trees, especially when seen against the verdant green of the ferns and pines.





A giant chestnut and ancient oak trees add different shades to the landscape.



And on a smaller scale, the variety of alien looking fungus growing on fallen trunks and tree stumps is extraordinary, new forms and textures everywhere you look.






But the most obvious change in the landscape today was the level of the river and the intensity of the waterfalls that criss-cross the trail, the recent rainfall having turned some of these gently trickling streams into foaming torrents that rush down the steep sides of the valley through the woods.



The low stone bridge at the weir is almost overwhelmed by the height of the water, the arches (which I have walked through in the past) filled almost to the top…


.. and the sparsely wooded plain on the riverbank has the look of a primordial forest.



One of the newly expanded waterfalls which runs under the track after flowing down the rocky slope…



… had become so impressive that I climbed the slope above the track and filmed my walk back downstream.
(You may wish to lower the volume before playing the clip)

The age of this woodland is evident wherever you look, the rugged rocky skeleton sometimes visible just beneath the surface…



.. and some strange organic shapes too.



If you would like to visit Arlington Court and see what else this beautiful estate has to offer, then go to THIS LINK.

Letter from Exmoor: The Exmoor Beast

Gary’s account of the popular cycling event, which took place this weekend, was first published on his blog here.

Exmoor Beast 2013…………or “In the darkness at the dances in the school canteen”

I’m normally only awake at 5.00am when I’m at work or getting ready to go to work but this Sunday I was eating my Weetabix and getting ready to drive to the Exmoor Beast sportive which was starting in Tiverton this year. I for one liked it when it was based in Minehead because it meant a five minute roll down to the start. At least driving over the moors gave me an idea on what condition the roads were in which was covered in debris, apparently there was a storm, I slept through it, other aspects of my life resulted in no sleep the night before.

It was very dark when I got parked up at the school in Tiverton, the last time I was hanging around a high school in the dark was back in my schooldays lurking around the school disco. We never had proms in my day mainly because I lived in a northern industrial city and we weren’t the kids in America. I registered in the gym were they told me the start was delayed until 7.15 due to the gloom, checked my helmet tag and bumped into Andrew who was doing some photography for The Western Morning news. I then bumped into Chris and Jennifer who said Guy was also there as I made my way back to the car, Chris cheerily reminded me what fun it must be to drive thirty miles to ride back past my house, yeah, cheers! As I thought I had some time to kill I sat in the car and considered going back to sleep only to hear the PA calling the riders to the start and starting the briefing. So a I quickly threw on my  far too warm should have left at home jacket and made my way to the start. I shuffled into the second pen but couldn’t see anyone else I knew except Guy who was in the first pen and set off before I could say hello, he was wearing shades though so I doubt he would have seen me.

So just after 7.00am I set off into the dark which was quite a novelty for me, I was glad some people had really good lights so I sat behind them. This first half of the ride was pretty new to me and I quite enjoyed the gentle climbs up around Bampton and Morebath and past Wimbleball Lake. It was warm, I was warm and overdressed for the occasion and with just one heavy shower was a bit annoyed with myself for my poor choice of cyclewear. Perhaps I should of worn a shirt, jeans and wellies like one bloke and ridden my mtb for one hundred miles, well done to you for putting us Lycra lovies to shame.

I like the descent down to Timberscombe but I knew what to expect as I normally ride up it (?) I was slightly worried by the over confidence of one rider in front of me who insisted on riding down no-handed, bloody show off. I was soon in Dunster and the first feed stop, I only had a banana and I probably should of had more and was about to get on my way when Chris and Jennifer rolled in. I thought it rude not to say hello and also bumped into one of my workmates, Carl, who was doing his first sportive although he is a seasoned cyclist. Off we went again, past my house, sort of, without first nearly becoming victim of a water bottle incident and it was my mates bottle!

