Sunday, 21 September 2014

10 Things you might not have known about … Exmoor

1.     The Exmoor shoreline is the most remote in England. Because of the height and steepness of the cliffs, there is no landward access to the six mile stretches of shoreline from Combe Martin to Heddon's Mouth and Countisbury to Glenthorne and there are few places where you could land even a small boat. It is estimated that if you were to wait for tides low enough to walk between access points it would take five years to walk the 34-mile length of shore. Even then some serious rock climbing would be involved.

2. Exmoor has the most extensive broadleaved coastal woods in Britain. Woods stretch along ten miles of cliff from Countisbury to Porlock. Parts are ancient sessile oak woodland and are amongst the most natural woodland in England. Elsewhere strong salt-laden winds prevent the development of coastal woods except around sheltered inlets. On Exmoor the coastline is sheltered from the prevailing south westerly winds by the high cliffs and the Foreland shelters the eastern part of the coast from most strong winds sweeping up the channel. On the gentler parts of the cliffs, trees sweep right down onto the beach.

3. Exmoor has the highest coastline on the British mainland. It reaches a height of 1,350ft at Culbone Hill.

4. Exmoor has species of plants that are found nowhere else. These include at least two species of whitebeam tree: Sorbus subcuneata and Sorbus 'Taxon D'. Taxon D is named after the area around Desolate where it is found. Other whitebeams endemic to the West Country have subspecies endemic to Exmoor. They are Sorbus devoniensis, Sorbus vexans and Sorbus porrigentiformis. Also found on Exmoor are Sorbus anglica and Sorbus rupicola, which are more widely distributed but nationally rare. A lichen, Opegrapha fumosa, is also thought to be endemic. Exmoor is the only national location for the lichens Biatoridium delitescens, Rinodina fimbriata and Rinodina flavosoralifera, the latter having been found only on one individual tree.

5. The South West Coast Path, which starts along the Exmoor coast, is the longest national trail in England and Wales. The route includes a number of options and changes are being made continually but at present the distance from the start at Minehead to the finish in Poole is 613 miles. It takes roughly 40 days to walk the entire route

6. Exmoor is the national stronghold of the heath fritillary butterfly, one of the rarest of the butterflies breeding in Britain.

7. Exmoor ponies are the closest breed to the original wild horses which roamed Britain and the rest of the northern hemisphere in prehistoric times. Some say they are not a breed but a race of wild horse. There are only a few hundred on Exmoor and worldwide they are rarer than the giant panda.

8. Most of Exmoor's rocks were in the southern hemisphere when they were formed, about 350 million years ago. Continental drift has caused them to gradually move thousands of miles to the north. then. Parts of the surface of Exmoor are among the oldest landscapes in the world. The surface of the Chains and the Vale of Porlock are thought to be at least 200 million years old.

9. Hollow Brook at Martinhoe is arguably the highest waterfall (689ft) in the West Country and among the highest in Britain.

10. Beech trees grow at greater altitudes on Exmoor than anywhere else in Britain. The country's highest beech wood is at Birch Cleave at Simonsbath, with trees growing up to 1,200ft above sea level.

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Picture Credit: Frm Top -  Coast at Hollow Brook - Exmoor by Derek Harper via Wikimedia Commons; Waterfall on Hollow Brook by Philip Halling via Wikimedia Commons

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