Tag Archives: moorland

Autumn

Our first year in Somerset marches on. It does not hang around for me to savour summer but pushes relentlessly on. September. Autumn. It is as if a page has flipped; the light is undertoned with amber in the sunshine and a strangely peaceful steely grey when it is not. Leaves are falling, the rain is no longer the laughing rain of a summer storm but more forceful. A taste of what is to come. The fronts scud off the sea, the sky seems bigger, emptier. The tourists have faded fast. The roads are full of pheasants not cars. Term has begun and those that are left are the hardy walkers and campers with their boots and rucksacks and plastic-backed maps. The season is ending and the village events have started. Carnivals, art weeks, apple days, a celebration of the bounty of summer and a collective urge to celebrate as the nights draw in.

I stood yesterday upon a gate, stretching up to pluck blackberries off the top of the bush. The rain of the morning gradually receeding over the moor and a warm sunshine broke through the clouds. A buzzard wheeled overhead, it’s cry just audible over the sound of the rushing water. When my bowl was full I climbed off the gate. Crossed the tiny lane and went back over our bridge into our garden. I did the same last week with a couple of kilos from the same bush. That day, I went into the garden, picked some early eating apples from the tree, went to the kitchen and made pie. I think the flour I used travelled the furthest. Tree to table in two hours.

In London the seasons came and went, marked not by weather but by fashion. Here, the change is daily; the flowers that grow in the lanes which mark my journey to work, the colour of the heather on the moor*, the movement of the sheep, the clouds which pass over. The size of the pheasants littering the roads. I miss London and fashion so much I dream of frantically shopping like my life depends on it. And yet, there is something compelling about being here.

*It has just turned the most amazing shade of pink and purple.

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If you go to the woods today…

Last weekend we went for a walk. Front after front rolled in off the sea and we spent the vast amount of the walk in clouds and mist and rain. Periodically it would clear leaving views across the moorland to the coast. As we walked through the ancient oak woodlands Exmoor ponies appeared out of the mist, walking slowly through the trees, eating.

And then, later, in farmland, we saw these chickens atop a muck heap which was spontaneously smouldering, leaving the air tinged with a slightly sweet smell of smoke. We sheltered from the wind and rain in an old church, the most isolated on Exmoor, eating boiled eggs and pork pies and cups of tea in the porch before continuing our journey back homewards.

A splendid, soul quenching, cobweb removing sort of a walk. And best of all, we set off and returned to our house on foot.

What a difference a month makes

This is my fourth week of work. The hardest yet. People have forgotten that I am new, I am starting to become part of the furniture. Which shows I am integrating well but also means things get quite hard. People cut you some slack when you can’t find something, or forget their name, or get  lost driving in Exmoor in your first week. Four weeks down the line and they forget you don’t know.

My life seems suspended in parts. There is the work, which thankfully is good, and seems to be going ok. Then there is weekends with my Husband which are amazing and feel like we are on honeymoon. And then there are the weeknights. Where I have plenty to do but I miss London and my friends something terrible. I miss the life I used to lead: friends and fashion and vintage clothes and swanky bars and high heels and wearing boots to work. I feel old and middle-aged here, caught in the middle because we are married but not parents. I feel like I don’t really fit in. Sometimes I want to stop the roundabout and get off. Go back to my old, comfortable life. But, oh yes, that’s right. I chose to come here.

Somerset definitely has it’s own time. And it’s own ways. Pre-payment electricity meters. Oil tanks instead of gas bills. A council who collect recycling once a week, insist they know your postcode better than you do, who refuse to collect your refuse because “it’s not in a black bag” and who charge you extra to collect garden waste. There are plenty of great things down here but some days, when the bank has eaten your husband’s card for the 3rd time in almost as many weeks and you have pmt and it is London Fashion Week and you were invited to loads of shows and parties but couldn’t go, it doesn’t seem as great as London did.

But then, we’ve had two sunny weekends of two sunny days in a row. And I sunbathed. And wore raybans and red lipstick. And took photos of the snow that we had in the week.

Exmoor snow 4

Exmoor snow 3

Exmoor snow 2

Exmoor snow 1

{images by me}

Work. Days 1. 2.

Took some photographs over the weekend to share with you. But no energy whatsoever to get them off my camera. So they will be coming. Soon.

Walked in the gorgeous sunshine on Saturday down to the coast and along the beach. Drove Husband out for dinner and then back again. He took me for a drive on Sunday. It snowed. 3 chocolate-y black furry ponies stood huddled behind a wall, trying to get out of the wind. Drove as far as the Valley of the Rocks, home to wild goats and several more bay ponies. Birds of prey circle and mew. As it got dark we drove along the moor and saw an owl hunting.

Work is exhausting. 7 hours of meetings and that was only yesterday. I have a lovely room though. A garden room. Can’t wait for summer. And I drove myself there and back, parked and everything.

But now I have to go to bed. Bath and bed. It’s a long time since I’ve expended this much brain power.

A room with a view?

The third house was the one that we never got to see the inside of. We had been waiting all week for the agent to confirm the viewing and then, as we drove to Somerset for our first appointment at 9.30am, we got the call saying they could confirm it after all. Only we had already arranged another viewing at the same time elsewhere. So they gave us the address and we went to see the outside to see it had potential.

Well, the view was wonderful but there was nowhere really to park our car and the garden is that itty-bitty piece of land which you can see between the house and Husband’s head. The house was also quite large but didn’t look very cosy and was on the side of a very steep hill which I really didn’t fancy driving up and down in any kind of inclement weather. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover but a quick peek through the windows revealed that it looked in need of updating and, from the outside at least, not somewhere I would ever feel was home.

And so, as we drove off and headed to see house number 4, we decided it wasn’t worth a second visit.

{House 3 – the one that had a view but not much else}

Photos by me and of the view over towards Withypool.

House Searching Commences

The drive to this house was one of the most beautiful I have undertaken in a long time: climbing up onto Exmoor from the coast across russet and brown moorland as far as the eye could see. Occasionally crows swirled in circles round a tree, it’s branches leaning inland away from the prevailing wind. Dropping back down into a valley we passes tiny villages and darling pubs before climbing and circling up the other side onto the moorland. And then, turning off the main road where hawks hovered eyeing the frozen river which in warmer months would have tinkled down the fellside, onto a drive of a hunting estate: the house.

Set in it’s own piece of land, surrounded on two sides with a field with horses in, the countryside couldn’t have been more peaceful. Yet, even on the brightest and sunniest days of mid winter there was a slightly menacing air to the estate. The bungalow itself was a little grotty but for just over half the price of our London shoe-box, what could you expect? 3 bedrooms, a sitting room, open fire, kitchen, utility room, bathroom, all the space you could ever want.

It was cold though. And even if I fancied the 30 minute drive across open moorland twice a day whilst Husband is away in London, I found the place too isolated to really contemplate. The reality was that more often than not the house would be shrouded in fog, wet and hard to heat. As cooking could only be done by calor gas cylinder, water & sewage were via a private drain I wasn’t convinced, despite the estate agent’s promise that phone and broadband would be ok, that he was right. After all, if it’s not on mains water or gas I wouldn’t be surprised if it were deemed impossible to be connected to anything else either. Oh, and there was no mobile phone signal.

It wasn’t hard to decide no to this one, despite being momentarily persuaded by the views and the quietness of the place, as well as the space.

{House 1 – the one that was too isolated, too big and too cold}

All images by me