Monday, 12 October 2009

Exmoor - at it's best

Followers of this blog may have noticed a gap - I have been away on Exmoor. How I love that place! First visited just over 40 years ago, it seems to be an unchanging landscape, partly due to it being one of England's National Parks. Of course, there are changes but they do not seem to have altered the character of the place much and the changes are subtle - removal of signposts to (I assume) dissuade drivers from taking their cars down impossibly steep roads and over almost impossibly narrow bridges. And, up on the high moor, passing and parking places for cars are slightly larger to allow for an increase in visitors.

October on Exmoor saw weather changes from day to day: one moment mists, another driving rain and cold winds but, more often than not, warm sunshine. How many times do walkers get fooled into wandering on the moor only to find the mists creeping up the deep coombes (as the valleys are called here) before spreading out across the wider, open spaces where landmarks are few and bogs many? To my knowledge, deaths in the bogs only happen in fiction but a cold plunge to chest height in sticky, peaty water and a twisted ankle miles from anywhere has the potential to be fatal. The wild ponies of Exmoor are one of Britain's oldest native breeds and survive all year finding their feed on the moor. During this month they are gathered up by the local landowners and checked over, branded and the foals weaned. These are normally sold at the annual, local pony sales although this year, for various reasons, the sales have been cancelled leaving a gap in the social calendar, for the sales are one of the great meeting places of the widely scattered population. Another meeting point is the local hunt. On Exmoor, there are packs of staghounds as well as fox, for the moors are one of the few places where the Red Deer still run wild in England. With the change of law, only two hounds now hunt the deer, the unfortunate creature having been selected by the Harbourer - a local person who knows both the deer and the moor inside out. Once the correct deer has been found and separated from the rest of the herd, the beast is shot. This is a necessary culling as the population is continually increasing to the detriment of both the moor and the deer themselves. Hunting is becoming ever more pouplar as the crowds and cars, pictured, prove. As soon as the hunt moves off across the moor the crowds get left behind and, with the hunt hidden deep in the coombe, the moor seems deserted once again.
More on Exmoor to follow.....
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14 comments:

  1. This is a fabulous post. I didn't know about the wild ponies. Can't wait to read more.

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  2. In my minds-eye I'm visiting Exmoor this morning!
    Thanks for providing entree ;~)
    Alice
    aka Bay Area Tendrils Garden Travel
    p.s. found you on Blotanical.....

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  3. Thanks to all of you and a warm welcome to Alice - I hope you will visit again. Will try to put some more details and photos on here soon - the trouble is work gets in the way! Johnson

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  4. Your wild ponies are considerably healthier than the wild Mustangs in my neck of the woods. Thanks for this. Great post. :)

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  5. What an exquisite place to spend a holiday! The image of the mist climbing over the land is wonderful!

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  6. Thanks Kate, Ribbit & Tim. Exmoor is a truly beautiful place which holds for me many special memories over the years of people and places. Exquisite is just the right word, Tim. Johnson

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  7. Hi. I wandered into here from ....? erm, not sure actually, but I've had a great time reading all your posts!I love Exmoor - it's nearly as beautiful and wild as Derbyshire :)

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  8. Thanks - I like Derbyshire too although it is many years since I last visited. Odd really, considering we're such a small country!

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  9. What beautiful photos! So glad I found your blog. I live in the States and have visited England once (when I was 17). I adore England - the literature, the music, the atmosphere (am even writing a novel set in Castle Combe!!). Thanks for sharing your lovely pictures. I'm living vicariously through them...

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  10. Thanks Traci and welcome. I shall be visiting your site very soon! Castle Combe is a lovely place too although I haven't visited it for years.

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  11. Oh yes! We are truly blessed here on Exmoor. The great thing is that our wildlife doesn't totally hide away - you can easily see the wild ponies up on Winsford Hill and thereabouts and ask any local and they'll tell you where you can see the red deer at any given time.
    It really is stunningly beautiful and hugely friendly. We have great pubs and some excellent restaurants too (check out Woods in Dulverton and the pub/restaurant/tearooms at Tarr Steps for starters!

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  12. Do you think, Jane, we both should team up as marketeers for Exmoor? I reckon, with our enthusiasm and love of the moors, we could fill every hotel and B & B for miles around!

    Johnson

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