Following on from yesterday’s post about inspiring places, and the parts of the country that I really adore, I’ve decided to write a short snippet about Exmoor and what it means to me – from the perspective of one of its inhabitants.
I lift, lift, lift far above Bossington Beach.
Deserted as it is, I hear not the cries of children here as I do at Minehead with its golden sand. Here there is only a rattle of water drawing off pebbles and the calls of the other gulls circling the quiet headland.
I let the sea air carry me up on its invisible wave, peaking and then I let myself tumble down towards Porlock Weir. Letting momentum take me, I dive kamikaze-like toward the small car park. The village is merely a blur of colour to my left. It shrinks as I pull up, following the rise of the hill – the entrance to the moor and the succession of tinned humans who struggle up it, to stop at the top and take in the view – proudly proclaiming their small victory.
They are drawn to the view but few leave without an ice cream. I sometimes try my luck here, with the sandwiches and biscuits, and cakes and energy bars but today I am not stopping.
As I come up over the brow of the hill, the warm wind billowing up the channel is against me. There are no breaks this high up, the scents of brine and heather, of fresh water and fuel creates a spectrum of sensations. High over the hills, I follow the road on its undulating rollercoaster. The only sound up here is the clunk and whirr of the changing gears.
Cliffs give way to fields and then to sheer cliffs again, scrub gives way to fields and sheep – lots of sheep and then finally, back to scrub again, hills and valleys to flat fields before we reach the next stopping point – County Gate. Here is Somerset, there is Devon. One one side steep hills of heather slide and cascade down into Doone Valley. On the other side, steep hill tumbled towards the coast. This is a favoured place for walkers but I am not stopping here. I circle a bit, letting the warm wind off the channel give me some momentum in land.
I swing west once more, curving around the headland and warm air hits me once again. In the distance, I see the twin towns of Lynton and Lynmouth; the high town of Lynton scattered on the hill, linked to its lower sister by a single metal trail down the hillside – the historic steam railway that witnessed the tragedy of the flood of the lower town.
From Countisbury I start the slow descent. The wind wants to lift me here but I resist and follow the gentle descent into the village. Steep cliffs to my right, steep hill to my left, I am leaving the moor… and what a view as I soar above the village. To my left the river squeezes out from between two high hills, slinking towards the channel between rows of houses. To my right is open channel and the red cliffs below Countisbury
I come to rest on the sea wall above the beach. The stone is hot and I tap, tap, tap, hopping along to find a cool spot. Ahhh, there. I shake my wings and turn to see the tourists lazily ambling along the sea front, licking ice cream and…
A boy, with his mum and dad; he is no older than 11. I hop closer and peer at the bag he’s holding. That distinct sour-sharp smell of salt and vinegar. He spots me approaching and with a cry he clutches the bag tightly to his chest.
Undeterred, I move in and poke the bag with my beak, shrieking at the boy:
Yes, I’m a seagull – now give me a f***ing chip!
Oh and if anybody wants to watch the trip up Porlock Hill and all the way across Exmoor to Lynmouth, it’s here (beware the biker uses some colourful language – particularly going up Porlock Hill).