Exmoor Trip

Exmoor Trip 8th May – 12th May

As a first timer on one of these breaks I was slightly apprehensive but needn’t have worried.  The walks were varied and just challenging enough, scenery beautiful, weather fine, company excellent and I was immensely impressed by the food.  It was all planned, bought and brought with us so that breakfasts and lunches were generous, healthy and versatile (thanks to Liz).  Gill planned and supervised the cooking of the superb evening meals – even the apricot and ginger crumble, parts of which may have been floor flavoured after a minor mishap (but we’re all still alive so that’s ok).  We all did our bit and sub teams took turns to prepare and clear up. It was not only efficient but good natured and collaborative in true Redrope style!  As everyone had a role and we all did our bit I won’t name all the names just say thanks to everyone for making it such a good break!

Starting

Twelve of us gathered at Minehead Youth Hostel, mainly members of the West Midlands group but joined by people from Manchester and the South East.

Day 1 – The next morning we set off to walk to the youth hostel at Exford via Dunkery Beacon (about eleven miles).  Looking back towards Minehead we could see the Arabian Nights style pinnacles of the Pontins holiday camp looking more romantic as we got further away.  During the morning we headed towards the beacon, appreciating the contrast between lush, green Somerset meadows and woods and the brown, bleak heathery dome of Dunkery Beacon.  After we had skirted the pretty village of Wootton Courteney we reached the edge of Dunkery Beacon (as one of our party said when you reach the brown bit you know you’re on the beacon).  This wasn’t entirely true as on the first part of the ascent we passed through wooded areas with trickling streams but as we climbed higher we were surrounded by a harsher terrain of brown heather and bracken.  By the time we reached the beacon itself there were extensive views including both the Bristol and English Channel coasts, the Brecon Beacons and the Welsh coastline from the Gower Peninsula along to Cardiff and Newport.  We had a break on the summit, admired the views, consulted the toposcope but were driven to move on by the biting cold wind.  As we descended to the road we admired the grace of a herd of Exmoor deer running across the moor. .
We then arrived in the village of Exford and rewarded ourselves with a ice creams made with local clotted cream.  I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed an ice cream more!

Day 2 – Exford to Dulverton (again about eleven miles).  This was a river walk, initially along the Exe but soon following the river Barle from Withypool.   We picnicked at Tarr Steps, a mediaeval clapper bridge across the river Barle.   From there we climbed through woodland so that we were looking down on the river.  The day’s walk finished with a long, deceptively gentle looking but relentless ascent to the camping barn outside Dulverton.  At the camping barn we were greeted by two enthusiastic puppy like lambs called number 21 and number 31.  It turned out they were hand  reared and shared the farmyard with ducks, geese, other sheep and dogs .  This, along with the farmyard itself , which was complete with water mill and medieval stone buildings, made for an idyllic setting which was reminiscent of  a film set (Far from the Madding Crowd?) or a children’s story  book.

 Day 3 – The hardier members of the group took the 16 mile walk back to Minehead.  The rest of us took a more meandering route to Wheddon Cross and then a taxi to Dunster where some alighted to explore, others carried on to Minehead to get a bit of coastal footpath walking in.

Day 4 – walk from Minehead over North Hill to the incredibly pretty village of Selworthy (almost too pretty but maybe I was just miffed because the tea shop was closed!).  Then a walk into Allerford and home.

Fiona Scanlan.