We were soon at the foot of the climb up and over Dunkery. I’ve tried it before and failed miserably and guess what I did again. It doesn’t matter what gearing or bike you have it’s about your head, heart and lungs and I had none, nothing there I even felt like turning tail and going home. I limply persevered and did the hill by instalment, ride, stop, ride a bit more until I got over the thing. I didn’t think anyone would wait for me as I was taking so long and quite rightly they didn’t. They got over it though and was quite rightly happy and they deserve to be in a happy place once in a while 🙂 It was very busy on Dunkery with horsey types and weekend warrior downhillers getting a lift up with a Land Rover and trailer. Note to driver of said Landy, don’t beep your horn at cyclists struggling up a hill you should know better! So I carried on alone again but not after blowing up big time as I rode up from Luckwell Bridge, if I was a car they would probably say my big end had gone. The legs were turning but not a lot happening, I just told myself to get to the split point and have a breather and eat something. I nearly missed the split point I was in such a stupor, another sixty hilly miles would not be a good idea.

I stopped, ate something and got on my way, twenty odd miles to the finish, head down and just get it done. I passed the odd cyclist and many passed me all far too quick for me to jump on with. I finally managed to jump onto the back of a little group in the last few miles and got a tow to the finish. I like the finish, inside the gym, name announced and a free tankard to fill with ale and a friendly face as Carl said hello. I chucked the bike back in the car and grabbed my change of clothes and made my way back to the gym where Chris and Jennifer were enjoying their ale after a good ride around Exmoor. We sat and chatted and I got changed in lovely warm changing rooms before heading off home the way I had just ridden, at least I beat the rain if little else.

I think I might have preferred last year’s route but I’m probably only saying that because I could ride most of it. Last year I took over six hours for sixty two miles this year albeit a different route I did sixty six in five and a half. I should be pleased with that but I feel slightly disappointed with myself, just one of those days……

Letter from Exmoor: Camping in the Exe Valley

Three years ago I was searching for a campsite to stay in.  My requirements were simple; peace, woodlands and a river if possible.  After hours of fruitless internet searches I found my answer, the Exe Valley camp site, and bonus of all bonuses (for me anyhow) no under 18s.  Having been to various different areas in the Southwest I’m not exactly sure how I managed to miss Exmoor for so long, the scenery is stunning, people friendly and the wildlife top notch.  Within an hour of pitching the tent that first time I was hooked, and still am.  It didn’t matter that it rained in biblical quantities, it didn’t matter the wind could have sent the tent flying like some sodden out of control hot air balloon because I loved it.  I could sit watching that River Exe all day.  I go there for the wildlife of course, and possibly the reason I can’t stay away is that I need to photograph that damned otter! I know he exists I’ve seen the footprints on the riverbank.  But, until that day comes I can fill my time with the dippers,wagtails, buzzards and elusive voles that sneak around the tent at night, not forgetting the roe deer that came bounding down the river on my last visit, or maybe even nipping into the Badgers Holt for a quick beer or 3.  All this of course is from one small area, the vast open parts of the moor up at Dunkery are great and I’ve had a lot of fun looking for deer and the odd moo or two up there.  On a last note, and one that slipped my mind until just now, is if you happen to live in a normal suburban area you’ll realise when you get home how it never really gets dark.  Exmoor gets DARK, I mean really dark, and that owl you just heard in the distance? It may be closer than you think.

Ed Brown

http://www.edbrown.co.uk    RM Stock and print sales


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Wildlife of the Exe Valley, Somerset

Wildlife of the Exe Valley, Somerset

Wildlife of the Exe Valley, Somerset

Wildlife of the Exe Valley, Somerset

Letters from Exmoor: On Safari

Barbara Kidder, a visitor from the States, has recently been visiting Exmoor.  She has a set up a blog about her trip to the UK, and here is what she posted about Exmoor:

We went on “safari” in Exmoor today with Neil Osmond, who runs a company called Experience Exmoor. It was absolutely amazing. He went down roads we would never travel and we got to see things we never would have seen on our own. I used the video camera mostly, but did get a few still shots when we stopped and walked a bit. We were out for 6 hours, and could have been out for days and days….it is so beautiful, exciting, pastoral, grand…..so many adjectives apply.

