Notes from a few days in Exmoor (October)

Well, with lockdown restrictions continuing in various forms across the country, I thought a bit of escapism was needed in lieu of any holidaying for the time being. So here are a few notes and impressions from my notebook, from our last holiday (actually our honeymoon) back in October…

Allerford, Somerset.

Watching the day dawn beyond leaded windows, the morning swims in bowed glass. Body clock poorly adjusted enough to hear the first robin song, and rise with the call of the raven that punches the wet air. Trees that have already relinquished their leaves are etched in by fountain pen; nature’s signature on the pall sky. The brood-flank of hill where our weather comes from is barely discernible; we are wrapped from the world.

Wood Pigeons emerge from the mantled woods, but their flight is jinked by the wind. More driven perhaps then our own soft-bosomed birds that grow plump on gleaned grain and generous gardens.

Some weather never lasts long on Exmoor, indeed all seasons can be felt in one day. Breaths of blue emerge, more showers stacked behind the crest of hill. This is the ravens’ territory; a tumble of portents between hilltop and sky. Theirs is a deep hearty country that speaks to me in velveteen stories. Another wave of rain blankets us in, texturing the tree-mossed hillside and leaving the ravens’ hanging call incorporeal in the shallow gloom.

Horner Woods

If ever there was a river in a rush, it would be this one; yet the trees grow slowly. Whist the water races over skerries of rocks, the trees gather slow colonies of moss and ferns, and nurture gardens of bilberries betwixt their roots. There should be dippers here, (Britain’s only aquatic songbird), in the fast flow over the slick stones, but it’ll take a lot more patience to see them. Wrens are easier; obligingly and belligerently announcing their presence from the low growth with a burst of song and depressurising ticks and rattles.

A beech tree, close to the river’s edge, flaunts autumn’s favour. Leaves, alight in shades of toffee penny and butterscotch, dance on the blustery air. The seasons latest touch swirled on an ancient green.

A fairy ring of white toadstools steps a circle through the ancient trunks; does the river’s song carry strains of melodies once played on elfish flutes?

Selworthy

Perhaps the most picturesque village in this corner of Somerset. A folded, wooded place within the hills. The unusual white painted church beams its missionary claim towards the wild brooding reaches of the exposed moor, across the valley. The chocolate box cottages seem to grow from their gardens, tucked in slips of the hillside. Cob corners softened to a round, with long low thatch atop yellow painted walls – not quite primrose yet not as strong as custard. Sun glints on windows that look out on the village’s greens. The tearoom welcomes walkers and dogs alike.

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