Exmoor Holiday (June 2023)

Today we travelled on from Bristol stopping at Nether Stowey, where we wandered round the village, stopping to take photos of Samuel Coeridge's house. Samuel Coleridge was a poet and philosopher and wrote the famous poem-the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. 

Samuel Coleridge House

We then travelled on towards the Quantock hills and through the Great Wood.  It was a wood of mostly oak and ash trees.    

The Great Wood

From here we travelled to Porlock where we stopped for lunch, and did some grocery shopping. (Funny place, all the restaurants, including the pubs were either closed until the evening or only serving drinks.
Our final destination for the day was Porlock Weir. Having got our bearings and booked ourselves a table at the local inn for Sunday lunch we found our accommodation for the week.

Apartment on the right hand side

We were up and about early on Sunday so we went for a walk along the beach (just 400m from the house) to take photos while the tide was in and the light was reasonable.

The view from the beach looking across to Porlock Weir

We returned to the house to sort out places to visit during the week and later went to Porlock Weir to walk along to the point and take some phots of some of the buildings.

At the Point

Looking back from the point to the Weir

We had Sunday lunch at the Ship Inn. It was superb.
Back to the apartment where I took photos of the swallows building their nest.

Monday dawned bright and sunny so we went off to explore Torr steps and Dunster Village. The drive to Torr steps took over an hour on some very narrow and windy roads.

Torrs Steps and River Barle

Torr Steps cross the River Barle in the woodland valley. The valley is a woodland of oak, ash beech and sycamore trees. The woods have evolved over a number of years where once there were charcoal burning platforms and man-made water channels.
Tarr Steps are built from local gritstone. there are three parts to the bridge - the clappers, piers and raking stones. The 'clappers' are the large, flat stones that form the causeway. The 'piers' rest on the river bed and support the 'clapper stones' 'Raking stones' are placed against the piers to protect them against the river currents and debris.

clappers, piers and raking stones

The area is a haven for wild life with dormice living amongst the hazel and honeysuckle. Otter feed on the fish as do kingfishers. Dippers and yellow wagtail can be spotted darting up and down the river. There are also a variety of bats which roost in the dead trees.

It was a beautiful morning and a great place to walk. On returning to the car we had our lunch before heading back to Dunster by a better route that the one we came on.

Dunster was busy when we arrived with many bikers gathered along the high street. The street looks much the same as it did two centuries ago. The yarn market was built in 1609 and wool trading has played a prominent role in the town's economy.

Yarn Market

Dunster tithe barn was rescued and repaired and turned into a wonderful community hall.

Community Barn

St George's Church and Priory are next to the community hall and date back to the 16th century. The grounds leading up to the church have been turned into a wonderful memorial garden, and beside the church and behind the community hall there are more gardens and lawns creating a peaceful area to sit and read or perhaps to hold celebrations.

St George's Church and memorial garden

Opposite the tithe barn is a dovecote which was built in the 16th century and would have belonged to the Benedictine Priory. The dovecote has 540 nest holes. 


Milling has been carried out since Medieval times. The present mill dates back to 1779. The national Trust restored it back to full working order. The mill is powered by the River Avill and produces wholemeal bread and spelt flour.

Mill wheel

There are three bridges in Dunster - the Lover's Bridge, Lawns Bridge and Gallox Bridge. Gallox bridge is a pack horse bridge that would have carried ponies laden with wool and other goods over the river. It has been there since the 15th century. It got its name from the gallows that stood on a hill near by. 

Gallox Bridge

Dunster Castle stands on high ground over looking Dunster and the surrounding area. The castle was restored and turned in to a comfortable home in the 1860s. There are magnificent gardens running round the castle from the top to the bottom.

Dunster Castle

As the rain hadn't arrived as predicted we made an early visit to Porlock Weir to take phots while the tide was in and there weir few people about.

Porlock Weir

Back home then off to Minehead for a wander and lunch. Minehead became a very popular seaside resort during the Victorian period, and still is today. It has a harbour at the west end and Butlin's holiday camp at the other.

Minehead pier


No rush today as our destination Cleeve Abbey didn't open until 10.00am. Unfortunately I found Cleeve Abbey a disappointment after various other abbeys that we have visited. There was plenty of history but the building has received a lot of restoration work and alterations over the years. I felt it had spoilt it. Too many of the walls had been white washed over and several rooms had had fireplaces added. Outside many of the walls had been repointed giving the building a much newer look. All the ceilings and the floor boards had been replaced and other buildings had been demolished. The best part was the Cleeve tiles that were rescued from the refectory floor. They have been relaid in a specifically built building so they can be viewed.

Rear of Abbey

Having had lunch we left Cleeve Abbey and headed for Crowcombe where we visited the church of the Holy Ghost, the only such named church in the country. The church contained its original box pews with some extraordinary carvings on the ends.

Carved pew ends

The font was 15th century which carved figures all around it. These survived being damaged by Cromwell's men during the Civil War.
The church had one of the heaviest church door I have ever come across. It was a good 6cm wide. Opposite the church was a Medieval church house where ales were brewed on the lower floor and bread making took place. The upper floor was used for village celebrations, feasting and dancing. It later became accommodation for six poor people, and a charity school on the first floor. It is still used to day for celebrations, function and private hire. (very much like a village hall).

Medieval church house

We left Crowcombe and headed to the Great Wood where I had hoped to get a good photo of the wood
ants and their nest. I managed to get the nest but the ants were crawling over my shoes and up my trousers faster than I could focus the lens.

Wood Ant colony

We arrived back at our car to find the wild ponies had decided to give the car a good licking. From here we made our way back to Porlock and some liquid refreshments.

Exmoor ponies

We had been told not to miss the Valley of the Rocks. Little was mentioned about the drive there. It was a hair-raising trip. So much was uphill and in first gear and many on blind bends. Much of the way there was only room for one vehicle so you had to hope there would be somewhere to pull in. 

View from the road to Valley of the Rocks

The scene that greeted us on our arrival was stunning. (The journey was soon forgotten). We followed some of the paths around the massive outcrops.

Valley of the Rocks

It wasn't long before we spotted feral goats roaming around the rocks.

Feral Goats

We joined a solid path which led us up the cliffs and along the cliff top, which eventually led us back to Lynton.

View from the cliff top

We stopped for lunch in Lynton before walking back to the car at the Valley of the rocks. On the drive back we stopped in a car park to admire the wonderful scenery.

Today was supposed to be a full sunshine day, ideal for butterflies. Although it was a warm muggy day, it was overcast all day. We still did the 'butterfly walk' on Haddon Hill. We only saw a few Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers and Skippers. Unfortunately there were no Heath Fritillaries.
We went to Watchit for lunch then walked around the town and harbour before returning to our apartment. We will heading back to Bristol tomorrow where we were to  stop overnight, once we had visited the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Watchit Harbour

Memorial Stone to Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Our intention today had been to cross the suspension bridge and also to walk part of the gorge. Unfortunately I was getting a lot of pain in my back and was unable to walk too far. This was disappointing as it was a trip I had wanted to do for a long while. We did get good views from above and managed a quick tour of the visitors centre.

Clifton Suspension Bridge