Friday, November 24, 2017

Exmoor day 3 - deep valleys, purple moorland & wistful ponies

Exmoor National Park at sunrise with an orange horizon and heather foreground

Up for sunrise again and the sky was looking particularly tumultuous, I had half a mind to crawl back into my sleeping bag and pretend that my alarm hadn’t gone off. But ever the dedicated photographer, I pushed on and struggled into my clothes while listening out for the timorous pattering of water of canvas, signifying the beginnings of a rain storm that I was sure would arrive at any moment.

Holnicote Estate near Dunkery Hill at sunrise and a tangerine sky
The sky made up for the relative drabness of the ground.

So with overcast conditions, I drove up onto the moors on the hunt for a decent viewpoint should some colour appear in the sky. Unusually I didn’t have a particular spot in mind, so I roamed over the heathland in the hope that something would present itself.

In the end though my hand was forced, there was a gap between the stormy clouds and the horizon that allowed the dawn light to shine through, so I had to stop wherever I could, retrieve my camera gear from the car and set up post haste.

It wasn’t the most interesting spot, but there was a bit of heather in bloom in the foreground, and a small clump of trees in the far distance which I placed between the sloping sides of two hills, plus the sky was certainly interesting, so I made the best of it.

Wild looking sky on a stormy sunrise near Dunkery Hill in Exmoor National park
The clouds didn't take on a great deal of colour, but there were a few patches.

After a 20 minutes or so the rain began to lightly fall, and it wasn’t long before it had picked up the pace and was hammering it down with some force. Quickly packing up, I picked my way over the uneven ground as fast as I could towards the car, but the rain had the best of me and I was quite soaked by the time I got back to the car.

On my way back to the campsite, the sun did reappear again for a brief moment, and I managed to get a shot of the colourful moorland as it crested and furrowed into the distance, under some tobacco tinged clouds, before they too dumped their watery cargo onto the landscape.

Beautiful light over the Exmoor landscape with bright purple heather
The conditions at this time of day created some very atmospheric light.

After breakfast I packed up my tent and vacated the campsite for my last day in Exmoor. The weather was slightly more clement by now, which was welcome, as packing up a tent in the rain is just not fun in any way.

Once the car was loaded up with my temporary home, I returned to the moors, where I chanced upon a herd of wild ponies who it seemed, were not in any rush to get going, and were content to munch on the colourful vegetation as I gambolled around them getting a few snaps.

Heather clad moorland and wild ponies in this idyllic Exmoor scene
It was a job to get them to keep still for any length of time.

Handsome Exmoor pony surveys the landscape in Exmoor National Park
With his windblown mane, this little pony stares out over the landscape deep in thought, about something.

Heather covered moorland and a lone tree in the National Park in Exmoor
I can't resist a lone tree.

Close up image of a wild Exmoor pony feeding among the colourful moorland foliage
Tucking into some grass and showing every sign of enjoyment.

Once I had bothered them enough I took a drive towards Lynmouth and Lynton via Contisbury Hill, stopping at the National Trust car park just before the little village of Contisbury for a view over the coastal landscape towards Lynton itself.

Coastal Exmoor landscape looking towards Lynton and Lynmouth
Lynton can be seen in this view, Lynmough is hidden by the towering coastline, as it sits at sea level.

I then took a stroll to the other side of the road and followed a footpath into the dramatic surroundings of the East Lyn Valley. I had driven past this eye catching spot a few times on the way to other places, and I thought it was about time I stopped and explored the area. I didn’t head into the valley itself, but stayed along the ridge overlooking it, for some big views.

Sunlight on the East Lyn Valley in Exmoor National Park
Looking along the East Lyn Valley.

The sun was in and out a lot, as the clouds scooted across the sky in the high winds, so there was a bit of waiting around for the light to be suitable, but it was such a lovely spot, it was no hardship. Once I’d had a good old stroll along the ridgeway footpath, with views down to the distant East Lyn River as it carves its way through the undulating terrain, I headed back to the car, as I had one more valley to visit before the end of the day.

Deep gorge of the tree covered East Lyn Valley in Exmoor National Park
Panoramic view of the valley in the afternoon sunshine.

Wild landscape of the East Lyn Valley bathed in sunlight in Exmoor National Park
There wasn't much heather about, but I managed to find a couple of clumps.

Big landscapes near Lynton and Lynmouth of the East Lyn Valley in Exmoor
Dramatic landscape and clouds.

Driving through Contisbury, I parked up in a small layby next to a gate, and strode off into a field, before finding the track that I was looking for. This was another view of a valley along the course of the East Lyn River, although the watercourse that carved it out is no longer there, it’s a footpath now that leads to Watersmeet, but out of sight, it returns to river again.

Exmoor valley landscape from the village of Countisbury
Looking down into the valley.

After getting a few shots of some more dramatic landscape, it was time for me to return to the car and head back home. I was sure it wouldn’t long before I was back again though.

Dramatic landscape near Countisbury in the afternoon sunshine
Two footpaths.

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