Todays Safari -Wednesday the 7th of April

As I drove to Exford for the Safari yesterday morning, low cloud and rain were a part of the weather pattern visible ahead of me, and I must admit that I prayed for clear views! I did not know how good the afternoon would be. The guests were a lovely Dutch family with three children; their joy at being out together in the Exmoor scenery was infectious, and reminded me of earlier times in the life of my own family. ‘What would you like to see?’ I asked. After some excited chatter in Dutch (which I could not follow) the answer came ‘Wildlife’. Of course I explained that Exmoor wildlife really is wild, so is not always cooperative with Safari drivers, but that it helps a lot to know where to look!

We looked first over Hurdle Down, a favorite spot for red deer, but the somehow alien sight of a conservation work party was visible there so I decided to look elsewhere.  However, the eldest child of the family spotted something on Almsworthy Common  above the work party, so out came the binoculars and the first sighting of eight red deer was confirmed. A good start. Later we found a herd of about twenty red deer much closer and easier to see, as well as the semi-wild Exmoor ponies and highland cattle with calves, always a cute subject for a photo.

In the next couple of hours we used unfenced single-track roads, sometimes so steep that the family had seen nothing like it, and visited viewpoints, Bronze and Iron Age features, an eighteenth century mill, a centuries-old packhorse bridge, amazing scenery, ancient  oak woods  and a remote 12th. C Church, the highest Church building on Exmoor. We crossed a barren moorland driving off-road, a rather bumpy, splashing experience which delighted the children. Local  history, geology and land use, farm traditions and mining all came up naturally in conversation as we travelled together; there were one or two showers, but they did not matter. No-one wanted to leave when we got back to the Exmoor White Horse, so I took out my maps and answered questions about the best walks for a family, over a drink in the bar. An excellent afternoon, all round.


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