Landscapes change so quickly here….one moment you are on the high moors with broad vistas, and the next you are plunging down a narrow lane into a wooded valley. The weather seems to change just as quickly. Today there was the most 3D sky I have ever seen and one of the most varied. There was deep blue sky with puffy clouds, heavy ominous rain clouds, cumulus clouds way up, and all in the same sky. We turn North and the sky is clear and deep blue, and to the South it is threatening rain.

Here are just a few pictures….Just coming down from the cliffs over Woody Bay

Entering the Valley of the Rocks

This one should actually go before the one above…sorry!

700 BK

701 BK

These shots are on the way, and at a lighthouse that is restricted to National Trust employees and those renting the lighthouse. Neil works with National Trust and has permission to use this road. First pic is of red deer mom and calf high up in the hills as we wound down toward the lighthouse.


702 BK

And one more, of a momma cow and her calves. I know, we have cows at home, but of course I can’t resist. I’m thinking from these faces that they are not pleased with the intrusion. Maybe I should stick to sheep…….

So here are some sheep…..
No, we didn,t hit them….they just gave us dirty looks for being in their road.



If you’d like to read more about Barbara’s experiences in the UK, then pop over to her blog.

Letter from Exmoor: Fun Sized Fish

Wow, this weather is incredible.  Not so good for the fishing so it may seem, but in fact there is great sport available, especially on the rivers (find some shade around a bit of oxygenated water) and as we found yesterday it seems the Bass are starting to show on the estuaries.  More about that in a moment.

My guest for the last 3 days has been Simon Whitworth who originally visited me two years ago for a course.  Due to work commitments he had managed just 3 sessions since then so we started out with a casting refresher.  I have to say that Simon did not take long to get back into the swing of things and before long talk about the river began.

Simon Whitworth with an eleven inch wild Brown Trout form the River Exe

A bit better than fun size brown!

He took to the running water scene pretty quickly, nailing a palm sized fish on the first cast!  This was really in at the deep end stuff, casting under trees, controlling the line, watching out for drag and then having to make a cast.  All in the space of about 10 seconds.  By day 2 things just got better and our very last fish of the day was this little stunner which is above average at about 11 inches.  Taken on a gob full of a Sedge pitched into a back eddy under an overhanging branch.

The small stillwater Rainbows Simon had previously caught may have been bigger but as we chatted away about his experience so far it transpired (as I hear so often) that the size of the fish really didn’t matter.  It was the whole package.  The scenery.  The serenity.  The Take.  And of course the chance to witness these beautiful little fish in all their glory.

A River Exe Brown Trout nestled in the net prior to release

Who needs big when you can have beautiful?

We still had day 3 ahead of us; so what to do?  Simon did not need asking twice when I mentioned Bass.  This year they have been few and far between, so I explained that a blank was certainly possible, although if nothing else I could show him a few spots, the flies to use and who knows maybe the tide would deliver us a little bit of Summer Silver?

The first half of the session was as I expected. Hot, sticky and fishless, although within minutes of arriving I managed to spook a Bass of a good few pounds, hiding in some weed fronds just inches from the shore.  So at least there was one to catch!  Despite some cracking casts being thrown by Simon (remember this was just his 7th ever fly fishing session!)  …it didn’t bite.  With the tide changing it was time to rack up the rods and head for a new mark in the hope that the three pounder was not alone in the estuary.

Turns out it wasn’t …. as upon arriving we could see Gulls in a frenzy.  ”That’s Bass – guaranteed” I said and before long we had broken into a jog (thank god for breathable waders!) and were heading towards the activity.  The frustration as can be the case during these bait ball busts is that the fish were moving so fast, oh for a kayak, a float tube … even a set of arm bands.  And to add to the frustration a North Easterly was pushing across Simons shoulder making fly casting at best tricky.  Enter the lure rod.

