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Discovering Exmoor National Park in early Autumn

In mid-September 2021 I made my first journey of more than 50 miles from home since March of the previous year. How refreshing and soul-nurturing it felt to be travelling again and be in unfamiliar landscapes. I didn’t actually have to travel far, Exmoor National Park is only a 3 hour drive from my home. But it feels different and exciting, with a dramatic coastline and roads that rise and plunge on 25% gradients through steep valleys.  I spent 3 days, 2 nights in the area exploring all its photographic potential. I’ve already dedicated one article to my attempts to photograph the Valley of Rocks, these images are a small selection from the rest of the trip with three particular places I wanted to highlight.

Our first stop as we drove in from the east via Minehead was the small village of Porlock Weir. It certainly helped it was a beautiful day, the best conditions of the trip and lunch at the Ship Inn was extremely pleasant. Although a little touristy, there were still a lot of interesting scenes to photograph around the harbour and along Bossington Beach with Hurlstone Point as a fine background.

We headed on to our base for the trip, Lynmouth. It was busy with visitors but most were day trippers, by 6pm it was very quiet. The harbour was fun to shoot and the Valley of Rocks was just a few minutes drive away on the other side of Lynton, up the hill!

The next morning it was overcast and that seemed to me ideal to head to Watersmeet, a National Trust property at a confluence of rivers in a steep valley just inland from Lynmouth. This became an instant favourite, with the rivers tumbling over rocky cascades, with ferns and mosses adding amazing colour and texture. You’ll skip down the path from the car park and if you’re anything like me you won’t bemoan the trudge back up once you have some beautiful long exposure images in the bag!

We drove past Lee Abbey to on to the Heddon Valley, this also was a charming area I’d like to return to. The valley walk itself didn’t present much opportunity but the beach, Heddon’s Mouth, was more spectacular than I had expected and I would have liked to have spent longer here with better light. It’s an early morning location.

On our last day we headed inland, via Simonsbath and over the high point of Winsford Hill with superb 360 degree views and some very photogenic Exmoor ponies. We stopped in at one of Exmoor’s most famous photo locations, Tarr Steps, but it didn’t excite me greatly, with large numbers of tourists swamping the place. Quick snap, back in the car!

This was a fantastic 3 day trip to discover the basics of Exmoor and I know now what I would go back to delve into deeper. Not necessarily the big vistas, though there are plenty, but the smaller details of textured stone walls, wind-gnarled small trees and wave-battered rocks. Thank you Exmoor, we’ll be back!


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