Exmoor is an area of open moorland in the southwest of England spanning the counties of Devon and Somerset. It is designated a National Park and takes its name from the River Exe, the source of which is located close to the village of Simonsbath, which was the base for a Landscape Photography workshop I joined recently.
The weather was variable, the first morning being dull, overcast and showery but late morning the rain cleared away and there was patchy sunshine. The second day was dry but with patchy cloud. This made photography a little easier.
This blog will showcase my best images from each location rather than a travel narrative.
Tarr Steps is a clapper bridge over the River Barle. The name “clapper bridge” originates from the Medieval Latin “claperius” which means “pile of stones”. It is an ancient form of bridge constructed with large slabs of stone resting on one another and this is the largest example of its type.
Believe it or not, there is a road which comes down to the riverside and vehicles occasionally cross, however whilst I was lining up the bottom image, one small car drove down to the waters edge and after some hesitation and shaking of heads from the group, the driver decided it would be unwise to cross.
The Punch Bowl
One of the attractions of Exmoor in August is the heather that covers large areas of the moor. Part of the workshop was to photograph the displays of heather and our destination for this was Winsford Hill and The Punch Bowl. The hill overlooks the village of the same name however its near neighbour, The Punch Bowl is a massive geological feature which was, according to legend carved out when the Devil needed to scoop out a well. The legend continues that as he removed the soil and threw it over his shoulder the resulting pile gave rise to Dunkerry Hill, which is the highest point on Exmoor. A more practical and logical explanation is that the Punch Bowl was carved out by glacial movement and action in the last ice age. Whatever the explanation it is a beautiful site with great views of the heather, lone hawthorne trees and the valley with Dunkerry behind.
Lynmouth is one of Exmoor’s coastal villages sitting on the north coast. The village straddles the confluence of the East and West Lyn rivers in a 700ft gorge, with Lynton sitting at the top of the gorge. The villages are connected by a cliff railway which is very popular with the many tourists which throng to the area.
There is a path running up the gorge to Watersmeet, which is the meeting place of the East Lyn river and Hoar Oak water. The path and the river was the next location for our workshop. Surprisingly it was not that crowded as the weather was cool and overcast. The river at this point is fairly fast flowing with many rocks and boulders, making interesting viewpoints for photographers.
Valley of Rocks
The second day we started at the Valley of Rocks, a dramatic area of coastline on the northern edge of the Exmoor National Park. A short distance from Lynton, the valley floor is slightly inland from the sea and sees steep craggy cliffs rise up either side to jagged peaks. A short walk from the tourist car park is the Southwest Coast path which is set into the cliff on the seaward side and provides dramatic views of the coastline. Our location was a small “lay-by” on the cliff edge looking west down the coast.
From Valley of Rocks we moved to Countisbury Hill, east of the village of Porlock. From here we could see back into Porlock village down a steep road. There was a little heather here but the views across the valley to the village were amazing, and the sun came out to greet us
Finally on this tour of Exmoor we headed to Porlock Marsh. The marsh lies to the east of the village and lies behind a long shingle ridge that forms Porlock Bay. In 1996 a storm breached the shingle ridge, inundating the low-lying marsh. It was decided to follow a policy of ‘managed retreat’ and let nature takes its course. You can now see the remains of well-established trees as sculptural skeletons, having been poisoned by the salt. It was these we were here to photograph.
As we concluded the workshop. the sun finally appeared in full glory blazing down on us as we headed back to our hotel. A thoroughly enjoyable experience in a part of the UK I was unfamiliar with, but will no doubt be returning to.