Es­cape to Ex­moor

Oc­to­ber is the per­fect time to dis­cover the joys of Ex­moor. Jen­nette Bax­ter of Visit Ex­moor sug­gests five great ways to en­joy au­tumn on the moor

Devon Life - - Inside -

Au­tumn on Ex­moor should re­ally be ac­com­pa­nied by sweep­ing and dra­matic clas­si­cal mu­sic as clouds race across the sky, the long beech hedges turn rus­set brown, the fern cov­ered moors rust over and the hills echo, just for a mo­ment, to the dis­tant roar of a red stag guard­ing his herd. On the coast the seas turn cold and grey and at night the skies put on a stag­ger­ing show of a thou­sand stars. Don’t miss it this year.

LOOK FOR STARS: 2018 EX­MOOR DARK SKIES FES­TI­VAL

The sec­ond Ex­moor Dark Skies Fes­ti­val takes place be­tween 20 Oc­to­ber – 4 Novem­ber. Last year’s fes­ti­val at­tracted thou­sands of vis­i­tors, and this year the fes­ti­val has been ex­tended to in­clude over 40 events dur­ing its 16-day run. Of­fer­ing a whole range of events de­signed to help you ex­pe­ri­ence Ex­moor’s unique skies there are fam­ily ac­tiv­i­ties, tours, food and cul­tural events and, of course, as­tron­omy re­lated events, there’s plenty of things to see and do what­ever the weather.

Des­ig­nated Europe’s first In­ter­na­tional Dark Sky Re­serve back in 2011, the ab­sence of light pol­lu­tion on Ex­moor means that many stel­lar de­lights can be seen with the naked eye. Es­pe­cially good spots for stargaz­ing in­clude Hold­stone Hill, County Gate, Bren­don Two Gates, Web­bers Post, Anstey Gate, Had­don Hill and Wim­ble­ball Lake. For more en­thu­si­as­tic as­tronomers, tele­scopes can be hired from the Ex­moor Na­tional Park cen­tres at Lyn­mouth and Dun­ster.

HUNT FOR DEER (WITH YOUR CAM­ERA)

Home to over half of all the red deer in Eng­land, you would think that spot­ting the UK’S largest wild land an­i­mal would be easy on Ex­moor. But those who have spent hours glued to binoculars know that’s not nec­es­sar­ily true. This all changes in the au­tumn dur­ing the red deer rut. From late Septem­ber un­til Novem­ber, as the lux­u­ri­ant fo­liage dies down over the moors, testos­terone­fu­elled stags give away their lo­ca­tion by ‘roar­ing’ or ‘bolv­ing’.

This time­less sound echoes down the cen­turies, ward­ing off any male in­ter­lop­ers hop­ing to get up close and friendly with the stag’s group of hinds. There are an ex­cel­lent range of small sa­fari com­pa­nies who of­fer 4x4 off-road dis­cov­ery tours in the area and the driver/guide will know the most likely places to spot th­ese mag­nif­i­cent beasts. Ex­moor Na­tional Park Rangers also lead deer walks in the park.

EN­JOY LEAF PEEP­ING

Many of Ex­moor’s hills are cov­ered in trees and save their very best show for the end of the year. The rich pal­let of golds and browns is hard to beat and reg­u­larly in­spires artists and poets who try to cap­ture the abun­dant au­tumn colour.

Head to Lyn­mouth and walk up the East Lyn River to Watersmeet where you’ll be sur­rounded by ar­bo­real splen­dour. Good for your men­tal health too; In a re­cent sur­vey,

Forestry Com­mis­sion Eng­land found that an im­pres­sive 96 per cent of peo­ple said that beau­ti­ful au­tumn colours im­prove their mood.

GO BATTY

Syn­ony­mous with Hal­loween, Bats have an un­de­servedly bad press. Come and learn more about them this au­tumn at Ar­ling­ton Court, a beau­ti­ful Na­tional Trust prop­erty on the out­skirts of Ex­moor. Here there are a colony of around 150 lesser horse­shoe bats which use the base­ment and roof voids as their home. (As all bats in the UK are pro­tected species un­der law, a bat cam has been set up nearby where you can watch the colony in their roost in the roof space.) Fol­low the spooky bat trail and find out more about th­ese amaz­ing crea­tures which live at Ar­ling­ton be­tween 20 – 28 Oc­to­ber 2018. court-and-the-na­tional-trust­car­riage-mu­seum

EAT EX­MOOR

The beau­ti­ful and di­verse land­scape of Ex­moor pro­vides a nat­u­rally rich and abun­dant source of food. Farm­ers and fish­er­men have been work­ing the land and reap­ing the re­wards of this boun­ti­ful area for hun­dreds of years.

Coast and coun­try­side, moors, lush val­leys and cold clear rivers change with the cli­mate and all con­trib­ute to the de­li­cious lo­cal pro­duce of­fer­ing a unique and dis­tinct flavour. Au­tumn is a spe­cial time on Ex­moor, and the area is renowned for its lo­cal veni­son and game.

Or­der from lo­cal pro­duc­ers, pop along to a lo­cal farm­ers mar­ket or en­joy a de­li­cious meal at one of the area’s award­win­ning lo­cal eater­ies. No food miles here! visit-ex­moor. co.uk/eat-ex­moor

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