Friday, 29 October 2010

Exmoor Pony Gatherings

Autumn's the season when the free-living ponies on Exmoor are rounded up, inspected and the foals are branded to identify them. Each Exmoor pony herd has a different mark (for example, the Winsford herd's is an anchor). All the ponies have an owner and all are registered with the Exmoor Pony Society which, among other things, monitors and safeguards the ponies' gene pool (Exmoor ponies are listed as an endangered species). Amazing to think that these small horses are, in effect, prehistoric animals; sturdy and very well adapted to a moorland climate, they haven't needed to evolve any more. 

The nearest herds to Exmoor House and Wheddon Cross roam around the Dunkery Beacon area, so you may well see ponies if you're walking up on Dunkery Hill. They seem happy to pose for photographs, but don't annoy them by trying to get too close, especially if they have foals with them.

You can learn more, and ride one of the ponies, at the Exmoor Pony Centre, near Dulverton, run by the Moorland Mousie Trust (it's necessary to book in advance to visit the centre because parking is limited).

Friday, 22 October 2010

Sports, entertainment and shopping!

As ever, there's a lot happening on and around Exmoor. Here's a taste of some things coming up over the next few months...

The Exmoor Beast (an annual charity fundraising cycle challenge) is on 31st October. This ride lives up to its name; it's definitely a beast of a challenge! Participants can do either a 100 mile or a 100 km route, both passing through some of Exmoor's finest scenery. The deadline for entries is midnight on 23rd October.

It's carnival season in Somerset! The biggest is Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival, on (you've guessed it) 5th November. The most famous part of it is the procession, with its illuminated floats, but there's much more going on besides.

Shopping (and entertainment too)
Dunster by Candlelight, this year on 3rd & 4th December, is another well-established tradition. The festivities begin with the Lantern Lighting Procession at 5.30 on the Friday; there'll be music and dancing in the streets and plenty of retail therapy/Christmas present choosing options. The village will be closed to traffic; there are park & ride buses (including from Wheddon Cross).

At Exmoor House, we've special offers in October and November - see our website for more info! Why not take a short break and enjoy some of the festivities... or just have a couple of days' relaxation?

Friday, 15 October 2010

Rum baba, anybody? (In which I discuss The Exmoor Files, by Liz Jones)

The extracts of this book I’d read before – inevitably, the ones featured in the papers – gave the impression that it portrays Exmoor as a terrible, unfriendly place. Not really: it’s evident that the author does appreciate Exmoor’s beauty, and that she has made some good friends during her time here, as well as upsetting and offending some people. (’Tis ever thus with the media: when we lived in Worcester, I was intrigued to read in the local papers that all the residents of our street were being terrorised by hordes of rampaging students. I think we once heard somebody swear, rather mildly, on their way home from the pub, but can’t be certain that it was a student. Be that as it may though…)

If you’ve never been to Exmoor, do not be put off visiting by the fallout from this book. It is indeed one of the loveliest places on earth, and certainly the friendliest place we’ve lived in. Liz Jones’ main issues are not with Exmoor at all. She much prefers animals to people, including herself. Her chronic low self-esteem combines with a hope that one thing will make her life perfect (getting married? Moving to the country?), to ensure that she won’t be really happy anywhere.

The Exmoor Files is a good read; very funny in places, although cringe-inducing in others (she really lays herself bare, as you’ll know if you’ve read any of her columns). Some things should’ve been better checked – she refers to the Valley of Rocks as the ‘Valley of Stones’, and talks about ‘the’ Tarr Steps. And – wild goats on Dunkery Hill?

Jones writes well, though to me a jarring note is that she is always sat rather than sitting, stood rather than standing (why? why? as the author herself might ask). And some of the running jokes (calling Brian ‘Brain’ and her ex-husband’s flat a hovel) do wear thin.

I’m curious about another recurring motif (or obsession?): rum babas. Never seen one anywhere on Exmoor, Liz, though they’re good when done properly and have a Proustian effect on me, conjuring up memories of sunny holidays in France in the 70s. Maybe we should start featuring them on our menu, as the LJ Special.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Red deer rutting on Exmoor

It's the red deer rutting season on Exmoor, as stags round up harems of hinds. Early morning, and evening, are the best time to observe the deer - caution is advised as the stags will charge if you get too close, and they are big! The sight of the stags fighting is quite spectacular - though you may hear their roaring (bolving, or belving, as it's called round here) without actually seeing them.
You can book a wildlife safari through various companies, and there are also guided walks available.
Here at Exmoor House, Wheddon Cross, we're ideally placed for trips out to go in search of the deer herds - right in the heart of Exmoor National Park and just a few miles from Dunkery Beacon. For a great short break on Exmoor, check out our special dinner, bed & breakfast packages - from only £174 for a three night stay.

Friday, 1 October 2010

October on Exmoor

Here on Exmoor the autumn colours are just starting to show, although our view of Dunkery Hill still looks quite purple with heather. October's a season of festivals: the North Devon & Exmoor Walking Festival, the Exmoor Food Festival* (see my last post for more information about both of these) are just about to start. But there's more:

The tenth Two Moors Festival (30th September - 9th October) features an amazing range of concerts across Exmoor and Dartmoor. Originally planned as a one-off event in 1991 to support areas hard-hit by the foot & mouth outbreak, the festival has gone from strength to strength ever since.

On a more localised scale, the Lynton & Lynmouth Comedy Festival, on 15th-17th October, promises a fabulous (and free) feast of fun.

It's also the start of carnival season; Somerset's illuminated carnivals are quite unique. Catch Dulverton Carnival on 2nd October...

* It's not too late to book a Tasting Platter lunch at Exmoor House: we have some tables available every day (2nd - 10th October inclusive).