Happy New Year! Yes, 2015 has arrived, and the weather in Exmoor has changed. Grey clouds have replaced blue skies, a drizzly rain persists and the still calmness of recent days has been replaced with a howling wind. Over the past few days, we have cycled to Dunkery Beacon, walked to Selworthy Beacon and explored the Exe Valley. So, today we’re revisiting some of our favourite spots in Exmoor, and discovering a few new ones … by car.
First on our itinerary was the 4.2-mile scenic toll road out of Porlock Weir towards Lynton, which we had not ventured along before. Part of the manor estate, the road was dug out by local people in the 1840s, and at that time tolls were taken at the bottom of the hill by staff at The Ship Inn. Today, approximately halfway up the hill, we reached a small toll house with a white wooden gate to drive through. With no ‘gate keeper’ in sight we posted our £2 toll through a slot in the toll house door.
The scenic route then twisted through Tolkeinesque woodland of young ivy-covered trees, a carpet of ferns and a babbling stream bordered by mossy rocks, before emerging onto open moorland.
We continued on past Countisbury, next stopping at County Gate viewpoint, a windy ridge between the East Lyn Valley and the Bristol Channel. The wind was so strong that I could barely open the car door, and found it hard to stand up straight. Despite the murkiness of the day, the views were still magnificent across to Southern Wood, and into the Doone valley.
Next, we drove into Brendon, a tranquil picturesque village through which the East Lyn river flows. Then on up along the rocky tree-lined winding route past Waters Meet, through Lynmouth, up into Lynton and out to the dramatic landscape of The Valley of Rocks. Perched high above the sea atop rugged cliffs, The Valley of Rocks gets its name from the many unusual formations of jagged grey rock dotted randomly throughout the valley, surrounded by bracken-covered slopes.
Finally, we drove inland to Simonsbath, a tiny village in an area that the locals call ‘Exmoor proper’. At its centre is a triple-arched medieval bridge crossing the River Barle. Travelling out from Simonsbath, we were soon enveloped by miles of moorland – bleak but stunning – where the grey cloud hung so low as to almost touch the top of the windswept tussocks of dry grass and heather. Hefty winds battered the the car, rocking it from side to side.
Finally, we headed north back to Porlock along long straight roads flanked by parallel beach hedges, still hanging onto their russet leaves, and single-track ‘character’ lanes, full of blind bends to test the bravest of drivers. As dusk fell, the wind still roaring and the rain now doing the driving, we retreated to sit by the log burner in our cosy cottage.
What are your Exmoor highlights? Please share them with others here.