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Editorial Section - Area Information, EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK
Sponsored by
The Exmoor National Park Authority

Contact details
Exmoor National Park Authority
Exmoor House, Dulverton, TA22 9HL
Telephone 01398 323665

EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK

Breathtakingly beautiful riding
Straddling the boundary between Devon and Somerset, Exmoor is a high plateau taking its name from the River Exe, which rises there
Exmoor has been described as a seemingly soft and gentle place where the elements have combined to create a beautiful, fragile landscape. It is for beauty, peace and being at one with nature, and for exploring - a place with many secrets.
Along the coast are England's highest sea cliffs, revealing hazy views of Welsh mountains. From the plateau run rivelets, which seem benign but can burst into torrents, etching the landscape with steep little combes. These separate the rounded hillsides and heath-topped ridges and in them nestle ancient woodlands and equally ancient farmsteads.
Exmoor is an area of great variety and, despite its small size, always has something new to offer.
Once visitors have begun to explore on foot or horse they tend to return time and time again.
The Riding Playground of England
Exmoor has been described as the 'riding playground of England'. It is superb riding country and offers every facility for the rider. Riding stables are scattered over the whole area and most larger settlements have their tack shop, vet and farrier.
The locals are heavily involved in equestrian culture. There is every sort of hunting, eventing, point to points, gymkhanas and shows.
Notable are the Exmoor Spring Horse Show, Exmoor Pony Society Stallion Parade and Golden Horseshoe Ride, all in May, the Exmoor Carriage Driving Festival at the end of July and Brendon Pony Show in August. Bampton Fair developed around its Exmoor pony sales. The ponies have now gone, but the fair still flourishes.
Above: Exmoor ponies above Landacre Bridge on the River Barle

History
The highest ridge culminates in the 1704ft Dunkery Beacon, a name reflecting former times when smoke or fire were the most rapid way of passing messages or warning of danger. The area has been settled since the 7th Century BC and the whole landscape reflects its history. Many place names date from Celtic times when Welsh was the local language.
The moorland is fragmented. The motorist would be forgiven for missing it altogether, as much was enclosed over the last two centuries with Beech topped hedgebanks, which line wide-verged 'enclosure roads' obsuring many fine views waiting to be discovered by the rider.
The hedgebanks are the stitching in the patchwork of small fields which provide pasture for sheep and beef cattle. The dried leaves of autumn shelter the stock from winter winds and drifting snow. With the low winter sun behind them they come alive again with russets, ochres and gold until they are ousted by the downy olive leaflets of spring.
The heyday of the sheep on Exmoor was probably in medieval times, when the woollen industry was at its height. Many of today's bridleways developed, along with tiny stone bridges, as routes for the packhorse carrying wool and cloth, although several have been in use since prehistoric times. Until the 19th Century, the moorland was used for summer grazing only and many ancient routes developed as drove roads for seasonal movements of stock for grazing or market.
The moors and heaths offer quiet recreation and chance for solitude, shared with the red deer, wild ponies and buzzards for which Exmoor is famous. These are truly wild animals and not easily approached, but more easily on horseback as the horse does not appear as a threat. The buzzards and deer can be seen everywhere, althought the latter are more common to the east and south of Exmoor and are seen in the open moor at dusk and dawn.

Exmoor Ponies
The ponies are confined to particular areas of moorland. Those crossed by these routes are at Brendon Common, Winsford Hill, Warren and Lucott Moor.
The ponies are few in number - less than 750 worldwide and only about 200 remaining on the moor. They arrived during the Ice Age, migrating with the seasons and the advance and retreat of the ice sheets whilst Britain was still joined to the continent. They lived on grasslands throughout the northern hemisphere and were amongst the original horses to be domesticated. They were probably never particularly numerous on Exmoor, but through the vagaries of history, this was the only place where they survived.



Exmoor National Park Authority - Bridleways & Rights of Way

The National Park Authority is responsible for the upkeep of rights of way, including bridleways. It pioneered the system of waymarking - the use of coloured symbols to help visitors follow certain routes.
Originally, different colours were used for different routes, but now they denote status. Small sections of these routes are permissive - where landowners have given their consent for public use, but where riders have no legal rights of way. In this case, consent has been given by the Forestry Commission and National Trust, who are major landowners on Exmoor.
There are other permissive bridleways on their properties. Often, they are signposted and waymarked, but not always and not all of their tracks are available to riders.
In addition, there are some parts of Exmoor where, partly through hunting interest, it is common practice to wander freely, but local knowledge is necessary to ride where this is acceptable and safe. It is wise to take advice and a guide, particularly on open moorland where boggy areas can provide difficulties for horse and rider.
It is worth noting that, even though the moorland can seem like an open expanse, it is important to stick to the permissive routes at all times.

EXMOOR LEGENDS
Exmoor has a wealth of local folklore and legends and most stem from historical facts or seasoned tales.
Stories about witches include Meldrum who supposedly lived in a cave near Tarr Steps in the summer and then moved to The Valley of the Rocks for the winter months.
Simonsbath is named after a Motherbrave outlaw from the days of Alfred The Great. He secretly stole army weapons so the 'kingdom of Simonsbath' would be left alone.
The rich travellers of the 17th century were aware of an Exmoor highwayman called Tom Faggus (he's named in the book Lorna Doone). He was born in North Molton and worked in a forge, before seeking more lucrative self-employment. He was caught and hung in 1671.
Above: View from Winsford Hill into the Barle Valley above Tarr Steps
THE BEAST OF EXMOOR
In the last 30 years there have been many 'sightings' of a strange beast prowling on Exmoor. Most tell of a large, black cat with ferocious eyes that, when spotted, disappears into the undergrowth. It could be a panther or puma but attempts to catch the 'beast' have failed and some believe the rumours are false. However, sheep-killings have occured on the moor, though no humans have ever been bothered, so the story of the beast goes on...