Simon had never caught a Bass, so what should we do, hope that the fish came within casting range or chuck out a lure?  First cast he was smashed hard twice and then lost a fish on a Little Sammy skittered across the surface (I just couldn’t risk the last 2 Salt Skimmers that I have at the moment … and anyway I had left them at home!) before another chuck resulted in a super visual bust on the surface and this time … the fish was on!

Simon Whitworth displays a North Devon Bass

Fun sized Bass on a fun filled day

The first fish of any species is special and now Simon had three as the day before we had also picked up a nice size Grayling, which would be shown here if I had not locked the SD card and not noticed!  All good but what really pleased me more than anything was that Simon had seen now varied fishing can be.  One minute tucked away on a river wafting stealthy little casts under a tree at Trout sipping on the surface and the next stood in gin clear saltwater frantically casting at Bass smashing bait.  Does the size of the fish really matter during moments like this?

You may notice the black frames on these images, I’m not sure personally but will try a few more experiments with this iPad Snapseed software until I get it right.  I also have the May & June catch up to complete (as promised here) but right now I must admit that the typing is becoming a little more frantic as I think I am going to steal the afternoon and see if I can get into a Bass myself.  There were plenty of the fun size Basslets but I also watched a huge bust and aerial display from a fish that must have been 5lb, along with a further specimen that was even bigger.  Who knows, perhaps my next post will be Super sized?!


Nick Hart originally posted this on his blog on 12 July 2013. You can find more info on how to go fishing with Nick here.


Letter from Exmoor: On safari into a secret world

4 stallions

Hi, my name is Christel. If you go out on safari with us it is highly likely that you will not see me as it is Neil, my husband who is our safari guide & driver. I do the office work and spend more time than I would like behind the computer. Sometimes though I get the chance to go out with Neil on our own private safari and I love those occasions!

Today we packed our picnic basket with a thermos of coffee and biscuits and headed out inland onto the moor, to do a recce on an off-road track for which we recently got access rights on limited times throughout the year.

As soon as I opened the gate onto the track, I saw a small group of Exmoor Pony Stallions gazing at us in their curious and friendly way. They were surrounded by cotton grass as far as the eye could reach, as well as a variety of birds and butterflies, like buzzards, swallows, skylarks and meadow pipit. The bumpy track winds its way down to a magical remote valley by the river Barle. On the descent we spotted a group of red deer higher up. They stared at us for a while before one by one they started to jump over a fence to get out of sight.

Once we were by the river, we nestled down on our picnic rug among the high moorgrass next to the beautiful river with crystal clear water. We drank our coffee and took in the stunning scenery in this secluded spot.  Between the rocks and wind-sculpted trees on the opposite hillside, some black cattle were grazing and not taking much notice of us. Soon we were back on our feet to go and explore the riverside. The sound of cascading water running down from various streams to join the river was amazing – wild but so peaceful at the same time! Birds and insects were everywhere and we could both sit there all day to just discover and look at everything that is going on. An old (closed) footbridge over the river adds to the scenery. Closed mine shafts on the hillside give a sense of mystery and make you wonder where the tunnels go to & what happened here in the past. Beautiful wild trumpet-shaped flowers of mimulus were waving in the breeze, rooted among the rocks in the middle of the Barle. As I was standing there next to the footbridge admiring it all, suddenly a bright blue bird flew right passed me, flying fast just above the middle of the river for as far as I could see. I nearly yelled out loud: ‘WAW a Kingfisher!!!’  Even though, unfortunately, I didn’t get it on camera and only saw its back – striking blue – I was thrilled, as I had never seen one before!

All too soon it was time to head home. I have decided I am going to book a safari on Exmoor with my husband more often!


Posted on www.experienceexmoor.co.uk on 25 June 2013