Category Archives: Active Exmoor

Easier Going Exmoor

It’s easier going for wheelchair users and buggies and people with mobility problems now thanks to the recent instalment of more accessible gates at either end of the path that runs parallel to the Buttercross Community Orchard in Dunster.

The gates were installed by the Exmoor National Park field services team at the request of the Buttercross Community Orchard Committee.

Geoff Witherford, Treasurer of the Committee, said: “After the National Park Authority replaced the gate at the Buttercross entrance to the pathway, the committee realised that there was also a need to install an all-abilities access gate at the lower end of the path, so that young families and the elderly would be able to access the orchard more easily. This has kindly been supplied and installed by Exmoor National Park Authority, and we and the community are very grateful.”

Andrew Player from The Crown Estate, which owns the land, and funded the planting of the orchard last year, agreed saying that the previous gates had restricted access to some users, particularly parents with buggies walking young children to and from Dunster First School.

Andy said: “The orchard has proved a great community success, providing a popular place for people to sit and enjoy the surroundings, and this work has improved access to the site considerably, without opening it up to quads/motorbikes.

“The feedback that we have had about the access, and the project in general has been extremely positive, and this is shown by the fact that all 57 trees have now been sponsored, as well as kind donations of benches from Minehead Lions, Dunster Parish Council and Minehead Sawmills. We are grateful to the National Park Authority for working with us on this project.”

Commenting on the work, National Park ranger Adam Vasey said: “One aspect of the National Park’s Rights of Way Improvement Plan is upgrading gates to make Public Rights of Way more accessible for everyone. We were very glad to help out and it goes to show what a big difference a small change to a gate can make!”

Marathon effort to thank Devon Air Ambulance

Congratulations to Deborah Edwards and her friend Laura Goodfellow who have run the Bristol Half Marathon and raised money for charity. Deborah’s chosen charity was the Devon Air Ambulance and she raised just over £400 mostly from people locally and through Facebook where she received two donations from as far as Los Angeles in America.

Deborah chose that charity for reasons close to home. Two years ago she had an accident on the footpath along the River Barle between Brushford and Dulverton where she fell and dislocated her shoulder. As she was a long way from road access it was the Devon Air Ambulance that came to her rescue. She was taken to Wonford Hospital in Exeter and the journey only took ten minutes as opposed to the one and a half hours it would have taken by road. Because of the extreme pain she was in she has never forgotten how grateful she was and through this half marathon she saw a way of repaying them.

Deborah lives in Morebath and runs her own design and photography business called The Visual Image and Laura lives just outside Dulverton and is a nurse in the maternity department of the Wonford Hospital in Exeter.

North Devon gig clubs battle it out at the final local regatta this Sunday

Appledore Pilot Gig Club Annual Regatta takes place this Sunday, 21 August 2011.

Appledore – along with the other clubs from North Devon such as Barnstaple, Torridge, Bideford and Ilfracombe – will battle it out alongside Bude, Bristol and Clevedon for the top spot.

The North Devon teams will be aiming to get back at Ilfracombe after the success they had in their home water at Ilfracombe. Races will include Men’s A, Men’s B, Ladies’ A, Ladies’ B, Under 16s, Veterans and mixed teams.

The racing starts at 10.30am and will be hosted at the slipway, Churchfields Car Park, Appledore. Spectators will get a great view of the racing and hot food and refreshments will be served all day. Plus there’s free parking all day.

See you there!

The Ups and Downs of Cycling on Exmoor

tour of britain on exmoor by heather lowtherby Malcolm Rigby

For an ageing occasional cyclist, riding to the top of Porlock Hill without getting off to walk gives you the sense of elation that a person might feel on reaching the peak of Everest!  The Exmoor Cycle Route (ECR) takes you along New Road via the toll booth rather than along the A39, zigzagging you through wonderful woodland and covering four miles for a journey that would take a crow just one. Take your eye off the road for a second and the green of the vegetation melts into the blue of Porlock Bay. The climb epitomises cycling on Exmoor – stunning but hard.