HOW TO GET TO EXMOOR
Exmoor is easily accessible from most parts of the country via the M5 (junction 24 to 27). The northern part of the moor is best accessed from the A39 to Minehead, Lynton and Lynmouth. Distances to Minehead Bristol - 63 miles Cardiff - 105 miles Exeter - 50 miles London - 195 miles Plymouth - 95 miles There are two local airports at Bristol and Exeter, all within 1 1/2 hours of Exmoor and receiving local and international flights. Railway stations for onward access to Exmoor are at Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Exeter and Barnstaple.

EXMOOR TOWNS AND VILLAGES
Bossington A peaceful village well known for its charming cottages and picturesque walk that leads to the pebbled beach. The filming of the Famous Five by Enid Blyton took place in the vicinity.
Brompton Regis A lovely parish on the southern limits of Exmoor. The surrounding scenery is breathtaking and there is easy access to Wimbleball Lake for water sports, camping and walking.
Combe Martin This has a sloping High Street along the valley to a small beach. The unusual Pack of Cards Inn is worth visiting as it was built to resemble a pack of playing cards.
Dulverton A beautiful country town beside the River Barle and popular with anglers and walkers. There are many interesting shops, including an antique dealer and rare book seller. It is also home to the headquarters of the Exmoor National Park Authority.
Dunster A Medieval village which has changed little through the centuries and is brimming with fascinating shops and tea rooms. It is shadowed by the magnificent Dunster Castle which has wonderful views of Wales and magical gardens.
Exford A popular and pretty village which is situated around a triangular green and near to the river Exe. It has pubs and restaurants and easy access to the moor for riding, hunting and walking. It is also the main location for the Golden Horseshoe Endurance Ride.
Lynmouth and Lynton These two places are linked by the cliff railway with Lynton sitting 600ft above Lynmouth. The latter is on the coast while Lynton has stunning views of Wales and the Bristol Channel. The mysterious Valley of the Rocks is also nearby.
Minehead A traditional English seaside resort with a mile-long seafront and a curving stretch of sandy beach. It has many shops and places to stay and is home to the Butlins resort.
Porlock Porlock sits in a natural bowl and is flanked on three sides by upland Exmoor. The Lynmouth road runs through the High Street and up the famous Porlock Hill. This has a 1 in 4 gradient and hairpin bends - not for the faint hearted driver or speed merchant.
Porlock Weir A beautiful hamlet and small fishing port just to the west of Porlock. Car parking is available for simple access to the pebbly beach and there are a handful of lovely hotels and restaurants to enjoy
Selworthy and Holnicote Estate This pretty village lies on a wooded hillside below Selworthy Beacon. The village is owned and preserved by the National Trust and many walks and rides can be enjoyed locally. The enormous Holnicote Estate contains one of the largest National Nature Reserves in England and has 6 miles of heather moorland, 5 miles of coastline as well as numerous archaelogical sites. Point to points and other horse meets are held on the estate throughout the year.
Simonsbath A small village in a sheltered valley of the River Barle, ideal for walking or admiring the surrounding moorland.
Watchet Watchet was home to an ancient port. The railway station is part of the West Somerset Steam Railway which links Mineahead and Bishops Lydeard, near Taunton.
Wheddon Cross A small village that lies a few miles from Dunkery Beacon, the highest point on Exmoor. The valley of the snowdrops is also nearby for walkers to enjoy in spring.
Wiveliscombe An old market and clothing town that is set below the beautiful Brendon Hills.
Our thanks to Exmoor National Park Authority and The British Horse Society for much of the information in this editorial section. ©Photographer Heather Lowther and ENPA. No reproduction of any images without written approval.
 
USEFUL WEBSITES TO VISIT:
www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk
www.visit-exmoor.co.uk
www.exmoor-producers.co.uk
www.exmoor-holidays.co.uk
www.exmoor-accommodation.co.uk

www.exmoor.com (The Exmoor Tourist Association)
www.exmoorponysociety.org.uk

Everything Exmoor is a free encyclopaedia, built by the community and business of Exmoor offering information on every aspect of life in the Exmoor National Park. It gathers knowledge of Exmoor in one place and signposts readers to web sites containing more detailed information.

EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK
VISITOR CENTRES:

Combe Martin
email: combemartinvc@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk
County Gate
email:countygatevc@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk
Dulverton
email: dulvertonvc@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk
Dunster
email: dunstervc@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk
Lynmouth
email: lynmouthvc@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk

Somerset Visitor Centre
email: somersetvc@somerset.gov.uk

TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRES:
Combe Martin
email: combemartin-touristinformation.com
Lynton & Lynmouth
email: info@lyntourism.co.uk
www.lyntourism.co.uk

Minehead & West Somerset
email: mineheadtic@visit.org.uk
Porlock Visitor Centre (Independent)
email: porlock@somerset.gov.uk
Watchet
email: tourism@watchet.net
South Molton
email: mail@visitsouthmolton.co.uk
www.visitsouthmolton.co.uk

 

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