It is the final day of this short trip to Minehead and my last chance to get out on Exmoor before returning home tomorrow. On this trip I have been trying to “bag” a few of the Ordnance Survey Trig Points on the Exmoor National Park and today’s route has been plotted so I can visit the trig on the moor at Elsworthy.
The start of my walk is from the car park besides the B3223 (Grid Ref SS 767410). On leaving the car park I head south on the verge besides the B3223 for a couple of hundred yards to reach a footpath onto the moor at Prayway Gate.
The path soon turns to the left to head east along the boundary of the moor and stays on the moorland at a junction of paths. I stay on the moor heading east. The trees up here demonstrate this is a pretty exposed area.
There is a clear route for me to follow and I stick with this around the boundary of the moor soon heading north to reach a gate on the right.
Through the gate I continue along the edge of the moorland.
The path I am on runs high above the River Exe and there is an option to turn left on the route of the Macmillan Way West as it descends steeply to Warren Bridge. However, I ignore this path and continue along the fence line to reach a tarmac lane.
At the lane I stop to look at part of a waterway which was known as Pinkery Canal. It was constructed by John Knight in 1833. Knight had purchased the Royal Forest of Exmoor in 1818 and had set about turning much of the 10,262 acres into agricultural use. There are various theories as to why Knight built the canal, which was in fact a linear ditch. It has been suggested it was for land irrigation or to harness the water power for industrial use. However, a detailed survey by English Heritage in 2004 dismissed both these options. In fact the survey failed to shed any light onto the purpose of the canal. All I know is that I am currently stood at one end of it.
I now turn left to follow the tarmac lane steadily downhill towards Warren Bridge. There are cracking views as I descend to cross the river Exe on the bridge.
I continue on the track past Warren Farm, this is the route of the Macmillan Way West and I stay with this through a gate to head back onto moorland. The path follows close to the boundary with fields on the right and then turns to the north.
The route I am following will take me on the MacMillan Way to Larkbarrow Corner, however, I take a slight detour to head across the moor to reach the Elsworthy Ordnance Survey trig pillar. This is the 224th trig I have bagged.
From the trig I head east and soon rejoin the Macmillan Way and follow this towards Larkbarrow Corner. Shortly before reaching a road I stay on the moor and follow a path heading in a northeasterly direction parallel to the road. On reaching a gate by the road I turn left and follow a track besides a fence line heading north onto the moor.
On reaching a junction of tracks I turn left and follow a stunning path towards Larkbarrow.
Not much remains these days of what was once Larkbarrow Farm. It was built in 1850 by John Knight as part of his reclamation of the moor for agriculture. A tenant arrived in 1850, but by 1852 had found life at this remote spot too challenging and left the farm. Apparently they struggled to find another tenant and the farm fell into disrepair.
The Knights had the idea of introducing Scottish shepherds to the moor and for a while the farm was occupied, but this venture proved unsuccessful and by the 1900’s the farmhouse was only used as a shelter when hunting. However, Larkbarrow Cottage continued to be occupied and in July 1923 its resident, Will Little, was killed by a lightning strike as he headed across the moor from haymaking at Warren Farm.
I stay with the path passing the remains of Tom’s Hill Farm. This was built around the same time as Larkbarrow Farm and suffered a similar fate.
At a five way junction of paths I follow a route heading west and stay on this path as it descends towards a footbridge over the Badgworthy Water.
I cross the bridge and turn right to follow a path with the river to my right. I stay with this route until I reach a junction of paths near the site of a medieval village. Now I turn left and head away from the river heading towards Badgworthy Lees.
This was the area where Richard Doddridge Blackmore based his book “Lorna Doone”. It is here that the Doone’s were said to have lived. Whilst Blackmore’s story is fiction it is based on historical characters. An exiled Scottish clan, the Doones, were known to live on this part of Exmoor in the 1600’s.
The route now heads up onto the moor. I stay with the clear path and enjoy the scenery around me. I have walked this path a few times so don’t bother checking the map or the route on my phone.
The path leads through a gate and I continue along the clear track along the side of Withycombe Ridge. It is only now that I remember that I planned to take a path across the moor back to the car. However, a quick check of the map shows I can keep going on my current route and will be fine, it will add a few miles to my walk but there is no pressing need to get back to the caravan so it’s not a problem,.
The track leads down to a stream at Lankcombe Ford. On the opposite side of the stream I take a path to the left which heads uphill to join a track where I turn left and follow it back towards the B3223.
Here I turn left and follow a path besides the road, the light is starting to fade so I am grateful to have the road to follow. The moor here is pretty desolate and I would not want to be wandering around trying to find my way in the dark.
At Brendon Two Gates I cross the border between Devon and Somerset.
Still besides the B3223 I pass Blackpitts Gate and continue over Exe Head Bridge before heading back uphill to my starting point in the car park,
My walk has covered 15 miles, a bit further than initially planned but it has been a cracking route. I have only seen a handful of people so it has felt at times that I was the only person out on the moor. I am already planning a return visit to Exmoor in a few weeks’ time but for now that’s the end of my moorland walking.
To follow my walk you will need Ordnance Survey Outdoor Explorer OL9 – Exmoor
11th October 2020
© Two Dogs and an Awning (2020)
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Walking can be hazardous and is done entirely at your own risk. It is your responsibility to check your route and navigate using a map and compass.