On Tuesday 11 September 2007 this was the route the peloton of the Tour of Britain took in what was considered the defining stage of the race and which became known as the Exmoor stage. Active Exmoor have teamed up with other local organisations to make ‘permanent’ the 60-mile circular course around the National Park.

Apparently a really good cyclist working with a group can do it in under four hours; for the unfit casual cyclist (that’s me) you need a couple of days and to resign yourself to a certain amount of walking and freewheeling.

Mike Bishop of Active Exmoor said: “Following the success of the Tour of Britain in 2007 and the return of the race in 2008 and 2009, the Tour of Britain is set to become a regular fixture on the sporting calendar for Exmoor. The permanent route was established for non-pro cyclists as a legacy to the 2007 route, to taste what the pros had to achieve. The route was the most challenging and spectacular stage of the 2007 race and is now estimated to attract hundreds of cyclists every year.”

It is, he insisted, for the ‘serious’ cyclist and not a family ride and yet there is no reason why the enthusiastic amateur should not have a go as long as the bike is in good working order. After Porlock Hill there is a section of relative flat until you meet the steep descent of Countisbury Hill that takes you into Lynmouth. So sharp is the decline that at one point there is a sign advising cyclists to dismount – I decided that the Tour of Britain riders would not have dismounted so carried on. At the bottom my aching hands felt raw and I thanked my brakes.

Stephen Crossman is a keen cyclist who was instrumental in establishing the Exmoor Cycle Route: “We wanted it to be open to anyone – if you fancy it, have a go. The ECR is designed along these lines, open all the time for people to sample.” He is also responsible for organising the ‘Exmoor Explorer,’ an annual off-road mountain bike event of 25 or 35 miles; it’s not a race but a marathon type activity which goes across country on public rights of way.

Another relatively new cycling event to the area is the ‘Exmoor Beast’. Now in its fourth year, the Beast is either 100 miles in distance, or 100 kilometres long for the not so crazy. The route starts in Minehead, takes everyone over Dunkery Beacon and on to Simonsbath and then splits. No less than 500 enthusiasts started the first one; this year they are expecting over 2,000.

cyclists at exfordStephen tells me that interest in sportive cycling is growing, but at the level below that it is increasing even faster.
Carved in wood, the signposts along the Exmoor Cycle Route are tasteful and discreet. Stephen says: “The signs are designed to be inconspicuous, to be helpful without polluting the countryside with more metal signs.” There are not many of the signs, but then again there is no need as the route is fairly obvious. Having said that, you need to take a left turning in Lynmouth to follow the river and I didn’t see a sign. Anyone planning to take on the journey is advised to consult the map on the Active Exmoor website.

Good and quiet ‘B’ roads lead you on to Simonsbath and then Exford, where the route was formally launched in 2008 and where an almost mandatory pint awaited. At this point I decided to head back across the moors to my Porlock base, peaking at Lucott Cross, a mere 1,527 feet – wondrously exposed and eerily quiet.

So what are the local benefits of the route? Mike Bishop says: “Many accommodation providers are reporting an increase in cyclists staying in the area, some in groups from cycling clubs.

“Cycle tourism in the UK is currently valued at £635 million per year. The potential for growth here is huge – the forecast for cycle tourism right across Europe is £14 billion per year within 20 years. With potential economic benefits on this scale it is not surprising that there is keen interest in how to develop routes to attract visitors and tourists, and how to market these effectively. The benefits of cycle tourism include reductions in pollution and traffic congestion, economic regeneration and better health.”

John Dyke, Chairman of the Exmoor National Park Authority, was equally enthusiastic: “The Tour of Britain which passed through Exmoor in 2007 drew no less than 30,000 spectators. Amongst other things, this demonstrated what fantastic opportunities there are for cycling on Exmoor and taking in our wonderful countryside at close quarters. I am sure that the new route will encourage more and more cyclists to experience at first hand
the challenges and keep-fit opportunities which exist here.”

