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Sarah Howard Photography

Why Exmoor Enchants

Posted on 7th June, 2019

It's not hard to be enchanted by Exmoor. I first visited as a child on a family holiday and remember vividly the dramatic Valley of Rocks, the pretty harbour village of Lynmouth and the ancient clapper bridge; Tarr Steps. I never thought back then that years later I'd be running photography workshops here and it remains one of my favourite regions in the UK for landscape photography.

Travel west one hour from the M5 and you enter a different world. Here, narrow high hedged roads wind their way through lush deep wooded valleys within which lie hidden treasures. There is a softness to the landscape which nestles like a patchwork quilt around impossibly pretty villages. Then, in contrast there is the coastline, in parts spectacular and dramatic, in others simply charming. Exmoor is a place in which to linger and to absorb.

Exmoor may be one our smallest national parks, but it is known for its breathtaking beauty and unspoilt countryside. It is no wonder that this area inspired writers the likes of Shelley and Wordsworth. JHB Peel in 'a Portrait of Exmoor' once wrote "I do not know of any comparable area where such wilderness and such softness are so closely interwoven", summing up Exmoor perfectly.

The landscape here is so varied that, as a photographer, you are really spoilt for choice. Below I've outlined some of the main locations we visit on our workshop each August which is timed to coincide with the flowering of the heather.

One of many ancient rivers; Badgeworthy Water, meanders through the Doone Valley which inspired R D Blackwall to set his novel, Lorna Doone. Here you can really step back in time, as traditional villages such as Allerford and Bossington appear unchanged from more than a century ago.

Tucked away, you'll find the infamous 'Robbers Bridge'; just one of a number of incredibly photogenic ancient packhorse bridges in the area. It's a challenging location being quite contrasty and benefits from an overcast day. 

Further east along the coast lies Porlock Weir, which, with its quaint little harbour, possesses a unique charm that just has to be experienced. A walk along the long stretch of pebble beach eventually brings you to the charming village of Bossington. Along the way, you'll encounter numerous old wooden groynes, many of which have colourful pebbles lodged in between them making for a great photographic subject.

Moving west we reach Countisbury Hill and sweeping views towards the town of Lynton and Lynmouth.

With a small picturesque harbour and backed by woodland, Lynmouth occupies a delightful setting. Nearby, lies one of the most dramatic sections of coastline in the area; the Valley of Rocks. This rugged valley is home to craggy, towering cliffs and dramatic views, as well as wild mountain goats. It is a superb location for sunset, especially after a portion of delicious fish and chips from Lynmouth!

Exmoor is an area offering huge variety as just minutes to the south lies wide open heather moorland. With sweeping views to the ocean it is populated by wild red deer, Exmoor ponies and even highland cattle.

The aptly named 'Punchbowl' (below); a deep bowl in the landscape which offers a glorious view across to patchwork fields. It's superb for a sunrise.

Tarr Steps is perhaps one of the most famous spots in Exmoor. An ancient clapper bridge spanning the River Barle, it is not easy to photograph. The below image was bracketed to enable me to expose for both the shadows and highlights correctly.

So there you have it; some of the main locations on our Exmoor workshop. I do hope you can join me and discover for yourself this wonderful region and the fabulous photographic opportunities it has to offer. 

For more information please visit our web page.

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