This is a follow up to my first Rural Landscapes post in January. Having this afternoon completed a 3hr drive up from the far south west of England, the simplicity of the journey and the striking landscape of the area never fails to fuel my desire to move back down there. The striking, rugged landscapes of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall is always instantly recognisable and has become synonymous with a lot of British-based period dramas and horror films.
The south west of England is most famous for the three moors – Exmoor (Somerset and Devon), Dartmoor (Devon) and Bodmin Moor (Cornwall). They are all pretty similar in terrain and flora. The picture above is of Bodmin Moor, in a valley as you come over a hill, approaching the town of Bodmin but it could be any of the three. Below is a shot I took on Dartmoor some years ago when I first moved to Exeter.
I love this type of landscape. In spring it is electric, bright and buzzing with insects. In summer you are dazzled by colours and smells and you can really get a sense of isolation and you don’t need to get too far away from the main roads either. Early Autumn is ablaze with autumn colours which is enhanced by the abundant heather (which makes a lovely honey!) late Autumn can feel imposing and close, leaves have gone, there is often a heavy mist – perfect for the Halloween atmosphere. Winter can be treacherous for traffic and barren to look at but it is not without its own intense beauty. The rain moves in sheets (sideways) and when it snows, it is spectacular.
Heather is a typical feature of heath and moorland and though it is seen all over the country, it always reminds me of my favourite part of the country so I come to associate heather particularly with Exmoor and Dartmoor. Exmoor is the only one of the three moors to run right up to the coast and the views from the High Moor across the Bristol Channel can be pretty spectacular at any time of the year. Many times I went up Porlock Hill (the eastern gateway to Exmoor) to sit and write overlooking Bossington Beach and feeling that sea air from one side and the scent of wild heather from the other side.
The coastline of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall is also much admired and recognisable, often used as a “typical” British coastline. The horror film The Dark was set in Wales and features (aside from Maria Bello and Sean Bean) a number of Welsh actors… but it was filmed in Devon and, I think, particularly around The Valley of Rocks – another place I find inspiring and just a few miles west of Porlock.
These landscapes always put me in mind of big epic period pieces too. It is the Exmoor landscape that is the setting for Lorna Doone and now, there is an area near to the photograph above that has been renamed “Doone Valley” in honour of the celebrated “novel of Exmoor”. When you visit it is not difficult to see why. The high-rise heather covered hills, trees, lazy rivers and quaint period houses are inspiring in themselves but the fact that the valley is accessible by single track roads and sees very little traffic makes it easy to get away from busy trunk road linking Porlock to Lynmouth with the tourist towns of Ilfracombe farther west and Minehead to the east.
I dream of having a small cottage on one of the moors – a writer’s retreat where I can get away from everything and let the landscape inspire me. I think, as writers we need that sometimes.
So, what places inspire you? Which landscapes are you drawn to and what landscapes make you want to grab a pen and notepad?