James’ team discover Exmoor

Blog Post by James Law (http://jamesdlaw.com/)

Each year, our group of mates congregate from various parts of the
country for a weekend in the wilds – a spot of canoeing, some walking
or cycling maybe – whatever it takes to blow away the cobwebs.

And like any internet researched trip, you never really know what
your going to end up with in when it comes to the location and
accommodation you end up picking. But when the instructions just to
get to the your temporary front door are, “slow right down, engage
low range gearing, don’t go over 5 miles an hour and watch out as you
cross the river at the bottom!” you know you’re in for a treat.

Our home for the weekend, the Exmoor Centre offered the perfect combo
of wild surroundings (slap bang in the middle of the moor no less),
warmth at the end of a rubbish summer (a log burner with combined
oven and a roof as opposed to canvas) and close proximity to our
weekend’s ents (walking, mtb’ing and great pubs).

When you combine all that with a very warm welcome from Will the
centre manager, a black sky full of stars (the centre is in part of Europe’s
first dark sky reserve) and a natural plunge pool in the adjoining
river to ease your aching bones (bring your wetsuits) and everything
was nigh on perfect.

We spent the first evening following the path by foot down to
Watersmeet and along to Rockford for a few swift ales in their local
before hiking back in the dark. The beer was great but the famous
Exmoor hills certainly set us soft city lads up for our dinner of
brisket chili and a few hands of poker by the warmth of the wood burner.

Day two saw us hiring mountain bikes from Dan at Exmoor Adventures
(http://www.exmooradventures.co.uk/) for a trip out onto Brendon
Common. The rapid descent from the top of the hill where the Exmoor
Centre lies down to Hillsford bridge was a great start to the
morning, and the climb back up to the moor itself opened up our lungs
for a great but testing day in the saddle. Lunch at The Staghunters
in Brendon, sat in the sun overlooking the river was a welcome break
before we took a deep breath and climbed back to the centre to try
out the plunge pool – an exhilarating finalé!

As we packed the next morning, all the talk was of when we’d be able
to make it back to Exmoor and the centre. Re-engaging low range in the
4×4 we crossed the river for the last time, fully satisfied and
without a cobweb in site…

Autumns nearly here

Autumn has nearly arrived at The Exmoor Centre. There were the first signs of some leaves changing colour this week. Before long the valleys will echo to the sound of Stags belving (bolving/roaring/making a God awful racket!) and the morning will be crisp and frosty.

We get frost at the bunkhouse over 7 months of the year. No wonder the river is bracing to swim in even in summer.

The times when the centre was only used in summer are long gone. Outdoor clothing is so good now its no real hardship to explore the moor at any time of the year. We have a huge covered drying area at the centre and the woodburner makes the bunkhouse cozy on even the coldest days.

Another advantage of the shortening days are longer nights and more chances to experience the amazing dark skies that have earn’t Exmoor status as Europes first Dark Skies Reserve. The bunkhouse is one of the only places on the moor that you can stay within the darkest area of the moor. Our campfire is an excellent observatory to watch satellites race overhead.

There are still some spare weekends left that you can book this year and plenty of weekday slots for school groups or those lucky enough to escape work.

Drop us an email and come and explore…

Mountain Biking

I had a meeting out at The Exmoor Centre today and decided to combine it with a bit of exercise so set off on the trusty old Ribble mountain bike.

The Exmoor Centre really is a haven for off road cycling as the pictures below show. These were all taken within a few minutes of the bunkhouse.

First one a downhill MTB dream, steep rocky with some jumps and drop-offs. Once tarmaced this track still has big lumps of metalled surface to ease the pain for a second here and there.  I was heading up today which is just not fun at all.

Second, the approach to the bunkhouse from the west, very steep and rocky, washed out slippery bedrock in places. Nearly always an ‘off’ somewhere down this track!

Top flat section of the previous lane, much more gentle going but a few wheel stopper mud sections and some super slippery bits can catch you out if you’re clipped into your pedals!