If If there is a flaw in the Exmoor route, and the founders will admit this, it is that between Washford and Porlock you have to follow the relatively busy and mundane A39. So for day two I decided to create my own circular route, coming off the ECR shortly after Wheddon Cross and heading down to Luxborough. The lane here along to Roadwater, slightly descending and secluded by cool woodland, is simply fabulous. The price to pay for this ecstasy was a cruel climb up to Raleigh’s Cross, fortunately endowed with an inn for refreshment. And then it was an as near as normal, ie flat, cycle back to Wheddon Cross.

According to Birgit Hughes, Tour of Britain project officer, who works for Somerset County Council, the British tour might not follow the ECR exactly for some time to come as they need to spread the opportunities around, but there will always be part of a stage in the area: “Exmoor is absolutely crucial because it is king of the mountains class one – it’s as good as it gets.”

For the occasional amateur the answer seems to be, set the pace you are comfortable with – cycling on Exmoor might not be easy at times but is always exhilarating.

Resources:

www.exmoorexplorer.com
An off-road cycling event held in early August.

www.exmoorbeast.com
Can you tame the beast? An annual cycling challenge for the committed, which took place in 2010 on 31 October.

Walk-Tarr Steps & Withpool

A Circular Walk with Sue Viccars

Tarr Steps

For our first route of the new year I’m suggesting a really good leg-stretching walk.  This popular 9-mile route fits the bill: a long riverside tramp (scrambly in places) upstream along the lovely River Barle, followed by a good stride up Withypool Hill (once you’re nicely warmed up) and an easy return through fields to Tarr Steps, one of Exmoor’s most popular attractions and Britain’s largest clapper bridge.  No one can agree a precise date for the construction of this 160ft-plus stone bridge, but many believe it dates from medieval times.  Legend has it that it was built by the Devil who likes to prevent people from crossing while he sunbathes!

The walk leads to the pretty village of Withypool, in medieval times a place of some significance, being a centre for the Royal Forest of Exmoor.  At one time the twice-yearly Forest Court (Swainmote) was held a mile or so upstream at Landacre Bridge.  The return route runs over Withypool Hill, home to Exmoor ponies and to a Bronze Age stone circle on its southern slopes.

Walk 04The walk can be shortened slightly by crossing the stepping stones across the Barle just south of Withypool and so missing out the village, but this should only be attempted with care and at times of low water.  Other crossing points across the river, which might have been used to produce a shorter alternative (and which may look possible on the OS map), consist of fords and are only usable by those on horseback.

Note that this stretch of the River Barle is privately owned, and access to the water is only permitted at the various fords along its length.

Walk 03

 

 

 

 

1  Make your way past the toilets towards the car park exit, to find a signed path to Tarr Steps via a kissing gate.  Keep downhill eventually to join the lane via another gate.  Continue downhill past Tarr Farm Inn to reach Tarr Steps.

2  Turn right before crossing the bridge, signed public bridleway to Withypool.  The path initially follows the riverbank, soon crossing an area of rocky slabs, slippery at times.  If the slabs are underwater here, take the woodland path running above right: the two routes soon join up.

Soon cross a wooden footbridge over a stream, and pass through a five-bar gate; Watery Lane, which runs up to Knaplock (from where a bridleway continues up to Winsford Hill) joins from the right at this point.  Continue through an open area past a complicated path junction. The path clings to the river again through Lea Wood – it’s narrow, rocky, up and down, muddy after wet weather and requires care – before crossing a rooty and wet section to reach a stile at the end of the wood.

3  An open section is followed by more woodland and another stream crossing (on a dilapidated footbridge, hopefully repaired by the time this article is published!)  Pass through a gate and continue to pass a ford across the river.  Pass a private track right, cross a small footbridge, and keep going.  The next gate leads to a lovely avenue of beech trees on the right; the river is calm and broad, and the path no longer muddy!  Continue along the riverside edge of a large field, following the Barle as it makes a broad loop, soon passing another ford (I’ve never managed to locate the stepping stones marked on the map at this point).

