Hastings Rock and Fell goes to Exmoor

It is quite a while since the last club visit to this particular area, in fact looking back at my book it was at the end of May 1985, over what was known in old money as the Whitsun Weekend.

For this visit a booking was made at the Westermill Farm campsite near Exford. The site is in a steep sided valley with the River Exe running along the bottom of the camping fields. There are good facilities including a small shop which offered a range of supplies.

After getting the tent pitched we decided to take a short drive to Withypool, a small hamlet but having a very nice Tearoom. From here it was possible to walk along the bank of the River Barle on part of what is marked on the OS map as The Two Moors Way. We passed a couple of fording places (stepping stones) but these seemed to be under more that a foot of fast flowing water, so best avoided today. A climb out of the valley and a return across moor land returned us to the car. A further short drive and walk found us at the famous Tarr Steps. This is turned out to be what I know as a clapper bridge, at least on Dartmoor, and is constructed of large slabs of rock with no mortar fixing. They were, I think, designed for pack horses and are not wide enough for a vehicle. An impressive piece of ancient engineering. However, I am told it was washed away in a flood and only recently rebuilt by the army, still, it looked very prehistoric to me.

As a longer expedition next day we decided to walk from the campsite to Dunkery Beacon, the highest point on Exmoor. The route initially involved some road walking but eventually went cross country, towards the large cairn on top of the beacon which could be seen in the distance. However as we approached it disappeared in the cloud, the cloud turned to mist and then to rain. Following a brief lunch stop at the top we retraced our steps, eventually cutting off to the left to drop down to Exford. The rain varied in intensity as we descended but we were a bit damp on arriving in the village and had to apologise to the lady running the tea shop for leaving puddles all over her floor.

After a very enjoyable cream tea we strolled back to camp having decided to eat out that evening in the pub/ restaurant in the village. That night the rain came in a series of sharp showers beating on the tent sufficiently hard to wake you up.

Next morning at least it was not tipping down, as we needed to pack up to come home.

An idea to visit the Exmoor Pony Centre on the way home was abandoned as the skies opened as we arrived, so it was back south to the motorway and the journey home. Even with the somewhat variable weather it was still a very enjoyable weekend and the first time under canvas ( grey and green nylon) this year.

Dick

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