Thursday, September 10, 2015

Exmoor Day 1 - Battle with the clouds

Landscape at the Valley of the Rocks near Lynton in Exmoor by Martyn Ferry Photography

I was down in Exmoor for a couple of days, which is always a good thing, as it's such a beautiful spot. I was somewhat limited in what I could get up to though as I had recently broken a toe, so my mobility was somewhat impaired, no walks through the Barle Valley on this visit. If I could drive to it, then I would go to it, otherwise it was out of bounds.
I was up for sunrise first thing that morning, at the slightly impudent hour of 5.30, and I took a drive through Simonsbath and out onto the moorland in the hope that there would be some spectacular colour in the sky. There wasn't.

The sky was full of clouds, dark, massive and brooding, the only colour to be seen was a sickly yellow on the horizon, but as if to rub it in, the sun rose in exactly the opposite direction than I thought it would. Not over the valley at all. What a bastard.

A view over the Exmoor moor land on an overcast morning by Martyn Ferry Photography
A rather dismal start to the day.

I took a couple of shots because for no other reason than I made the effort to be there, which is more than be said of the sun, then I got back in the car to escape the cold, blustery wind. The cloud showed no sign of lifting so I settled back, put on the heater and waited to see if anything would appear.

I must have fallen asleep because when I woke up and it was dark outside, somehow I had slept through the whole day, I could scarcely believe it. I checked the clock on the dashboard which confusingly showed the time at just after twelve in the afternoon, which was odd. I  drove out of the small parking area to the road below, where I saw a group of people throwing small rocks at the passing cars. It was clear they were heading in my direction, so I thought it prudent to get going before they could do any damage, the last thing I needed was a load of chipped paintwork. For some reason though I just couldn't get the car moving, and more frustratingly, my hair had fallen over my eyes, and no matter what I did I just couldn't get it clear, as soon as I brushed it away it came back again, It was in need of it's 6 monthly chop, but this was ridiculous. 

Then I felt a sudden jolt, I looked around and a giant teddy bear had landed on my shoulder, I knew I had it in the car, but I couldn't reason why it was suddenly about my person, and I still couldn't get that damn hair out my eyes. With a start I woke up, for real, realised I had my hat pulled halfway down my face, and it was only 8.50 in the morning.

I took a moment to gather myself as best I could, before realising that the clouds had started to break up and there was now some beautiful light on the heather clad valley. I rather groggily retrieved my camera gear and plodded into the lip of the valley to set up. Needless to say, by the time I'd done that, the light disappeared entirely and I was left standing on a gloomy patch of moorland, alone and unloved. Then it began to rain.

I was determined to get a shot so I held my ground against the bully boy weather. After about another 45 minutes or so some breaks in the clouds did finally appear and I claimed my spoils.  

Heather clad moorland in Exmoor by Martyn Ferry Photography
A bit of sun on the colourful moorland.
Exmoor landscape with purple heather by Martyn Ferry Photography
As you can see, there was still plenty of cloud about.

Drove back to camp had a wash and headed out to Lynton. I was keen to visit the valley of rocks while the sky was nice and dramatic. By the time I got there of course the stormy clouds had scampered off and it was mainly blue bloody sky. So I had a walk down to the mighty Castle Rock and noticed that the coastal breeze had started to push some white fluffy clouds inland. Not what I was after of course, I do like the view of Castle Rock on a stormy day, but I would take them.

View towards Castle Rock at the Valley of Rocks in Exmoor by Martyn Ferry Photography
Looking towards Castle Rock.

Got some shots of that crazy monolith and then had a wander down the path towards wingcliff beach to get some shots looking back towards Castle Rock and Rugged Jack. Found some nice boulders in the ferny undergrowth that helped balance the composition.

