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Exmoor National Park || Somerset Art Works

the Exmoor artists : Karen Guthrie || Harald Smykla

Exmoor is a National Park situated on the Bristol Channel coast of south west England (see map). The park straddles two counties, with 71% of the park located in Somerset and 29% located in Devon. The total area of the park, which includes the Brendon Hills and the Vale of Porlock, covers 267 square miles (691.5 km2) of hilly open moorland and includes 34 miles (55 km) of coast. It is primarily an upland area with a dispersed population living mainly in small villages and hamlets. The largest settlements are Porlock, Dulverton, Lynton, and Lynmouth, which together contain almost 40% of the National Park population. Lynton and Lynmouth are combined into one parish and are connected by the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway. The BBC has called it one of "Seven Man Made Wonders"

Prior to being a park, Exmoor was a Royal Forest (a hunting ground for the exclusive use of the Royal Family), which was sold off in 1818. Exmoor was one of the first British National Parks, designated in 1954, under the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act and is named after the main river that flows out of the district, the River Exe.

Several areas of the moor have been declared a Site of Special Scientific interest due to the flora and fauna. This title earns the site some legal protection from development, damage, and neglect. In 1993 Exmoor was also designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area.


The East Lyn River
The high ground forms the catchment area for numerous rivers and streams. There are about 300 miles (500 km) of named rivers on Exmoor.[15] The River Exe, for which Exmoor is named,rises at Exe Head near the village of Simonsbath, close to the Bristol Channel coast, but flows more or less directly due south, so that most of its length lies in Devon. It reaches the sea at a substantial ria (estuary) on the south (English Channel) coast of Devon. Historically, its lowest bridging point was at Exeter, though there is now a viaduct for the M5 motorway about 2 miles (3 km) south of the city centre. It has several tributaries which arise on Exmoor. The River Barle runs from northern Exmoor to join the River Exe at Exebridge, Devon. The river and the Barle Valley are both designated as biological sites of Special Scientific Interest. Another tributary, the River Haddeo, flows from the Wimbleball Lake.

The other rivers arising on Exmoor flow north to the Bristol Channel. These include the River Heddon which runs along the western edges of Exmoor, reaching the North Devon coast at Heddon's Mouth, and the East and West Lyn which meet at Lynmouth. Hoar Oak Water is a moorland tributary of the East Lyn River the confluence being at Watersmeet. The River Horner, which is also known as Horner Water, rises near Luccombe and flows into Porlock Bay near Hurlestone point.

In 1952, the River Lyn suffered a catastrophic flood in which 34 people died. Although there was some suggestion at the time that the flood might have been caused by the MOD's experiments with cloud seeding (rain-making), this was denied, and it seems more likely that Lymouth was simply a victim of a once-in-a-lifetime flood like the more recent one at Boscastle in Cornwall (2004).


Exmoor boasts one of the finest and most extensive red deer population in Europe - a population that has traditionally been kept healthy and thriving through active management, including hunting. Exmoor is home to four packs of hounds: The Dulverton East (more properly known as the Dulverton Farmers Hunt), Dulverton West, Minehead and Exmoor. These hunts, which are still operating despite the banning of hunting with hounds in the UK in 2004 (no other hunt has ceased to operate since this legislation was implemented). It is claimed that more than 10% of the population of Exmoor owes their living in some way to stag hunting. During the intense debate over the banning of hunting with hounds in 2003-4, Defra coordinated comments from stakeholders across the UK, and you can read the submission from Exmoor here. Read a commentary by P J O'Rourke (published in The Guardian in 2005, originally published in The Atlantic Monthly) which provides an apposite and insightful commentary around the time of the hunting ban.

Exmoor has 34 miles (55 km) of coastline, including the highest cliffs in England, which reach a height of 1,350 feet (411 m) at Culbone Hill. However, the crest of this coastal ridge of hills is more than a mile (1.6 km) from the sea. If a cliff is defined as having a slope greater than 60 degrees, the highest cliff on mainland Britain is Great Hangman near Combe Martin at 1,043 feet (318 m) high, with a cliff face of 800 feet (244 m).[8] Its sister cliff is the 716 feet (218 m) Little Hangman, which marks the edge of Exmoor.

Exmoor's woodlands sometimes reach the shoreline especially between Porlock and The Foreland, where they form the single longest stretch of coastal woodland in England and Wales. The Exmoor Coastal Heaths have been recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the diversity of plant species present.

The scenery of rocky headlands, ravines, waterfalls and towering cliffs gained the Exmoor coast recognition as a Heritage Coast in 1991. With its huge waterfalls and caves, this dramatic coastline has become an adventure playground for both climbers and for explorers. The cliffs provide one of the longest and most isolated seacliff traverses in the UK. The South West Coast Path, at 630 miles (1,014 km) the longest National Trail in England and Wales, starts at Minehead and runs along all of Exmoor's coast. There are small harbours at Lynmouth, Porlock Weir, and Combe Martin. Once crucial to coastal trade, the harbours are now primarily used for pleasure; individually owned sail boats and non-commercial fishing boats are often found in the harbours.


Beast of Exmoor (also see Harald Smykla's work for this project)
The Beast of Exmoor (also here) is a cryptozoological cat that is reported to roam Exmoor. There have been numerous reports of eyewitness sightings, however the official Exmoor National Park website lists the beast under "Traditions, Folklore, and Legends" and the BBC calls it "the famous-yet-elusive beast of Exmoor. Allegedly." Sightings were first reported in the 1970s, although it became notorious in 1983, when a South Molton farmer claimed to have lost over 100 sheep in the space of three months, all of them apparently killed by violent throat injuries. It is reported as being between 4 and 8 feet (1.2 and 2.4 m) from nose to tail. Descriptions of its colouration range from black to tan or dark grey. It is possibly a Cougar or Black Leopard which was released after a law was passed in 1976[45] making it illegal for them to be kept in captivity outside zoos. In 2006, the British Big Cats Society reported that a skull found by a Devon farmer was that of a Puma, however, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) states, "Based on the evidence, Defra does not believe that there are big cats living in the wild in England."


Portions of this text are taken from the Exmoor entry on Wikipedia.

exmoor national park

somerset art works

The local organising partner for Exmoor was Somerset Art Works.

Somerset Art Works (SAW) is a non-profit making organisation promoting the Visual Arts and creating opportunities for Visual Artists in Somerset through advocacy, promotion and development.

SAW is a membership organisation for practising artists, initiating and managing a range of events, projects and opportunities throughout the county. The well known Somerset Art Weeks event now runs annually with an alternating focus. In September 2008 an Open Studios event was held and in September/October 2009 Art Weeks will focus on Events and Exhibitions.

Contact details: The Old Town Hall, Bow Street, Langport, Somerset TA10 9QR
Telephone: 01458 253 800





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