A new 15 mile extension to the Coleridge Way was opened today (Wednesday 21 May) by Rosemary Coleridge Middleton, the great, great, great-granddaughter of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge together with Andrea Davis, Chairman of Exmoor National Park Authority and Suzette Hibbert, Mayor of Lynton and Lynmouth and Chair of the Lyn Community Development Trust.
The ceremony took place in the picturesque village of Malmsmead in Exmoor National Park and was also attended by other members of the Coleridge family.
Andrea Davis, Chairman of Exmoor National Park Authority said: “It’s great that this has new extension to the Coleridge Way is happening in the 60th anniversary of Exmoor National Park. I’m sure the new route will be enjoyed by local people and visitors alike and hopefully it will provide the same economic benefits to the small villages along the way, and the area in general, as did the first.”
The Coleridge Way extension was funded primarily by the Exmoor National Park Partnership Fund with additional support from Lyn Community Development Trust, Lyn Valley Society, Lynton and Lynmouth Town Council (c/o the Lyn Economy and Tourism Alliance) and Lynmouth Flood Memorial Hall Fund. Andrea Davis (as local county councillor) also contributed. The groundwork on the route was undertaken by the National Park’s Ranger and Field Services Teams.
The Coleridge Way extension is a 15 mile inland route from Porlock to Lynmouth following in the footsteps of the Romantic Poets. This extends the current 36 mile route from Nether Stowey to Porlock creating a superb 51 mile walk taking in some of the finest countryside in the country and linking the Quantock Hills AONB with Exmoor National Park.
Suzette Hibbert, said: “Back in the 1790s Coleridge and his fellow Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, loved to walk all the way from Nether Stowey to Lynmouth, a distance of about 50 miles, but when the Coleridge Way was opened 9 years ago, it stopped short at Porlock.
“We have all been working hard to extend the route the extra 15 miles to take it all the way to Lynmouth and we are grateful to Exmoor National Park which provided the largest share of the finance as well as the skilled manpower needed to upgrade the paths that together make up the extension.”
Rosemary Middleton Coleridge expressed delight at seeing so many people at the opening and said: “Walking actually concentrates the mind, soothes the soul and helps sort out problems. It is a healer of the mind, body and spirit and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, my great great great Grandfather, knew this. I’m very proud to say that it is indeed the Coleridge way of doing things! Keep moving, love thinking, do praying, keep talking, just toddle, but if possible do walk.”
Full information on the entire route, including downloadable route guides, is available on www.coleridgeway.co.uk.
Originally opened in 2005, The Coleridge Way was an immediate success and attracted national and international press attention bringing new visitors into the area and helping to identify this part of the country with the work of the Romantic Poets.
The route connects two protected landscapes – the Quantock Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Exmoor National Park. In addition to offering some fabulous scenery our landscapes are important as a means of linking culture with nature and the past with the present. Over 8,000 years of human history can be found within the Quantocks and Exmoor. Protected areas such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are protected through legislation first drawn up following the Second World War through the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.
However the idea of protecting nationally significant areas was not new, and was first raised by the Romantic Poets such as Wordsworth, Coleridge and Byron. Their writing spoke about the inspirational beauty of the ‘untamed’ countryside and Wordsworth famously claimed the Lake District as a “sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy”.
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It’s about this time of year that I really miss the coastal sunsets – up here on the Bristol Channel it’s another few weeks before the sun moves round to the right place for the local beaches – the beauty of this is a 5 min drive whereas trips to the English Channel are a tad longer!
This is Kilve beach on a still and colourful sunset – some may not like the contrails but they do draw the eye in.
All photos by Clayton Jane
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.
For further information including many early photographs and drawings visit the West Somerset Mineral Railway website by clicking here.