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Exmoor, located in west Somerset, England just across the Bristol Channel from Wales, covers an area of 267 square miles and was declared a national park in 1954.
The Southwest Coast Path at 630 miles is the longest National Trail in England and Wales. There are several small harbors along the route that were once busy with coastal trade but are now for pleasure boating and are non-commercial.
For our May week we are based in Porlock, a small coastal village of about 1500 people located in the National Park. (www.porlock.co.uk) The village and area have links to the Romantic poets: Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley and to R.D. Blackmore, author of Lorna Doone. Our hikes will average about 8 miles per day and will explore moorland, coastal paths, small villages and ancient sites. Porlock is surrounded on three sides with Exmoor hills…heather covered moors cut by deep and wooded combes(valleys)…and the sea on the north side. Porlock Weir, some few miles away, is the harbor for Porlock as the village itself has no direct access to the sea.
Our hikes are day hikes, leaving around 9 each morning and returning about 5 pm in afternoon. Be prepared for hill walking as well as valleys, interesting small villages, and beautiful views. Our hikes will be through Selworthy, Horner, Watersmeet, Valley of the Rocks, and Colborne—home of Britain’s smallest church. Each evening we will return to hospitality of The Oaks Hotel, located just above Porlock with views to the sea. ( www.oakshotel.co.uk ) You will have one free day mid-week to explore on your own.
Day by Day Overview
Saturday, May 18 - Meet Karen at the bus pick up area of the Taunton Train Station at 2:00PM. We will have a minibus to take us to Porlock to The Oaks Hotel. Get settled and explore the lovely village of Porlock. Meet at 6:00 PM in the hotel sitting room for refreshments and preview of our week. This will be followed by dinner at our hotel at 7:00PM. Lodging: The Oaks Hotel - oakshotel.co.uk
Sunday, May 19 - Horner Wood. We have a minibus from Porlock to Dunkery Hill. Our starting point is Easter Hill, the site of ancient cairns from prehistoric burials. Following a path over Dunkery Beacon to Stoke Pero church, we drop down into Dunkery and Horner Wood National Nature Reserve- an ancient woodland and one of the largest Nature Reserves in England (1604 hectares) owned and managed by the National Trust. . We follow the Horner Water stream through oak woods to Horner. There is a welcome tea room in Horner. After crossing a pack-horse bridge we follow the Coleridge Way footpath back into Porlock. Distance today: 8 miles; elevation gain: 200 feet.
Monday, May 20 - Watersmeet and Valley of the Rocks. We will have a minibus today to take us west toward Lynmouth. Our goal is the Watersmeet Valley and the meeting place of the East Lyn River and Hoar Oak Water. Watersmeet (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/watersmeet/) is part of the North Devon coast managed by the National Trust. Watersmeet House and Tea Garden is said to be the most beautiful in Devon! We follow the path along the river into Lynton and then to a very different topography at Valley of the Rocks. A dry valley that runs parallel to the coast of North Devon, the Valley of the Rocks has formations carved by the Ice Age. The views from our path are dramatic with an open expanse to the Bristol Channel. In 1797 Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth came together to this valley and set some of their writing here. The poet Robert Southey visited and got writing inspiration here also. Minibus back to Porlock. Distance today: 7 miles; elevation gain: 650 feet.
Tuesday, May 21 - Free Day (kind of). This is a day to do whatever you want; however, we have planned a couple of things for our morning that we think will interest you. At 10:00 we have a guided tour of the Dovery Manor Museum, (www.doverymanormuseum.org.uk) a small 15th century manor house that contains artifacts, photos, and maps all relating to the Porlock area. Following the museum visit we are offered a walking tour of the very small village of Porlock. Your afternoon is free.
Wednesday, May 22 - Lorna Doone Walk...tracing her story. This morning we take a minibus to the Doone Valley. Our footpath will drop steeply down to the river at Malmsmead. We will walk the Doone Valley south to Badgeworthy Water and to the site of a medieval village. We return via a moorland path to Lankombe Ford and then around Malmsmead Hill. The Lorna Doone Farm is at Malsmead. (Read Lorna Doone a 19th century novel by R. D. Blackmore, also on video). Return by minibus to Porlock. Distance today: 7.5 miles; elevation gain: 450 feet.
Thursday, May 23 - Selworthy Beacon. We walk out of Porlock village and across fields to the hamlet of Bossington. We follow a footpath along the edge of Aller Water to the coast of Hurlstone Point, the site of an old coast guard station. Our climb to Selworthy Beacon rewards us with fine views north across the Severn Estuary to Wales. Going gently downhill we connect with a bridleway to Selworthy village. This village is the epitome of an English country village with lovely thatched cottages set around a village green and a beautiful old church. After our picnic lunch we walk a green lane to Allerford where we will have the chance to visit a folk museum. It is then just a short walk back to Bossington and possibly a cream team. Another short walk across fields returns us to Porlock. Distance today: 9 miles; elevation gain: 1000 feet.
Friday, May 24 - Silcombe Farm to Culbone. This morning we take a minibus which will drop us a mile from the Silcombe Farm. Our walk will take us to Silcombe Farm where Samuel Coleridge lived and wrote for a period of time. We continue on to Culbone Church. This church is said to be the smallest in England and is recorded in the Domesday Book. We'll return to Porlock via Porlock Weir with its galleries, old boats and quaint pubs (this is the tiny harbor area that serves Porlock). We'll get back to Porlock in time for packing and last shopping. Distance today: 6 miles; elevation gain: 500 feet.
Saturday, May 25 - Breakfast and departure to Taunton train station. Arrive at Taunton train station in time for any train from 10:00 AM forward.
Please Note: The above schedule is subject to change due to weather or other circumstances beyond our control.