Exmoor NT Basecamp,

North Devon

12th - 14th September 2008





The National Trust Basecamp that had been booked for this weekend's hiking activity was situated at Countisbury on the North Devon coast. It is located on the A39 from Minehead on the left, after the Blue Ball Inn. The surrounding countryside includes the dramatic Watersmeet Valleys, moors of Exmoor and coastal paths in either direction. I had driven down with John Adams and Tim Porter after having driven to Tim's house in Welwyn Garden City early Friday morning from Royston. Soon after entering Exmoor along the coast, we stopped and encountered a plucky old lady who was travelling through England all by herself. She had also been to South Africa before on a visit and spoke highly of the place. She could chat the hind leg off a donkey but kept us entertained and amazed at the same time. I don't recall her exact age but at the time that astounded us too, as it belied the energy she expended. It seemed nothing phased her and she had lived her life to the full.


  The idea was that we wanted to get a walk in, in preparation for a longer walk the following day. We arrived at the National Trust Basecamp in Countisbury. We decided to head east along the coast towards Porlock, Lynmouth being in the opposite direction. Exmoor National Park is literary just across the road and beyond the old church behind the car park.

The views of the coastline were simply breathtaking and we could see the coastline of Wales across the Bristol Channel on the horizon, though much of the walk saw us in areas of dense woodland extending almost to the coastline. Glenthorne (grid reference SS800497) is also a 13.3 hectare geological Site of Special Scientific Interest within the Exmoor National Park, on the border of Somerset and Devon.

It was here that the South West Coastal Path took us into a plantation. Glenthorne is a Geological Conservation Review site because of the Trentishoe Formation of the Hangman Sandstone Group. Glenthorne House, on the estate, was built between 1839 and 1846. Of particular interest to us was the architecture and the amusing period gates to the estate. One of the overgrown gateways, in a Gothic-Tudor style, was built in circa 1830 by Rev. W. S. Halliday. Glenthorne Beach came into view however, we turned and heading up an incline referred to as The Combe, continuing across the hillside until we reached the A39 and the County Gate car park

Two tracks are shown here. The coastal walk Friday and the walk across Exmoor on the Saturday.


View on the coastal walk in the direction of Lynmouth.


Tim & John pause to enjoy the view; Plucky old lady met en route to NT Basecamp Friday at parking site.


View of the coastline towards Porlock and fern-covered moorland hills which have also given way to farming.


Tim & John assess our location, 2 miles from Countisbury.


Ferns and Rhododendrons.


Glenthorne Estate within the plantation was built between 1839 and 1846.


Gargoyles at the entrance to Glenthorne Estate; John and Tim at the entrance.




Indigenous vegetation on the moorland hillside above Glenthorne - the Welsh coastline can be seen in the distance across the Bristol Channel.


View of the valley leading to the village of Brendon, with Southernwood Farm tucked in on the left.


The sign indicates the paths to Cosgate Hill (from where we had just come) and the village of Brendon.


View of the road adjacent to the East Lyn River, Southernwood Farm to the left.


View of Glebe Farm just before Malmsmead, Lorna Doone farm just to the right obscured by woodlands.

Continuing our walk on the south of the A39 below Cosgate Hill along Ashton Cleave, near Ashton, heading west, this was now Lorna Doone countryside, the countryside in which RD Blackmore set his novel. The heart of Loona Doone country is tiny Malmsmead, which lies deep in the valley below County Gate, on Exmoor. In the village itself is Lorna Doone Farm, and nearby Oare House and Oare Church, where Victorian author R D Blackmore's grandfather was once rector. It has been said that Blackmore's descriptions of the scenery are so precise that even today it is easy to recognise many of the sites described in his book. We ended up back at the A39 and after crossing it, the rain came down. We took shelter until it eased somewhat and then pressed on across the moorland back to the South West Coast Path, thus retracing our steps only for the very last stretch, when Lynmouth comes into view. From here it's a short walk past the St John the Evangelist Church at Countisbury, a Church of England church, back to the bunkhouse. We stopped for a drink in the pub at the hotel and in the evening returned for a meal. The others soon arrived in preparation for the walk the next day. Once again I had the good fortune of having a room with single bunk all to myself.

Hedgerows across the valley on the approach to Brendon.


View of Southernwood Farm; John and Tim onward to Brendon.


View of the village of Brendon, through which the East Lyn River flows.


View of the Blue Bell Hotel and Conisbury Bunkhouse just to the right.


View of Countisbury Church.


Countisbury Church and Lynmouth only just in view.



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