For one of our English day trips, David and I decided to explore Exmoor, a forested coastal region in southwest England. We were told that the north and south coasts of southwest England were each beautiful, but drastically different from one another. The north coast is home to Exmoor National Park and was described by David’s co-worker as a “little red riding hood forest”. We packed up the car with camera, guidebooks, maps and snacks and headed west for the 2.5 hour drive.
We stopped at the Exeter Inn for a bite to eat and walked into a warm, dark wooden pub lit by a fireplace with large paintings and pictures of horses on the walls. Being that it was a Sunday, groups of people were coming in from the cold and gathered in the dining room to line up for their Sunday Roast. David and I picked a table near the fireplace and ordered a few pints of local beer (cask conditioned of course) and a small minced meat pie topped with horseradish-mashed potatoes. With the delivery of food came the resident dog that hunkered down on top of our feet, ready to catch whatever food was dropped below. After reading the wall hangings, it was clear that all of the photos and paintings on the wall were of two specific racehorses. The barman explained that the family who owned the inn also owned racehorses and the pictures on the walls were of their two pride and joys. We shared stories and I boasted about my Grampa who purchased his first racehorse at the age of 91. The fire was warm and our company was enjoyable so we didn’t want to leave, but our pint glasses were empty and the pie was hearty, so we were ready to continue on into the forest.
I decided to hone my driving skills a bit more and take my chances driving in the forest. The quaint village of Dulverton had a small tourist info center, a few tea rooms and cafes, most of which were quiet on a Sunday afternoon. We climbed in elevation and I saw my first snowfall of the season. Between the snow falling, the pheasants darting across the street and the sheep and wild horses on the side of the road, I handed the reins back to David to continue the driving.
Once we made our way through the forest, we found ourselves on massive cliffs looking out onto the Bristol Channel. On the coast, we did a bit of hiking along the cliffs while Mountain Goats were on the hills above us munching on whatever foliage they could find. This park didn’t have the protective barriers that I was use to seeing at National Parks in the States. A few inches to the wrong direction and the sea creatures were eating you for dinner, not vice-verse. A visit to Exmoor is perfect for a day trip or a week to hike your way through the National Forest. I would certainly enjoy coming back in the summer and fall months for hiking and picnicking.