At the end of the field bear right uphill, then left through a bank of gorse and a gate into woodland. Continue high up above the river; drop to pass through a gate back into the open.  Keep following the river (the footbridge marked on the OS map at this point no longer exists).

4  Eventually reach a path junction, with a footpath signed left across stepping stones (onlyExmoor walk passable at low water).  If you want to cut a mile off the route turn left at this point and cross the river; follow the track uphill past South Hill to meet the lane above Newhouse on Withypool Hill, and turn left to rejoin the main route.  Keep ahead up the right bank of the Barle; pass through a gate and cross a stream (boggy).  Cross a boardwalk; the path climbs steeply, then bears left through a hedgebank.  Descend to cross a stream in a small combe; through the trees left the swell of Withypool Hill comes into view.  Cross a stile onto a lane.

5  Turn left downhill to pass through Withypool, which dates back to Domesday, and is named for the reeds (withies) growing along the Barle.  Soon pass The Royal Oak Inn (R. D. Blackmore stayed here in 1866 while writing Lorna Doone) and later St

Andrew’s Church, which dates from Norman times but was heavily restored in the late nineteenth century. It was originally a chapel-of-ease to Hawkridge.  These were provided for those living at some distance from the main parish church, and baptisms, marriages and other services could be performed (but rarely burials); many were abolished at the Chantries Act of 1547.  Pass the post office and general stores, tearooms and toilets.

6  Cross the six-arched Withypool Bridge which is about 100 years old and replaced a medieval packhorse bridge.  Keep ahead on the lane and start the long climb up Withypool Hill, which rises to 1306ft (398m).  A lengthy lane section lies ahead, but if you’re following this route after a spell of wet weather you’ll find it something of a relief to have a stretch on firm tarmac after ploughing along the often muddy riverside path!  It’s also lovely to emerge from the wooded valley into open country, with wide-ranging views to the south over Withypool Hill.  Pass the bridlepath left signed to the ford and stepping stones (the short route) and continue uphill.  After the brow of the hill cross a cattle grid to leave the common and follow the lane downhill, soon passing another bridlepath signed left to a ford over the Barle.  At the bottom pass Westwater Farm (left), then cross the bridge over the West Water.

7  Turn left as signed through a metal gate.  Keep ahead initially along the left edge of the field, soon keeping to the right of an intermittent line of oak and beech trees.  Go through a metal gate at the end of the field to reach a fork; walk straight ahead as signed to Tarr Steps.  The path climbs a little then runs between stands of gorse, later with a wire fence right, to cross a stile/small gate.  Keep along the left edge of the next field; pass through a gate, and continue with the hedgebank right, and lovely views left over the valley of the Barle.  At the end of the field go through a big gate and keep ahead, slightly downhill, with the hedgebank right.  Drop to a junction of paths at the field end (footpath to Parsonage Farm right).

8  Turn left uphill, with a wire fence right.  At the top pass through a big gate and keep ahead along the right edge of the next field.  Pass through the gate at the end of that field, then descend steeply (hedgebank left).  At the end of the field turn sharp right downhill, with a wall left.  The track bears left through a gate, continuing downhill, with woodland right.  Follow the track steeply downhill to meet a rough lane; bear left to find Tarr Steps.  Cross the clapper bridge and retrace your steps uphill to your car.

 

  • Map: OS Explorer OL9 Exmoor
  • Start: Tarr Steps SS 872324
  • Distance:  9 miles (14.5km)
  • Time:   41/2 hours
  • Terrain: Wooded riverside path (often narrow, muddy or uneven), quiet lanes, fields
  • Toilets: Car park (fee) at Tarr Steps and by Withypool Bridge
  • Parking: Tarr Steps (£1.50 for 4 hours, £2.50 all day) or Withypool if you prefer to start the walk there (free parking).
  • Refreshments:  Tarr Farm Inn at Tarr Steps (open daily 11am-11pm), The Royal Oak Inn and Withypool Tearoom at Withypool  (latter open 10.30am-5/6pm daily spring to autumn); picnic area at Withypool Bridge; cream teas at Parsonage Farm (seasonal).

