The National Parks 60th Birthday tour Part I – Dartmoor

The first photo road trip of 2011 has been completed visiting the Somerset Levels, small areas of Exmoor and one of the 60th birthday parks, Dartmoor calling for 27 hours of driving covering just short of 1000 miles and walking over 50 miles.  The weather could not really have been much better.  Raining when I left home but stopped within 30 minutes and I did not see rain again until my last night on Dartmoor.  The light could have been better with lots of flat grey skies but I can’t complain and it made me concentrate more on the detailed landscape shots rather than the wider views.
 
My first base was on the eastern edge of Exmoor which I was hoping would give me the opportunity to visit some locations on the Somerset Levels as well as parts of Exmoor.  As always the weather dictates which way I travel and on day one it looked better inland which proved to be correct.  The first stop was at Burrow Mump on the Levels.  Having walked all around the location unfortunately what would have been the best POV had just undergone major changes in the landscape which included new fences, tree planting and earthworks to the banks of the River Parrett presumably to stop flooding.  I, therefore, had to be content with images of Earlake Moor and of the church on Burrow Mump.  I also made a brief visit to the tor at #Glastonbury.
 
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Day 2 found me at Tarr Steps on Exmoor but I was disappointed from a photographic point of view as quite clearly this is a better summer/autumn location and looks particularly bare at this time of year.  Fortunately, however, I decided to visit the coast on my way back at Kilve, a location I could thoroughly recommend.  Kilve is a village in West Somerset, within the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the first AONB to be established in 1957.  Along this coast, the cliffs are layered with compressed strata of oil-bearing shale and blue, yellow and brown layers embedded with fossils.  The sea is steadily wearing away the coastline and the cliffs are crumbling and dangerous.  If you look closely in the image below you can see a fossil on the rock in the foreground.
 
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Heddon’s Mouth and Woody Bay on the Exmoor coast were on the list for the next day which involved a 9-mile walk from Hunter’s Inn out and along the South West Coast Path.  Whilst the walk was excellent the photographic opportunities were limited, however, I did come across this interesting signpost on the way down to Woody Bay.  I have only seen such signs before at Land’s End and John O’Groats so was surprised to find this outside a small cottage.  I was beginning to wonder if I had lost my way and was not in Somerset after all.
 
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More success the next day with another 8 miles walk starting at Bossington across Porlock Marsh to Porlock Weir and back through the woods.  The walk along the shingle ridge of Porlock Bay was exhilarating although I did have to turn back as the shingle bank has been breached so the coastal path has been rerouted across the salt marsh which although quiet muddy brought some excellent photographic opportunities which I may have missed if it was not for the change of route.
 
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Now on to Dartmoor and based just outside Tavistock on the western edge of the moor.  Arriving early I took the opportunity to take a quick 4-mile walk to visit Brent Tor a great location and apparently the best sunset location in the area but unfortunately not on my visit. Maybe next time.
 
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The following day an 8-mile trek onto the moor from Merrivale visiting no fewer than 4 Tors.  Vixen Tor which is the highest of all Tors was the first visited but unfortunately, access is restricted by the landowner due to people making claims on them following accidents climbing on the tor.  What a shame and a reflection of the times we live in as this is, without a doubt, the most visually impressive of the tors I saw during my short stay.
 
The following day brought probably the best walk of the whole trip at almost 10 miles but very tiring with the climbing up and down each tor.  This time on the eastern edge of the moor starting at Haytor taking in Hound, Bell, Chinkwell, Honeybag, Top, Rippon and Saddle Tors and finishing back at Haytor Rocks.  If you want a good walk and to take in some of the iconic tors of the moor this is the one.
 
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On my final day rather than take on another long walk, I took the opportunity to visit a few locations with short walks including Feather Tor, Bowermans Nose and a revisit to Saddle Tor.  Whilst trying to locate a stone row in the landscape just outside Princetown, which I never did find, I was fortunate enough to come across this small waterfall and pool.
 
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Considering the time of year this has been a reasonably successful trip and I would certainly return again to Dartmoor as there is so much more to see and photograph.  I had decided to visit at this time of year as I felt it would be quieter and that certainly was the case but if I do manage to return I think it would be in late Summer when more colour will be in the landscape.
 
Onwards now to the Lakes.  Let’s hope the weather is as kind there.  Look out for the second part of the National Parks 60th Birthday Tour soon.
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