Thursday, October 5, 2017

Exmoor day 2 - Punchbowl, winding lanes & Castle sunset

Looking into the Punchbowl under pre-dawn light in Exmoor National Park

I awoke on my second morning in Exmoor National Park at around 6ish in the hope that I would be treated to a decent sunrise. Peering out from the tent, it looked pretty good, there was some cloud about but lots of clear patches as well, which was a perfect recipe for a cracking sunrise.

It was all the motivation I needed to struggle into my clothes in the cramped confines of my canvas abode, and motor on over to the Punchbowl. A dramatic hollow in the surrounding countryside, which is itself in a valley. The nature of the landscape and some of the deposits within it, suggest that it may represent scarring from the only glacier in southwest England during the Pleistocene age. The most recent of earth’s ice ages, that lasted from two and a half million to eleven and a half thousand years ago.

Whatever caused it, left behind a very comely vista, and a perfect spot for a bit of photography, so bravo. When I arrived, the sun hadn’t yet imparted any colour into the sky, as can be seen from the above image, so I had time to pick a spot and get set up.

Pink clouds and patchwork fields at the Punchbowl near Winsford in Exmoor
The first colour of the day.

Wonderful Exmoor countryside at the Punchbowl from Winsford Hill
Panorama looking into the Bowl of Punch.

Sunrise image from Winsford Hill overlooking the Punchbowl in Exmoor National Park
Windswept tree and footpath around the rim of the bowl.

It wasn’t long before a bit of vibrancy declared itself upon the fast moving clouds, and they began to thrum to a patchwork of pastel pigments. Once the sun surmounted the horizon, it burnished the underside of the nebulous packs with a flaming brilliance of red and orange.

The clouds were advancing across the pale cerulean sky at such a pace that the sun was endlessly being covered and revealed, blanketing the landscape in a warm bloom one minute, then cooling the scene into a dull version of itself the next, it was a job to keep up.

After a while, the rich, apricot colour of sunrise gave way to the creamy, bisque light of a day well and truly underway. As the clouds began to gather in earnest, I took a few more pictures, while the sun was still out, and said goodbye to the Punchbowl, until our next encounter.

Sun breaks through the clouds at down to light up the Punchbowl in Exmoor
The sun reveals itself.

Heather and trees on Winsford Hill bathed in the warm light of sunrise in Exmoor
Warm glow on the colourful ground.

Morning sun lights up a dead tree on Winsford Hill looking over the Punchbowl in Exmoor
A dead tree is lit up by the rising sun.

Foreground heather and patchwork fields at the Punchbowl from Winsford hill in Exmoor
Clumps of heather and a patchwork of fields.

Black and white image of Trees and clouds on Winsford Hill in Exmoor
The clouds by now had made themselves at home over these four trees.

Rain fell with what seemed like anger, as I drove across the moors, showing that it was to be another unpredictable day, weather-wise. As if to hammer home the point, as I crested a polished, tranquil hill, the clouds parted and the sun beat down onto the surrounding terrain with an effect that was quite startling, thanks to having spent the last 20 minutes driving through a dismal deluge. 

I quickly parked up, and after slipping and floundering up a muddy and soaking wet embankment, I took in the view. I was there for quite a while, thrashing and plunging around the rough, grassy topography, looking for some interesting shots, in between scampering to the car when the rain got too heavy.

After a while it did clear a bit, and even dried things up a notch, which was nice. By this time I was famished, so I packed up and roamed back to the campsite for a late breakfast. 

Exmoor landscape and country lane in the afternoon sunshine
A country lane winds across the moors and into the distance.

Idyllic country lane as it winds through the Exmoor landscape
It didn't take long for things to dry out once the sun made an appearance.

The weather had been getting more and more cheerless as I chomped away on what had become brunch, but I certainly wasn’t going to hang around in my tiny tent for things to improve, so I was soon back in the car and heading out onto the moors.

I stopped on the way up to get some shots of another tunnel like carriageway. This one was wider and if anything, more impressive than the one I had visited the day before, and I was there for some time, taking in the leafy goodness.

Once up on the moors, I visited various locations but the weather had turned particularly sour, and I couldn’t get anything decent. Plus I got fed up of being lashed with rain and buffeted by the wind, and I decided to give it a rest until things became a little more clement.

This didn’t occur until later in the day, and after wandering around Lynmouth and drinking far too much coffee, I could see that the time might be ripe to extricate the camera again and see if I could make up for lost time.

Tunnel of trees over a small lane in Exmoor National Park
A jade green, vaulted ceiling over an empty road.

Exmoor National Park country lane beneath a lush green canopy of leaves
Sinuous lane beneath the trees.

But first I had some fish and chips to eat, as a visit to Lynmouth around dinner time has to involve a visit to the Esplanade Fish Bar, to not do so would be an outrage. It was still pretty early, sunset wouldn’t be occurring for another couple of hours, so I had plenty of time to stuff my fat face.

Once supper had been procured, I drove up to Lynton and then on to Valley of Rocks, yes, again. And gorged myself on beautiful, creamy cod and fistfuls of salt and vinegar drenched chips. It was superb.

I still had plenty of time before sunset so I took a stroll over the high, rocky ridge of Ragged Jack, enjoying the views, if not the howling wind. Once I’d had a scuttle over the fragmented, boulder strewn backbone of slate and sandstone that tumble and slump above the coast path below, I made my way back to the car to pick up my gear, and then headed to my favourite spot.

The clouds thinned and swelled on the impulses of the capricious wind, so there was no way of knowing if I was going to get a decent sunset sky or not. All I could do was hang around in the gusty conditions, and stay back from the edge of the cliff as much as prudence would allow. It couldn’t be too far or I wouldn’t be in the right place to get a decent shot, yet with every tempestuous outburst I was quite aware I was only three to four foot away from a plunge that would be my final, ridiculous act.

Thankfully, I’m as sure footed as the beady eyed feral goats that call the valley home, so as I stood there, legs splayed in stance reminiscent of a bedroom rock god, ready to do some serious shredding on his air guitar, I awaited the commencement of sunset.

My absurd posture was not in vain, as sundown delivered a good handful of colour, with the clouds lining up in a favourable manner, and the waning sun splashing Castle Rock with a lacquer of saffron iridescence, it was definitely worth hanging around for. 

Exmoor coastline at the Valley of Rocks with a beautiful sunset sky above
Castle Rock looking fabulous in the evening sunlight.

Tangerine clouds over the Valley of Rocks coastline at sunset in Exmoor
The clouds complement the line of the coast.

There wasn’t much in the way of afterglow, once the sun had dropped behind the clouds it was all over, but again, the last of the day had not disappointed. All that was left was to head back to camp and have an early night, in the hope that dawn would bring some more engaging conditions. Little did I know I would be getting quite a bit more than just engaging. 

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