For 40 years Exmoor has been my home from home and wherever I have travelled to globally, Exmoor was always in my heart.
From the the first time on a trip to the West Country and by chance driving through the pretty village of Winsford, it has been an area that I have returned to year after year and I currently live a short distance to the area. Driving through the village of Winsford with it’s stream running through the village, alongside its village green, my eyes were drawn to a very pretty thatched Inn across from the village green. That Inn was The Royal Oak and little did I know that the Inn would have such a memory that has remained with me for decades. I love the village so much that I even have a plot in Winsford churchyard all bought and paid for, so one way or another I will end up in Winsford!
The Royal Oak in Winsford on Exmoor
Looking from my room at The Royal Oak towards the village green
Dunster village, Royal Oak, Winsford, Tarr Steps and Winsford Hill
To me, Exmoor has everything that I could wish for from beautiful unspoilt villages with chocolate box cottages, to rugged coastal scenery to the north, old village pubs. Seldom are the roads busy as most tourists drive on past on their way to Devon and Cornwall, both counties being beautiful but to me it is Somerset and in particular Exmoor that straddles the Somerset Devon border.
Winsford village looking towards The Royal Oak Inn
May Day celebrations on Winsford village green
This coastal village was the scene of a devastating flood in August 1952. Heavy seas combined with heavy rain falling on already saturated soil on Exmoor, the worst in over 300 years caused catastrophic property damage and the sad loss of 34 lives. To walk up the gorge behind the village is humbling when you see the markers showing the flood height. It was reported that over 6 inches of rain fell on the 15th August 1952, which was a record rainfall amount.
West Somerset Railway
The West Somerset Railway runs from Minehead, North Somerset on a true country branch line of the old Great Western Railway. This railway runs along the coast and is well worth a trip for the experience of travelling on a steam train. Check the timetables as some services are non steam.
Minehead is a popular destination with an extensive beach and to one end there is a holiday camp (maybe not the “in” description for such a place). Suffice it to say that it does provide an enjoyable family holiday destination. To the opposite end of the promenade is a harbour and the “old” part of Minehead and offering quaint lanes and an interesting walk past cob-walled cottages and up the steps to St. Michael’s Church, this sits proud on North Hill overlooking the harbour and the town. this historic 14th century church is well worth a visit. I am fortunate to have a very good friend with one of the beautiful houses on North Hill and I visit often. I was fortunate to attend the church service on Christmas Eve a couple of years ago.
The medieval village of Dunster looking towards the Yarn Market and Dunster Castle
The medieval village of Dunster is set between the foothills of Exmoor National Park and the North Somerset coast. Dunster is the noted to be the largest and most intact medieval village in England.The village is dominated by Dunster Castle which dates back 1000 years.
Dunster has much of interest apart from the magnificent castle and the gardens and woodland walks, also the remains of a Benedictine priory, a working watermill, packhorse bridge and Iron Age settlements. In the high street there is the iconic Yarn Market.
The 17th Century Yarn Market at Dunster
The 17th century timber framed octagonal market is a monument to Dunster’s once flourishing cloth trade. It is managed by the National Trust. If visiting Dunster, don’t miss the walk from the castle to the working water mill through the gardens and woodlands, a short but worthwhile walk.
Glastonbury Tor, Somerset
This iconic hill as been a spiritual magnet for centuries, for both Pagans and Christians. Beneath the hill it is claimed, there is a hidden cave through which you can pass into the fairy realm of Annwn. Later tradition claims that here lies the Holy Grail brought by Jesus’s uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. The Cauldron and the Grail were both the object of quests for King Arthur and his knights.
The tower is all that remains of the 14th century church of St. Michael. It replaced a church destroyed by an earthquake , before the Romans made use of this hilltop.
The hill rises 518 ft (158 metre) above the surrounding flat land and can be seen from miles away. In fact as I write this, I live only a few miles from this well known landmark. The National Trust looks after this site.
Glastonbury is in modern times known for the world famous 5 day Glastonbury Festival which is located a few miles outside Glastonbury in Pilton. The festival features contemporary performing arts and in 2019 more than 200,000 people attended. Sadly the 2020 festival was cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns.
Dunkery Beacon at the summit of Dunkery Hill is the highest point on Exmoor and Somerset. It is the highest point in southern England outside of Dartmoor. The sandstone hill rises to 1,705 feet (519.8 metres) and the views on a reasonable clear day extend to nearly 90 miles and the Bristol Channel and the Welsh mountains beyond. Th walk to the summit is not too strenuous.
To be continued