Tarr Steps & Withypool walk Withypool

Wimbleball Fly Fishing Through The Seasons

Wimbleball Reservoir is a centre for many activities. Some seek the thrill of water sports, while others enjoy a relaxing walk and there are few better places to enjoy a picnic with the family. But there is much more to Wimbleball than meets the eye. As sailing boats skim merrily across the surface and day trippers chatter between mouthfuls of cheese and pickle, shoals of hungry Rainbow Trout hunt down their prey. Watch carefully and every now and again a flash of silver, followed by a splash, signals the presence of this much-admired game fish. Exploding from their crystal-clear world, the trout are in pursuit of various insects; behaviour that renders them vulnerable to fly-fishing tactics. Throughout the year from late March to November anglers travel far and wide in the hope that they may tempt a trout to accept their lure. But if success is to be theirs an understanding of the seasons, the fly life and the moods of this varied venue are paramount to success.

Kicking off with a chilly early-season session there is little point in trying to meticulously match the hatch as this high altitude lake offers little in the way of natural food. Instead head for the deep water and take advantage of newly-introduced stock fish with brightly-coloured lures. Blobs and Boobys are favourite patterns fished on fast-sinking lines, although a large black lure such as a Tadpole may well prove the demise of resident ‘overwintered’ fish that remain uncaught from the previous season. Long and lean, these quality trout sport a mercury-silver livery and are a highly-prized catch.

Decent windproof clothing will keep out the bitter north-easterlies and I never head to Wimbleball without a warm drink. Even during the height of summer the weather can take a turn for the worse as a weather system rolls in over Haddon Hill and it is no place to be caught unprepared. Comfortable anglers definitely catch more fish and although I am no fairweather fisherman I must admit to yearning for late April and the month of May. These are exciting times on the reservoir as midge larvae (Bloodworm) transform into pupa (commonly referred to as ‘buzzers’ by fly anglers), swim to the surface and hatch. The resulting banquet does not go unnoticed for long and soon the eager trout throw caution to the wind as these helpless insects are subjected to wave after wave of attack. Morning and evening provide anglers with the greatest opportunity to capitalise on the feast, although an overcast day with high air temperatures spells consistent sport for the lucky fly fisher timing their trip to coincide with these conditions. Try a floating line with a Black Hopper fished dry to imitate the hatching pupa.

The Black Hopper is also a brilliant imitation of another insect preyed upon by Wimbleball trout; the Hawthorn fly. This large terrestrial insect is blown from the safety of the waterside vegetation on to the lake and can entice fish to feed within feet of the shoreline. Drift a boat along the margins (taking care to steer clear of bank anglers) looking for rising fish or travel light with a box of Black dry flies and ambush fish from the bank. The water is so clear that often fish can be seen sipping the naturals from the surface before succumbing to a well-presented dry artificial, exciting sport that sets the pulse racing and more than justifies a long walk. Besides, Wimbleball is surrounded by stunning countryside and offers the chance to get away from the crowds and enjoy some solitary fishing. Pack a rucksack with some sandwiches and a fly box and head for the tranquillity of Cowmoor. You won’t regret it!

beautiful wimbleball Shortly after the Hawthorn hatch, another fly begins to emerge that offers perhaps the most substantial meal a Wimbleball trout can hope to encounter. Mayflies are generally associated with river fishing and particularly the Southern Chalk streams. However, Wimbleball is home to its very own hatch of this elegant insect. Travel along the bank from Valentine’s Bay below the woodland and head towards the neck of the Upton Arm keeping your eyes peeled for signs of life. A boat is the most convenient way to target the trout feasting on the emerging mays and well worth the extra expense, especially if one of the resident wild Brown Trout puts in an appearance. Row to the picturesque Upton Arm by all means, it will keep you fit, but personally I like to sit back and enjoy the extravagance of an engine. Boats and engines are available for hire through South West Lakes Trust who manage and sell the permits for fishing on Wimbleball.

