Much as I love where I live it’s good to visit another place especially after staying home for nearly two years. I took a trip to Exmoor and stayed a couple of nights to relax for a little while. I drove up early on Tuesday 13th May. The day before there was torrential rain so I was very lucky and I was not to know at the time the weather was going to get extremely hot at the weekend so I chose my days just right, it was pleasantly warm with sun and cloud. It’s one of my favourite places outside of Dorset and such a different landscape to home, with the moors and the green fields in the valley.

I spent the afternoon visiting the Tarr steps and walking along the Barle river it was really lovely and cool under the trees, it was quite warm. Then I headed to Wheddon Cross where I would be staying for a couple of nights. The village is just below the highest point in Exmoor, Dunkery Beacon and I would be exploring the area in the next couple of days.

The Wednesday morning I set my alarm for 4am, I wanted to catch the sunrise from Dunkery Beacon hoping it would be a good one. It was a little hazy across to Porlock Bay but I wasn’t too disappointed, there was mist towards Porlock Bay and a colourful sunrise.

Sunrise towards Porlock Bay
Sunrise towards Porlock Bay

After the sunrise I headed down the hill intending to turn round and go back for breakfast, I wanted to find Webber’s Post, a car park near Horner Woods, which I found and would visit again. When I came out of the car park I managed to go onto the wrong road! I soon realised but carried on hoping I would get back to Wheddon Cross. It was very lucky for me, the road wound down through Horner woods and then up the other side, a very narrow steep road which eventually came on to the moors the other side to Dunkery Beacon.

It was a very quiet, still only around 6.30am and I stopped on the road as I saw a couple of Exmoor Ponies, although not strictly wild animals they are near feral wandering the moors as they wish. After I took some photos of the two horses suddenly there were more in the road and I got a picture of them with the early morning light on the moor behind, my favourite picture of the trip!

Exmoor Pony
Exmoor Pony
Exmoor Ponies
Exmoor Ponies

This is where the luck comes in I spotted something farther across the moor and I suspected it could be deer. I hoping to see Red Deer but knew they were elusive creatures and difficult to find. I slowly drove the car as close as I could they were still well across the moor and I managed to get images of the herd of Red deer hinds and their babies, I was so excited to see them and I was far enough away not to spook them, although they were aware that I was there.

Red Deer Hind with young
Red Deer Hind with young
Red Deer
Red Deer Hinds
Red deer hind with young male
Red deer hind with young male calf

I left them and headed along the road and it took me back to Wheddon Cross, a lovely circular route and I would go that way again the next morning, a very lucky find.

After a very welcome breakfast I spent the morning  at Porlock Weir and then in the afternoon exploring Horner Woods, one of the largest ancient oak woods in Britain, the birds weren’t too active as is was quite warm, I did see a Golden Ringed Dragonfly who was in a hurry! It was just very nice to wander in a small part of the woods enjoying the views. 

Horner Woods with a view towards Dunkery Beacon
: Horner Woods with a view towards Dunkery Beacon

The next day I was up again early and headed once again to Dunkery Beacon, a little later than the day before but the view as the sun rose was beautiful with the sun lighting up Porlock Bay. Then on to the road through Horner Woods onto the moors again, quite a hairy drive through the trees a very narrow road with a long drop and no barrier through a ford at the bottom and then a zig-zag road up to the moors.

Just after sunrise, Porlock Bay
Just after sunrise, Porlock Bay
Ford Horner Woods
Ford, Horner Woods

When I got on the moors I could see what I thought was a lone deer, I stopped the car thinking stag as they tend to be more solitary at this time of year. Once again I couldn’t believe my luck there were three mature but young Red deer stags, a little distant but I managed to get some photos, they were so lovely to see and I went back for my breakfast very happy!

Red deer Stags
Red deer Stags
Red deer Stag
Red deer Stag
Exmoor view
Exmoor view

This was my last day and I felt that I had been very lucky with the weather and what I saw. Before I made my way home I took a walk on Dunkery Beacon hill hoping to see a few birds but unfortunately it was quite windy and although I saw glimpses of a few they were soon back in the undergrowth, but the day before I had seen and heard a number of distant Stonechats, small flocks of Meadow Pipits who weren’t quite so shy.

Meadow Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Stonechat, male
Stonechat, male

As I’m writing this I’m remembering what else I saw, a Hedgehog who I had to wait for crossing the road early in the morning. Swifts flying over the Wheddon Cross night and morning and there was a large number, a Fox in the road on my early morning trips and not forgetting the Kestrel hovering and Buzzards circling over Horner wood.

I really had a great time and can’t wait to return, perhaps in the autumn and hopefully spend more time so I can explore a little more.

Exmoor Pony
Exmoor Pony

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