Photo by Sarah Hailstone
Stormy skies over Exmoor
Hollyhocks and Sunset
Calling all runners: Westcountry Ultra Hilly 50 miler – Saturday 21st May 2016
Ok, so you like hills? Well here’s a race that will take you to the top of some of the highest ones Somerset has to offer. On a clear day the views from the tops will draw an audible gasp from any of you who are known to gasp audibly at incredible views. There are very runnable sections too, but you’re never too far from the next climb/descent. What’s more, this route will take you through a multitude of breathtaking scenes; some of Britain’s highest coastal cliffs, lush ancient woodland, sweeping moorland, paths alongside fast flowing rocky rivers – Exmoor has all of this, plus villages and small towns that redefine quaintness.
Starting off at West Somerset Community College in Minehead, where a glorious banquet hall (or as close as you get to one in an ultra race) awaits you upon your return you will head to the beginning of the South West Coast Path, which is symbolised with a large metal hand holding a map. From here (unless it is an extremely foggy day) you will see the enigmatic North Hill towering above the town. You’ll be heading straight to the top, where you’ll traverse along to Bossington Hill, from which the views alone will be enough to take your mind off the steepness of the descent. Then you’ll head down an enchanting woodland path to Bossington car park; if you’re lucky there may be some wild garlic still to snack on along the way.
You will make your way gradually along the coast all the way to Lynmouth, historic scene of a disastrous flood in 1952 (don’t worry, it hasn’t repeated itself since, even during the ferocious storms of 2014), which is a kind of half way point, although it’s actually a little before half way. On the way here your eyes will get a four course meal of wonderful natural surroundings – occasionally you will run through coastal forest, but will often be able to see the sea off to your right. Along this stretch are some of the most runnable sections of the route, but there is plenty of up and down. You may find yourself wanting to stop often to take photographs, as the views along here you may see on a number of postcards in local shops.
After leaving Lynmouth you will head alongside the river Lyn for a while (keep your eyes peeled for Dippers and other wildlife) before heading up into the moors, following the Coleridge Way – this is a route devised to follow in the footsteps of famous poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who is said to have composed his best known works during walks at different places along the route. There have been no ‘beast’ sightings in recent years, but the wild atmosphere of this place will make you realise how it captured the imagination back in the 80s. Heading across vast hills to County Gate and onwards, where you will be surrounded on all sides by Exmoor at its most captivating, you will be preparing to drop down to almost sea level before a massive climb back up through ancient woodland. Depending on when in the day you arrive here you can keep your eyes and ears open for an array of wildlife – the woods at Webber’s Post and Horner, due to the age of the trees, attract Redstarts, Wood Warblers, Pied Flycatchers and a host of the usual woodland birds.
At the top of the climb is Dunkery Beacon, which rises to 519 metres above sea level; hardly a mountain, but it still offers incredible panoramic views on a clear day. The cairn at the top may be a good place to pause, take in your surroundings and gear yourself up to make the most of some downhill miles. The descent back into Minehead is long, but at this point you will know you are on the home stretch and that there is a feast awaiting you at the finish. You can sit and eat, and share anecdotes with your fellow finishers as they arrive.
ROUTE MAPS AND ROUTE NOTES WILL BE SENT OUT TO EACH PARTICIPANT UPON ENTRY, BUT THESE CAN BE REQUESTED BY ANYONE WISHING TO ENTER – PLEASE E-MAIL email@example.com TO ASK FOR THESE
For further information and to sign up for the run, please go to http://www.albionrunning.org/#!hilly50/c8ht
A winter sunset over Porlock Bay
Across the Gate – Autumn on Exmoor
Looking across Porlock Bay
Moonrise over Bossington