Walked 6th October 2012
Distance: about three miles
Public Car Parking just above Tarr Farm Inn
Anne and I were staying at the wonderful Tarr Farm Inn in Exmoor. This has become a special place for us as it pretty much ticks all our boxes for the perfect break. The Inn is situated at the end of a little lane near Liscombe, a few miles from Dulverton. I say it’s the end of the lane but technically there is a ford across the River Barle next to the Tarr Steps which are just below the Inn. I have seen a couple of 4x4s brave the crossing but it looked precarious to me and I don’t recommend trying it.
The rooms are spacious and comfy and as well-equipped as any I have stayed in. They even give you several home-made biscuits each day and both sparkling and still water in a mini fridge with a little jug of fresh milk. And a bowl of (fairly bog standard) fruit. The toiletries are especially good. My favourite item is a toothbrush with a tiny tube of Colgate. But the little basket has pretty well anything you need and might have forgotten to bring with you. And if you are short of the more personal items you might need you’ll probably find them discreetly located in one of the bathroom cupboards.
We give ourselves a room each and have already become institutionalised in that we ask for the same two rooms each time we go at the far end of the building and upstairs. Anne gets the nicest room because I am nice like that (it’s nicer because it looks out over the pretty valley from two sides whereas mine just has one window to the view. But the Wi-Fi is more reliable in my room I think).
And we eat in the cosy bar each night and have a favourite table for two opposite the bar. The food is excellent. I think you would call it Modern European.
Anne basically wants to stay in her room and read during the day with the occasional trip out for an afternoon. So when Anne is reading, I usually go for a walk. Exmoor is wonderful for walking and this valley and its river is exceptionally pretty. I have seen a kingfisher on the river.
But on this day rain had meant that I had also spent most of the time since breakfast reading Roger Deakin’s “Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees”. I can’t remember a book that has given me more pleasure or which I found more engaging. His ability to observe and describe the detail of nature and to do so in way that consistently conjures up a strong sense of seeing through his eyes is quite extraordinary. Each essay brings you at some point to a rich insight about trees. Sometimes he writes about a species. Sometimes about exploring woods. Sometimes about the use to which wood has been made or about people he has met who work with wood.
Towards the end of the afternoon of being immersed in this book I looked out of the window and saw that the clouds had cleared and there was the most beautiful light. There was, perhaps, only an hour or so of the day left with the sun above the horizon and I felt drawn outside by the desire to simply be outside and by the need for some fresh air. A quick look at my map showed me a path that would take me from the Tarr Steps up though Ashway Hat Wood and up to more open fields. A wood! Of course that was where I wanted to be. I would need to leave the path somewhere and cut through some fields to find a returning path if I were to get back to the Inn before dark but that didn’t seem too much of a challenge.
So that’s what I did. And for most of the hour or so that I was out I was in a state of joy and delight at the sheer beauty revealed to me through the interaction between this magical, warm, last light of the day and the woods and trees I passed by. So all I am going to do now is just present my walk as series of the photographs I took without further commentary. I hope that some of the joy reaches you.