The last few years have delivered heavy summer rain, but the air temperatures have remained consistently high; conditions that can result in hard fishing. Dip your hand in the lake during the summer and you may be surprised to find that the surface feels tepid. These circumstances are not relished by trout and so, using the great depths that Wimbleball has to offer, they head down, searching for cool layers of water known as thermoclines. Try the deep water available around Farm Bay, in the middle of Cowmoor or lapping at the stanchions of Bessom Bridge and look out for cormorants – these big black birds always know where the fish are! Even an experienced Wimbleball angler can become frustrated during the dog days of summer, although there is a solution. Set the alarm clock to time your arrival and first casts just as the sun begins to dawn. I have had spectacular sport at this time of day, fishing imitative tactics from the shoreline as the trout take advantage of the cooler water and lower light levels. By 9am it can all be over.

fly fisherman holding a troutHeading into autumn the fishing can be mixed, but this is where a little experience can help. Never concentrate on just one area of water, instead divide the lake into lots of small lakes and devote time to sections such as Bessoms, Ruggs Bay, the Sailing Club and Cowmoor, for example. When you find the fish, stick with them! Wimbleball trout can become tightly packed and it is quite possible to move a drifting boat just a few yards to the right or left and suddenly begin to enjoy some action. If you are totally new to the venue then employing the services of a fly-fishing guide is money well spent, reducing many months of trial and error. The lake closes in October although occasionally the season extends to November. This can be a brilliant time as the water layers cool and the resident fish begin feeding in earnest ready for the long winter ahead. Many and varied tactics will account for fish during this period which is perhaps Wimbleball’s greatest attraction. It’s like ten different venues all rolled into one and it is for this reason that I urge you to pack your tackle and try it out for yourself.

From Issue 51, Summer 2010

The Ups and Downs of Cycling on Exmoor

tour of britain on exmoor by heather lowtherby Malcolm Rigby

For an ageing occasional cyclist, riding to the top of Porlock Hill without getting off to walk gives you the sense of elation that a person might feel on reaching the peak of Everest!  The Exmoor Cycle Route (ECR) takes you along New Road via the toll booth rather than along the A39, zigzagging you through wonderful woodland and covering four miles for a journey that would take a crow just one. Take your eye off the road for a second and the green of the vegetation melts into the blue of Porlock Bay. The climb epitomises cycling on Exmoor – stunning but hard.

On Tuesday 11 September 2007 this was the route the peloton of the Tour of Britain took in what was considered the defining stage of the race and which became known as the Exmoor stage. Active Exmoor have teamed up with other local organisations to make ‘permanent’ the 60-mile circular course around the National Park.

Apparently a really good cyclist working with a group can do it in under four hours; for the unfit casual cyclist (that’s me) you need a couple of days and to resign yourself to a certain amount of walking and freewheeling.

Mike Bishop of Active Exmoor said: “Following the success of the Tour of Britain in 2007 and the return of the race in 2008 and 2009, the Tour of Britain is set to become a regular fixture on the sporting calendar for Exmoor. The permanent route was established for non-pro cyclists as a legacy to the 2007 route, to taste what the pros had to achieve. The route was the most challenging and spectacular stage of the 2007 race and is now estimated to attract hundreds of cyclists every year.”

It is, he insisted, for the ‘serious’ cyclist and not a family ride and yet there is no reason why the enthusiastic amateur should not have a go as long as the bike is in good working order. After Porlock Hill there is a section of relative flat until you meet the steep descent of Countisbury Hill that takes you into Lynmouth. So sharp is the decline that at one point there is a sign advising cyclists to dismount – I decided that the Tour of Britain riders would not have dismounted so carried on. At the bottom my aching hands felt raw and I thanked my brakes.

