October 20, 2006


We spent two nights in Exford inside the Exmoor National Forest so that we could spend a full day hiking.

There's a lot of hiking to be had in Exmoor and every local news shop sells an assortment of both glossy, bound and local, raggedy guides. After an extensive perusal I went with the second option as one detailed an 11 mile hike that would start from where we were staying and take us to the highest point in the park, Dunkery Beacon.

I ran into trouble with the guide, not because of poor directions, but because of nouns. An example sentence: "Cross over the stile and strike out across the open moor keeping the combe on your left." Say what now, limey?

Another interesting aspect of hiking in England is that even though this is a national park, you're still crossing through people's sheep pastures. It's quite a different feeling from hiking in California State Parks where its very clear you're on public land (and when cross over onto private land - as I did yesterday - it generally means you've screwed up).

The view from the top of the beacon was well worth the effort, giving us our first ever glimpses of Wales. Also it provided a remarkable and well-documented encounter with the park's famed residents, the wild Exmoor ponies.

David deserves the praise for bringing along sugar cubes with which to tempt the beasts. They, the ponies, proved to be friendly if slightly skiddish.

Following lunch, the weather improved slightly. We had a long stroll through the park, allowing good views of moors, combes and two kindly old folks who provided us with a peak at their map. We weren't exactly lost, but there was a mile or so when it wasn't particularly clear if we were on the path or just wandering quasi-aimlessly in the heather.

In addition to his equine charming skills I must also commend my brother for his good spirits during our hike. This was the most sizable walk he'd taken and, as you can see, he proved himself to be an able bipedal humanoid.

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