Postcard from Exmoor!


The trickle of a river...
I probably don’t need to tell you we’ve had some rain, but I will. We’ve had some rain. Before I set off for Exford, I was cautioned by friends and family. Is it safe to go? Has the hotel been flooded?
Well I live life on the edge and decided to brave the elements, come what may.

Three hours later I sat beside the river Exe - the one that runs in front of the hotel - supping my pint of Exmoor Ale and eating my ham sandwich. The river, not much more than a stream that day, trickled past.

A duck messed around like ducks do. But I like to be responsible. So I tethered myself to the picnic bench with a sturdy rope, tied in a knot known only to nifty sailors. No torrents were going to wash this brave heart away.

Like all good daughters, I rang home. I described the river. There was no hiding the disappointment in Mum’s voice. No tales of bravery, no stories of storms. All was calm on Exmoor.

Pigs are very popular here. Well the dead sort are. After feasting on my ham sandwich I chose gammon for dinner. It was a quiet meal. The wet weather had drowned the passing trade and for the first 40 minutes or so it was just me and the dead pig.

The next day I took it slowly. I had a book to finish and spent an hour reading in the hotel’s lounge. A young couple were deliberating over which walk to choose. From their kit you might have assumed they were seasoned walkers. Not so. They eventually opted for Dunkery Beacon - four miles there and four miles back, usually.

They selected their maps, checked their mobiles, checked they had the hotel’s number and even let the hotel know where they were going. Most of the walk is on tarmac. The rest is along the edges of a couple of fields. Yes, you do touch open moor - but the beacon is always visible. As Mr Walker nipped off for a pre-walk pee, I whispered to his partner that they really couldn’t get lost on that walk. “I won’t, but he probably will” she said with a defeated sigh.


Blue Anchor
Tuesday’s weather was reckoned to be a little iffy. That’s somewhere between wet and wetter. Fortunately they got it wrong and I was able to nip along the coast to Blue Anchor. This huddle of homes and holiday chalets sits between Watchet and Dunster. Apart from the little café the only selling point is the beach. But that’s plastered with warning signs - dangerous sands, loose rocks - everything you need for the perfect seaside trip.

Despite all those negatives, I like it there. Along its prom smart railings are painted a beautiful shade of blue. Whatever the weather, Blue Anchor is always bright, in a British seaside kind of way.

Steam Train heading for Minehead with Dunster in the background
There’s another delight to the place - the Steam Railway runs along the edge and that’s how I first found the place. The scenic railway, popular with boys and girls of all ages, chugs along slowly and is the best waste of an hour you can buy. I nearly never completed that first trip.

As I sat in a carriage, I commented to some fellow passengers that once inside, you didn’t really know it was a steam engine. I almost witnessed grown men cry.

After a blast along the seafront I was in need of refreshment and found just the place in Dunster. A new tearoom with cobbled yard had popped up between two shops and I snatched a few rays of sun, together with a toasted tea cake. I wasn’t hungry - still full from breakfast - but all that fresh air…

Sheep
Back at Exford I met up with local writer, Celia Andrew. Over a platter of scones, cream and jam we chewed over some gossip and washed it all down with cups of tea.

It wasn’t long before another dinner beckoned. The special was a Gammon, basted in a Pepsi Cola, treacle and mustard glaze. It was a bad week for pigs.

The forecast for day two warned of showers. I’m not one for trudging around towns in the rain, trails yes - towns no.


Towards the rain
Kitted out with waterproofs I headed for the hills. I’m not sure about miracles, but I did seem to be walking on water. It was a strange sensation. The ground was hard but there was a layer of water that seemed destined to soak into my boots and trousers.

I meandered along, making up my own route before returning to the haven of the hotel for a late morning coffee. Before long I was out in search of new adventure and I climbed another hill. This time I’d chosen well and I remained relatively dry.

Towards more rain
The route I took was a familiar one. I usually do it just to stretch my legs, it takes barely an hour. I love noticing the changes and this time I wasn’t disappointed. A field had been planted with young trees - I’m not sure how long ago. This time those saplings were definitely small trees and a view I’m used to was almost obscured. 
Trees
Back at base and I resisted lunch and a cream tea. Roast beef was on the menu later and I was determined to do it justice. A poor pig had also been sacrificed, but I was committed to the beef.

The next morning I raced home, chased by heavy rain and bad weather. For those that demand fine weather, it wasn’t a good break. But for me, someone who takes what comes along, it was a brilliant, bellyful of memories.