Exmoor National Park was designated in recognition of the outstanding beauty, wildness and tranquillity of the moorlands which dominate its landscape. The moors and heaths are at the heart of the National Park; wide open areas, overlooking the whole of West Somerset, North Devon and the Bristol Channel coast. While they appear to be wild untamed landscapes, they are in fact the result of thousands of years of management by people and their grazing animals.
From the luxuriant oak woods of the deep river valleys to the extensive plantations of east Exmoor or from the ancient trees of Nettlecombe to rare endemic Whitebeams, Exmoor boasts an unrivalled history and diversity of trees and woodlands. The coastal woodlands, which extend to the shoreline in places, are unique in the region and we also have a significant proportion of the UK and world total of the remaining western oak woods.
The Exmoor landscape that is so valued today for its beauty and apparent wildness, is in reality, largely the result of thousands of years of farming. Woodland has been cleared, heathland burned, moorland drained and the vegetation controlled by grazing animals – particularly cattle and sheep – managed to produce food and wool. Over the generations, this has led to the intimate pattern of fields, moor and woods that make Exmoor National Park such a special place.
On Exmoor you are never far from the sound of water, and the rivers and streams that flow from the high ground and have cut the many deep combes are one of the defining characteristics of the National Park. The very name , Exmoor – is named as the moor of the Exe, our largest river.
The coastline within the National Park stretches for (59 km) 37 miles. It is outstanding for both its scenery and its wildlife and was one of the prime reasons for the designation of Exmoor as a National Park. Exmoor has the highest coastline in England and Wales with coastal hills rising to 433m (1421ft) at Culbone Hill. The highest sheer cliff is 244m (800ft) on Great Hangman, which is the highest sea cliff in England and Wales.
The landscape of Exmoor tells the story of how people have lived in, exploited and enjoyed Exmoor over the last 8000 years. Burial mounds on high ridges, unique and ancient patterns of standing stones, cliff top Roman forts, astonishingly preserved medieval villages and incredible Victorian industrial engineering are all here to be explored.
Visitor centres are conveniently located for visitors to the National Park at Combe Martin, County Gate, Lynmouth, Dunster, and Dulverton. Each has displays related to the locality and a variety of information is available. A programme of National Park Authority events incorporating guided walks is offered throughout the year – the monthly events and walks list is freely available