Our first full day on our week off has been spent exploring Exmoor. Not sure what we were expecting, apart from rain, grey skies and another probable lacklustre view of rain clouds 6 inches from our face just like Dartmoor did to us. What we got instead was a surprising view with 267 square miles of tranquil open moorland, wild Exmoor ponies, deep wooded valleys and rivers and dramatic dropping sea cliffs.
Taking a break during the week at the end of November certainly has its advantages. Almost no people around and only tractors to avoid on the single track lanes that the English countryside likes to pretend are roads. Quite handy as we head to the Tarr Steps for which our Sat Nav insists we drive down every single track lane.
The Tarr Steps are an ancient clapper bridge across the River Barle. Today, it is deserted and blissfully quiet, only rain drops for company. Folklore says that the Devil himself built this bridge, promising to kill anyone who tried to cross it. The local people sent a cat across it and saw it vaporised before their very eyes….. I’m not saying that its put anybody off visiting today, it’s more likely the freezing November temperature.
In summer this would be packed with people sat on the bridge and their feet dangling in the stream watching the world go by while tucking into ice cream or an cream tea. It’s November and I’m not that brave, my feet would freeze the second my skin touches the water. The river is pretty high following the recent wet weather i.e. all the bloody time and I don’t think my 4×4 would make it to the other side either. But at least if we did get stuck there wouldn’t be anyone around to say I told you so. Not even the Devil.
Driving through Exmoor we also get to see the ponies roaming freely on the moor, that hardy breed of horse looking after the heathland of the moor as we drive to our next destination at Watersmeet. A former fishing lodge at the bottom of a river gorge where the East Lyn river and Hoar Oak Water, this site has been occupied since the late Iron Age though these you’ll be more likely to find people fishing, walking and canoeing. or my wife moaning that the tea room is closed because it’s a Monday in late November.
Further on, we drive down to Valley of Rocks. How had we never heard of this? This place is beautiful, its apparently called England’s Little Switzerland. Dramatic scenery with a coastal cliff path wasn’t what we were expecting. Exploring Exmoor and finding this craggy outcrop of boulder strewn rocks is easily the best site of the day. I thought I had seen most of Britain, I’m glad I was wrong. I won’t underestimate it again.