In preparation (training is a difficult concept for Ian) for a much longer walk we have planned later in the year, we walked 100k from Dulverton to Minehead last week over 4 days. We carried everything we needed but stayed in guest accommodation and ate in pubs. Archie our Border Terrier came too, as he also need some multi day walking preparation.
We left our car at Dulverton and set off along the River Barle heading North. There is a good path that keeps close to the river for about 5 km to Castle Bridge. There is then a gentle ascent to Hawkridge where the path meets the Two Moors Way.
Hawkridge is one of the oldest communities on Exmoor. It lies on the track that crosses the River Barle at Tarr Steps and in sight of the barrows on Anstey Common. The church has Saxon origins.
The Two Moors Way is a long distance footpath between Ivybridge on the Southern edge of Dartmoor and Lynmouth on the North coast of Somerset. We have previously walked the Dartmoor section. This walk is within the Exmoor National Park and passes through landscapes of exceptionally high quality. Not only does this include the high moorland but also the deep and wooded valleys of the moor.
We chose to go down to the River Barle at Tarr Steps. The Tarr Steps are a typical clapper bridge construction and are probably 1000 years old. It is a Grade 1 listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It gets washed away in floods from time to time, most notably in 2012, but is then reconstructed.
There is a well marked path along the Barle through delightful woods of Oak, Beech, Hazel and Sycamore with internationally significant mosses, liverworts and lichens.
More interestingly – money grows on trees along the river bank.
The coins have been knocked into felled trees by passersby who hope it will bring them good fortune. It used to be believed that divine spirits live in trees and the act is reminiscent of tossing coins into a pond to bring good luck.
We continued north along the Barle to Withypool. The word withy means willow. This area has been occupied since the Bronze age.
The Two Moors Way climbs above Withypool and leaves the river to cross a section of high moor. The gorse was in flower already and we met a large herd of Exmoor ponies. The path then descends to the river again at Cow Castle. This is an Iron Age Hill Fort occupying an isolated hilltop (which the path skirts). It has a single rampart and ditch.
The Upper section of the Barle is very beautiful and we enjoyed this part of the walk despite having over 25km in our legs by this stage.
As we approached Simonsbath we came across the ruins of Wheal Eliza Mine. The first mining activity on this site dates to 1552. There have been attempts to mine copper and iron but with little success.
The River Barle runs through Simonsbath which was our destination for the day. Simonsbath is a small village but is the principal settlement in the Exmoor civil parish.
The weather on day 2 was a cold, dreich March day. We set off up the hill in a cold, stiff wind which was soon driving along sheets of drizzle. The Two Moors Way crosses the moor at Exe Head. This is where the River Exe rises. It rises out of peaty soil on the moor and flows south for more than 50 miles through Tiverton and Exeter and into the sea at Exmouth.
Once over Exe Plain we descended to Hoar Oak Tree. This is thought to have formed part of a line of historic oak trees. The current tree didn’t look that well and is very stunted. At Hoar Oak the Two Moors Way ascends to the Cheriton Ridge. The weather hadn’t improved much but it was easy walking on the peaty grass. There is more evidence of ancient occupation up here with a diminutive row of stones and two round barrows which are scheduled ancient monuments.
Lunch was now on our minds and with plenty of time in hand we detoured from Hillsford Bridge to the hamlet of Rockford on the East Lyn and the delightful Rockford Inn.
The East Lyn rises high on Exmoor and flows down to Watersmeet
where it is joined by Hoar Oak Water. Watersmeet is a former fishing lodge and is now owned by the National Trust. There are about 40 miles of walks in this area along the rivers through woods and along the coast. We followed the east Lyn down to Lynmouth.
Lynmouth today is a quiet sea side resort. The village straddles the confluence of the East Lyn and West Lyn rivers in a gorge 700 feet below Lynton.
Lynmouth is most famous for the flood. This happened in August 1952. 100 buildings were destroyed and 34 people died with a further 420 made homeless.
The GPX track for this walk can be found HERE.