Saturday, August 27, 2016

Exmoor Day 3 - A punchbowl sunrise & sunset feast

Sunrise image of The Punchbowl in Exmoor National Park by Martyn Ferry Photography

I was up at five for a sunrise shoot at the Punchbowl, where I’d been the afternoon before, as it looked like it might be a worthwhile spot for some early morning antics. I got there a little late though, as the sky was already beginning to transform from the lead grey of nights end into the first flush of dawn.

Parking up and grabbing my gear, I took off at speed into the moorland to find a suitable spot for what I hoped might be a rewarding show. If anyone had been passing by they would have witnessed a rather ungainly fellow scampering through the ferns, tripod flailing in the morning breeze, crying out ‘wait for me’ to the blushing sky. Whether it’s shade signalled the start of a colourful sunrise, or it was just embarrassed to be seen with me, I didn’t yet know.

Sunrise over the The Punchbowl from Winsford Hill in Exmoor by Martyn Ferry Photography
Sunrise colours over The Punchbowl.

Luckily for me it was the beginning of a vibrant start to the day, so once I had gotten set up I managed to get a few shots of the sky as it did its wondrous thing. Once the main show was over and the sun had cleared the horizon, and in this case, become swaddled by a parade of low hanging cloud, I took a walk along the rim of the punchbowl, to get some different views of the natural amphitheatre below me.

Sunrise photography at The Punchbowl in Exmoor National Park by Martyn Ferry Photography
Looking over the Punchbowl rim towards the landscape beyond.

The clouds soon began to roll in, along with some mist, and within 20 minutes or so I was surrounded by thick fog, and could barely see more than 10 meters. This was a surprising turn of events considering how clear it had been when I arrived, it was amazing how quickly the conditions could change. Making my way back to the car, I took a careful drive down from the moorland, not that there was anyone else around, but the sheep do consider the road their own, and I didn’t want a woolly encounter. Once I’d descended the high ground though the fog completely cleared, and I continued to the campsite for some breakfast.

Dawn clouds over a pathway at The Punchbowl in Exmoor by Martyn Ferry Photography
Pathway through the ferns as the landscape drops away to the left into The Punchbowl.

After breakfast I took a drive to Porlock Weir, a picturesque hamlet and once busy port that has existed for over a thousand years. Taking a small pathway past the Grade II listed Gibralter Cottages, which date from the 17th century, I found myself on the pebbly beach in the company of an old set of half submerged groynes, it was clear they needed to have their picture taken, so of course I was happy to oblige. I had a stroll a little further along the bay as there were more groynes to be seen, but these were clear of the receding tide, so I decided to re-visit them another day.

Black and white image of beach groynes at Porlock Weir by Martyn Ferry Photography
A long exposure of the sea lapping against the groynes.

Coastal image of colourful rocks and old groyne at Porlock Weir by Martyn Ferry Photography
These colourful pebbles cover the beach.

I then travelled along the coast to Bossington, another attractive hamlet, and took the 20 minute walk to the beach, which is a continuation of the one at Porlock, so was also entirely made up of rounded stones of all sizes and colours, and made walking particularly hard work. Bossington beach is also home to a collection of groynes, and these particular ones are jam packed with these stones, solidly wedged in there through the sheer force of the ocean tides.

Bossington beach groynes hold back the colourful pebbles by Martyn Ferry Photography
A set of groynes holding back an avalanche of pebbles.

Simple black and white image of stones wedged between posts on Bossington Beach by Martyn Ferry Photography
The stones are stuck fast.

Multi coloured rocks at Bossington Beach in Exmoor National Park by Martyn Ferry Photography
The multi coloured stones are quite eye catching.

Photography from the Somerset beach at Bossington by Martyn Ferry Photography
More pebbles and posts under an overcast sky.

Bossington beach pebbles covered in rain by Martyn Ferry Photography
When the stones are wet, after having been rained on in this case, their colours really come to the fore.

Once I’d returned to the car, after stumbling over endless loose rocks in the driving rain and wind, I headed into Porlock village with a view to grabbing a sandwich from the local shop, but on the way I spied a very promising looking pizzeria and my lunch plans took a sudden and delicious turn. I had a pizza at The Mandala, which was marvellous and very reasonably priced, I can recommend the place highly.

Then it was onto Watersmeet for a gander at the river and waterfall. By now, thanks to the crazy weather, it was baking hot and bright sunshine, so, thanks to the harsh contrast, it was not ideal conditions to be photographing under tree canopies. I took the path to the waterfall, which was situated in dense woodland and was a cool relief from the sun. Unfortunately the falls were almost completely camouflaged by the summer growth from the surrounding trees, as if it didn’t want to be seen by the gawking hoi poloi. 

Taking the hint, I re-traced my steps, and although I’d not been there that long I was ready to leave, it’s one of the main tourist destinations in the National Park, and as such was teeming with people. Plus I was happy to head back to camp for a couple of hours, to have a shower and a lovely cup of tea. Not at the same time I hasten to add.

As the day merged into early evening I took a drive over to Lynmouth to pick up some fish and chips, which were very nice, and just as well too, as I had to wait in line about 20 minutes for them. Procuring my dinner I took off at speed to the Valley of Rocks to devour it at my leisure. That done I slipped on my knap sack and ambled off to find a perch for what I hoped would be a decent sunset.

The Devon coastline at Valley of Rocks at sunset by Martyn Ferry Photography
When I first got there the sun was just starting it's descent.

And decent it certainly was, it was a feast of a sunset. Buttery yellow and orange tones in the swirling clouds high above for a starter, then a bright orb of blazing orange as the sun descended from the nebulous ceiling, casting a beam of tangerine flame across the ocean and lighting up the coastline in a golden warmth for main course, then for dessert, I was presented with the sight of shimmering gleams of fuchsia light playing along the underside of the gently scudding clouds on the horizon. And finally the cheese platter served up high clouds turning a delicate shade of rose pink as they drifted above me. It was quite a display, and I was stuffed.

Valley of Rocks sunset in Exmoor National Park by Martyn Ferry Photography
Evening sunlight reflects on the ocean.

Exmoor National Park Valley of Rocks at sunset by Martyn Ferry Photography
Managing to peek out from a gap in the clouds, the sun lights up part of the sky.

Pink clouds over Castle Rock at the Valley of Rocks in Exmoor by Martyn Ferry Photography
Castle Rock sits below a final display of pink clouds.

looking out to the ocean from the Valley of Rocks in Exmoor National Park by Martyn Ferry Photography
A view of the little promontory I took my images from. It wasn't too
bad that evening, but a stone cold menace when it was windy a
couple of days before. 

Walking back to the car, I wandered past a play of Macbeth being performed in the open air and practically strolled onto the set, such that it was, before I realised I needed to be taking a slightly different path. On returning I discovered that the smell of fish and chips no longer lingered in the car, which was good, mainly it had to be said, because I had mistakenly left the passenger side window open, which was bad, but thankfully it hadn't rained, which was good. I drove back to camp in the dark, but even as I motored across the black moors, there was still some lingering colour on the far horizon. I had been very fortunate indeed.

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