Stephen Crossman is a keen cyclist who was instrumental in establishing the Exmoor Cycle Route: “We wanted it to be open to anyone – if you fancy it, have a go. The ECR is designed along these lines, open all the time for people to sample.” He is also responsible for organising the ‘Exmoor Explorer,’ an annual off-road mountain bike event of 25 or 35 miles; it’s not a race but a marathon type activity which goes across country on public rights of way.

Another relatively new cycling event to the area is the ‘Exmoor Beast’. Now in its fourth year, the Beast is either 100 miles in distance, or 100 kilometres long for the not so crazy. The route starts in Minehead, takes everyone over Dunkery Beacon and on to Simonsbath and then splits. No less than 500 enthusiasts started the first one; this year they are expecting over 2,000.

cyclists at exfordStephen tells me that interest in sportive cycling is growing, but at the level below that it is increasing even faster.
Carved in wood, the signposts along the Exmoor Cycle Route are tasteful and discreet. Stephen says: “The signs are designed to be inconspicuous, to be helpful without polluting the countryside with more metal signs.” There are not many of the signs, but then again there is no need as the route is fairly obvious. Having said that, you need to take a left turning in Lynmouth to follow the river and I didn’t see a sign. Anyone planning to take on the journey is advised to consult the map on the Active Exmoor website.

Good and quiet ‘B’ roads lead you on to Simonsbath and then Exford, where the route was formally launched in 2008 and where an almost mandatory pint awaited. At this point I decided to head back across the moors to my Porlock base, peaking at Lucott Cross, a mere 1,527 feet – wondrously exposed and eerily quiet.

So what are the local benefits of the route? Mike Bishop says: “Many accommodation providers are reporting an increase in cyclists staying in the area, some in groups from cycling clubs.

“Cycle tourism in the UK is currently valued at £635 million per year. The potential for growth here is huge – the forecast for cycle tourism right across Europe is £14 billion per year within 20 years. With potential economic benefits on this scale it is not surprising that there is keen interest in how to develop routes to attract visitors and tourists, and how to market these effectively. The benefits of cycle tourism include reductions in pollution and traffic congestion, economic regeneration and better health.”

John Dyke, Chairman of the Exmoor National Park Authority, was equally enthusiastic: “The Tour of Britain which passed through Exmoor in 2007 drew no less than 30,000 spectators. Amongst other things, this demonstrated what fantastic opportunities there are for cycling on Exmoor and taking in our wonderful countryside at close quarters. I am sure that the new route will encourage more and more cyclists to experience at first hand
the challenges and keep-fit opportunities which exist here.”

If If there is a flaw in the Exmoor route, and the founders will admit this, it is that between Washford and Porlock you have to follow the relatively busy and mundane A39. So for day two I decided to create my own circular route, coming off the ECR shortly after Wheddon Cross and heading down to Luxborough. The lane here along to Roadwater, slightly descending and secluded by cool woodland, is simply fabulous. The price to pay for this ecstasy was a cruel climb up to Raleigh’s Cross, fortunately endowed with an inn for refreshment. And then it was an as near as normal, ie flat, cycle back to Wheddon Cross.

According to Birgit Hughes, Tour of Britain project officer, who works for Somerset County Council, the British tour might not follow the ECR exactly for some time to come as they need to spread the opportunities around, but there will always be part of a stage in the area: “Exmoor is absolutely crucial because it is king of the mountains class one – it’s as good as it gets.”

For the occasional amateur the answer seems to be, set the pace you are comfortable with – cycling on Exmoor might not be easy at times but is always exhilarating.

Resources:

www.exmoorexplorer.com
An off-road cycling event held in early August.

www.exmoorbeast.com
Can you tame the beast? An annual cycling challenge for the committed, which took place in 2010 on 31 October.