Castle Rock and Rugged Jack at the Valley of Rocks in Exmoor by Martyn Ferry Photography
Castle Rock and Rugged Jack
Path to Wingcliff Bay at the Valley of Rocks near Lynton by Martyn Ferry Photography
Looking towards Wingcliff Beach, which is situated at the end of steep path down to the coast.

After heading back to the car for a spot of lunch, I carried on up the road towards the abbey with an idea to get a shot of Lee Bay from above, with a view of the land curving down to the sea. The last time I was there, it was very hazy and horizon had all but disappeared. But unfortunately all the sky had to offer was much of the same, which wasn't what I was after at all. So I high tailed it out of the rocky valley and drove down to Lynmouth.

Had a walk along the rocky shore as the tide was out and got some pictures of the wooden groins that line the entrance to the little harbour. I also found a collection of snails on one of the rocks, and after I had cruelly rearranged them for my own selfish needs, I took a snap.

Three snails at Lynmouth harbour in Somerset by Martyn Ferry Photography
The unfortunate snails.
The entrance to Lynmouth Harbour in Exmoor National Park by Martyn Ferry Photography
The harbour entrance.

After returning to the car I took the Doon Valley Way towards Oare, along the lovely little lane that follows the path of the East Lyn River, although river makes it sound somewhat more robust than it is. I stopped at Robbers Bridge to try and get a picture of this frustrating place. As always, there was a huge amount of contrast between the shadows and highlights. So after a bit of time spent crouching next to the river, trying not to lose my footing on the slippery bank, and also endeavouring not to bang my head on the low, overhanging branches, I bravely decided to give up. 

Robbers Bridge in the Doon Valley in Exmoor by Martyn Ferry Photography
A view of the ancient bridge.

I then headed towards Porlock to see what the view was like from the A39, a scenic stretch of road that meanders along the North Somerset coast, and affords beautiful views of the rolling landscape of patchwork farmland and Bristol Channel beyond. There was also a good crop of heather in full bloom which was looking very colourful in the afternoon sunlight. I was thinking of doing sunset there later, so I wanted to check it out.

I carried on to Porlock with my spirits high, I was looking forward to getting some dinner, ideally a round of fish and chips, as I'd set my little heart on some. But as I drove through the town, it was clear there wasn't much on offer. I did not worry though, as I was on my way to Porlock Wier, a snug little village right on the coast, and very popular with the tourists, there would definitely be plenty to choose from there. 

No such luck, there was nothing even resembling a fish and chip establishment, I couldn't believe it. So with a heavy heart I drove back into Porlock and availed myself of the local Costcutter. I then zoomed back up Porlock hill, to where I was going to get my sunset pics, and tucked into a rather sickly pasta salad, a pork pie that was going cheap as it had seen better days and a packet of individualy wrapped chocolate cakes, which probably would have tasted better if I'd left the wrapping on.

I then waited for the sun to do it's thing, and fall into my willing clutches. I rocked down to my chosen viewpoint while the sun was still about an hour away from setting. There was a sizeable bank of cloud below it and I wanted to get the light as it warmed the rolling hills, and before it disappeared behind that ribbon of cloud.

Rolling coastal landscape under warm evening light in Exmoor by Martyn Ferry Photography
Warm light on the landscape.

Got some shots then headed back to the campsite as I knew for sure there would be no sunset. 

On the way back I happened upon a herd of Highland Cattle. One was stood right next to the road, munching contentedly on some grass, so I stopped and whipped out my phone to get a pic. And she did exactly what all animals do when I get a camera out, turn their back on me and present me with their hind quarters. I didn't bother to get a picture, I have enough pictures of animals arses to last me a life time.


  1. Had me chuckling away Martyn. You are dangerous when any further than your front door! The bit with the psycho Teddy was hilarious. Cheers 👍

    1. Thanks Jim, glad you enjoyed it. Yes it was certainly a very weird dream, and very real! Looks like I'll be seeing you at the beginning of October, I'm helping Sarah with the Yorkshire workshop, and I understand you're booked on :)