Olly Writes

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Thinking About Exmoor

Having returned home this afternoon bearing the cloak of embarrassment, I’m setting my sights on a potential camping trip to Exmoor before this returning summer sun completely dissipates. A chance for redemption. Although, some might say that spending 3 days exploring a largely unknown mass of land is the last thing I should be contemplating after today’s walk; in which I led a group of fellow ramblers up and over the Quantock Hills with an excessive dosage of confidence [map ignorance]… I knew I’d taken a wrong turn but I hadn’t anticipated arriving back at the cars an hour early and 3 miles short!

Highland cattle at Quantock Lodge, Somerset, earlier today.

I’m currently torn between one of two camping sites right in the heart of Exmoor, which would provide me with car-free walking opportunities for each day. Now, I’m going to use this post to start planning and setting out ideas for ways in which I can pass my time there pro-actively.

Walking is the obvious one. I’m not too familiar with the hills of Exmoor, having only trekked there once last April and yet gazed upon their eastern profile from the Quantocks three times this year. My plan would involve two nights of camping and I’d like to think I would head down ‘early’ that first day for a bit of walking before heading in to pitch my tent. But it would have to be a relatively short walk on that first day, as I anticipate the longest hike would follow after my first night under the stars.

But can my legs, not to mention a foot problem I’ve been nursing since May, manage three days or more of on-foot exploration?

M5 southbound in Somerset.

M5 southbound in Somerset.

Exmoor, being a national park, does cover an awful lot of land and I anticipate it may be too great a challenge for me to attempt to uncover the majority of it within a single weekend. Therefore, I’ve set my mind on a camp site towards the east (and slightly closer to home), leaving the western half to be explored on a separate trip, a different year.

After my trip to Dorset in July, I like the thought of see more of the South West Coast Path. Again, that provides an opportunity for a circular walk combined with some of the hills. I think my OS map will, as before, determine the highlights of my walking routes as I search for tall hills and trig points. Today, as it happens, I met a 21-year old who previously walked the entire SWCP stretch (camping each night) in about a month!

Beyond walking, I’ve yet to come across anything else within the area that greatly excites me. Dunster Castle is an obvious one from the National Trust’s website but I passed it last April and, having only seen other peoples’ photos from the internet, I’m concerned it’s a bit too ‘museum-like’ when compared to the preserved ruin-states of Corfe Castle among others. Elsewhere on their site; the Holnicote Estate gets a mention while Heddon Valley may be too far to the west for this occasion.

Another thought (perhaps on my return journey, after packing away my tent) is to spend some time on the nearby Blackdown Hills which, as I’ve been told, are relatively small, in the sense that I may not look to spend a walking weekend there. But for one day on the Somerset/Devon border; yes. I believe the Brendon Hills are also nearby.

Wavering Down to Cheddar, from a walk on Wednesday evening.

Wavering Down to Cheddar, from a walk on Wednesday evening.

Exmoor National Park is also known as Europe’s first Dark Sky Reserves and while I’ve never been much of a stargazer, it is one of the only perks of early-morning starts in the winter and on a foggy day. By the time I’ve pitched my tent, I anticipate it’ll be very dark around 8pm and so, I’ll either be confined to my tent under torch light (must pack spare batteries) or I might be brave enough to venture out in my car and find a local pub to eat at… Maybe.

In all, I seriously do hope it does not rain!!

Thanks for reading.


4 responses to “Thinking About Exmoor

  1. bristolidler 07/09/2014 at 09:18

    Consider camping at YHA minehead/dunster or exford.

    Nice to have option of warm cosy lounge, kitchen and drying room when camping in september.

    Think you can even buy cheap cooked breakfast at yha minehead…

  2. Anna 08/09/2014 at 13:18

    Check out Westermill Farm, it’s a great campsite on a farm near Exford. It has a river running through it and allows camp fires which I always enjoy! A great base for lots of walks too x

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