Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Exmoor Day 4 – A golden valley & over familiar insects

Exe Valley in the Exmoor National Park at sunrise by Martyn Ferry Photography

Up for sunrise again this morning, this time I was heading to the Exe Valley, located just the other side of Simonsbath. The valley itself is not the most interesting of valleys, it doesn’t have the precipitous slopes or trees and shrubbery of the Barle Valley, nor is the River Exe that imposing, it’s just a small trickle occasionally spied among the valley floor grasses. The one thing it does have going for it though is the sunrise, which ascends beyond the basin and lights up the landscape below, at least that was the hope.

Exmoor National Park in the pre dawn light by Martyn Ferry Photography
A view of the valley before the sun rose, looking pretty uninspiring.

It wasn’t a great start, there was no pre-dawn light, and I had to wait about half an hour until the sun actually began to appear over the horizon before I could engage my equipment. It was worth the wait though, when the soft warm light did finally emerge it transformed the valley into a sumptuous bowl of golden sunlight, it was difficult to believe I was looking at the same tableau. It wasn’t long before the canvas of clouds began reflecting in sympathy with the colour of the landscape, which meant I had quite a scene on my hands.

Sunrise lights up the clouds near the Exe Valley by Martyn Ferry Photography
Just before the sun got his hat on, some colour did appear in the clouds.

Sunrise colour in the clouds over Exmoor National Park by Martyn Ferry Photography
The sun finally woke up and started to give the sky a bit of vibrancy.

Exmoor National Park near Simonsbath at sunrise by Martyn Ferry Photography
It's beginning to lay some dawn light over the landscape.

Sunrise bathes Exmoor National Park in warm light by Martyn Ferry Photography
Finally, the valley gets the warm golden hue I was waiting for.

Exe Valley in Exmoor National Park catches the sunrise by Martyn Ferry Photography
The sun highlights a distant part of the valley before being swallowed up by the clouds.

Once I’d had my fill and the sun had risen into the clouds, I took off into the moors. The previous evening I had spotted a tree that quite took my fancy, and I was eager to try and get a shot of it in the morning light.

After navigating my way through the gaggle of sheep and cows that like to call the road their bed, and are generally loath to give it up for those first few cars that venture onto the moors, I parked up and waited for the sun to reappear. I didn't have to wait long for the landscape to reacquaint itself with the warm light, so I managed to get a few shots of this rather windswept little tree.

Small windswept tree in the morning light on Exmoor National Park by Martyn Ferry Photography
The little tree catches the morning sunlight.

Interestesting tree in Exmoor National Park in monochrome by Martyn Ferry Photography
A black and white version with a brooding sky.

I drove back to camp to grab some breakfast before heading straight out again, I needed to be at Porlock Weir for the high tide so I could get to the groynes while the surf was still lapping around them. Once there I made my way along the beach, stopping to get some long exposure images of these old piles. I am definitely partial to a spot of long groynal exposure, the older and more withered the better.

Porlock Weir groynes in Exmoor National Park by Martyn Ferry Photography
Not sure how long these had been here, but I'm guessing quite a while.

Exmoor coastal groynes at Porlock Weir by Martyn Ferry Photography
They had some interesting colours on them as well, some didn't even look
like wood anymore.

After my hankering had been satisfied, I made my way back, under the blazing sun, to the harbour and had a cup of coffee, before continuing on to Bossington Hill. I had no trouble finding it this time, thanks to my extended detours around the area a couple of days previously, I knew the place like the back of my hand.

Making my way across the open moorland, I stopped to get a shot of the vibrant, some might even say gaudy, display of colour produced by the gorse and heather. This particular hill is home to bell heather, a type that blooms earlier than the other varieties and produces flowers with such an intense bubble gum pink, they almost look unreal. Combine that with the lambent lemon gorse and it creates quite a spectacle.

Exmoor National Park coast image by Martyn Ferry Photography
Here's a few more shots of the groynes.

Long exposure of Exmoor coast by Martyn Ferry Photography

Porlock Weir beach groynes under a blue sky by Martyn Ferry Photography

I parked up near Selworthy Beacon, which with an elevation of 1,013 feet, is one of the three Somerset peaks, before taking a bridleway down to Selworthy village, a mile distant. The woodland was nice and cool and it was good to get out of the sun for a while, so I was in no hurry when I spotted a patch of dense pine woodland on a very steep slope, and got it into my head that I should find out what was at the top.

It was quite an effort to clamber up there, but I had it in my head to get to the top, for no other reason than I wanted to see what was up there. It was just one of those times I’m afraid when sound judgement takes a back seat and what seems vitally important, is in fact of no importance whatsoever. But I’d started so I was damn well going to finish. 

Somerset coastal gorynes in Exmoor National Park by Martyn Ferry Photography
And a couple more for good measure. I did say I was quite partial.

Porlock beach groynes with waves lapping over colourful stones by Martyn Ferry Photography

Once I’d reached the top I was fairly pouring water and very out of breath, and I was looking forward a nice sit down for a few minutes. That was easier said than done, I had discovered the land of the flies, and once a few of them had learned of my arrival into their kingdom, it didn’t take long before they all piled on, dedicated to explore as much of my face as possible. Taking time to catch my breath was now pointless, unless I wanted my mouth to become home to a dozen flies, so I headed back down and away from the insect maelstrom. By the way, there was nothing at the top, just a tangle of scrubby vegetation and wire fencing.

After I’d headed back down, I continued along the path and it wasn’t long before I’d reached Selworthy. Once I’d had a look around its rather interesting church, and the spectacular views it affords over the National Park, I began my climb back up to the car. I hadn’t got far before I spotted a sign to somewhere called Bury Castle, and liking the sound of that I dove off into the forest to see what I could find.

Bossington Hill filled with colourful heather and gorse in Exmoor by Martyn Ferry Photography
Here's a couple of shots from Bossington Hill and the amazing colours.

Vibrant flowers of heather and Gorse in Exmoor National Park by Martyn Ferry Photography

As it turns out, not a great deal. After struggling up some very steep paths I arrived on open moorland and discovered the ‘Castle’. It was actually an Iron Age fort, which is to say a medium sized mound of earth, it did have a couple of signs on it though, signifying which part was which. Still, I like a bit of history and I did my best to try and envisage what it must have been like for those Iron Age folk, and as I stood there catching my breath I did have splendid views over Exmoor. Plus, I realised, I was almost on a level with where I had parked, I had ascended the hill in less than half the distance it took to get down, no wonder I was knackered.

I took a quick shot on my phone of the 'Castle', well worth the effort.

After taking a few different paths until I found one I liked, I was back at the car. I then drove into Porlock and picked up a take away pizza from the place I'd had lunch the previous day, and continued back to camp for a well deserved slab of cheese and pepperoni. I had planned to go out to the Barle Valley for sunset, but the weather had closed in, it was spitting with rain and decidedly grey, so I didn't see much point. I was kind of glad to be honest, I'd had a bit too much sun, it was such a hot day, and combined with the pizza, I was feeling pretty tired and unwilling to head out again. So I didn't.

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