Exmoor ponies

By | Category: Travel destinations
aerial view of Exmoor

Exmoor – landsape, coastline and ponies

The Exmoor Pony Festival started last Saturday and continues until the coming weekend. Why mention it? Because it draws attention to one of our moors  which combines stunning landscapes, coasts, wildlife and an ancient breed.

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 which makes Exmoor a more special national park than some others.

So the festival not only highlights the ponies but gives everyone an opportunity to enjoy the moor and all its assets. There will be safaris, pony shows, rides, walks and special herd open days  but perhaps the most important day – if you are a pony fan is the Exmoor Pony Society’s annual Breed Show on Wednesday 13 August at the Exford Show, which this year has HOYS qualifiers (Horse of the Year Show) and features a Moorland Herds Exhibition Area.

But the ponies are not the only rare creature on the moor. Exmoor is the national stronghold of the heath fritillary butterfly, one of the rarest of the butterflies breeding in Britain. They were once called ‘woodman’s followers’ because they appeared in coppiced woodland soon after the trees were cut. There is little coppicing nowadays but Exmoor has many areas where there is a ‘soft’ edge to woodland, particularly where the woodland gradually changes to heathland, where there are scattered trees and shrubs similar to coppice conditions. The butterflies move to other areas as conditions change, making their conservation difficult.

Throughout August, there are a number of festivals on Exmoor designed to emphasise the area and its towns and villages. Minehead Summer Festival is on 13 August when there will be a  display by the Red Arrows and the chance to ride in a simulator to experience what it’s like to fly the skies. There will also be a street market featuring local arts, crafts and food producers.  The Dunster Show occurs on 15 August providing visitors with  a unique opportunity to see the best of Somerset farming and livestock. It also has some of the best entertainment in West Somerset. For those who prefer their summers to be filled with the sound of music, the Watchet Live Music Festival from 22 – 24 August is West Somerset’s largest outdoor performing art and music festival.

But for those who just want to enjoy the landscape remember Exmoor offers England’s longest pathway. The South West Coast Path, which starts along the Exmoor coast, is the longest National Trail in England and Wales. At present the distance from start at Minehead to finish at Poole is about 613 miles.

It takes roughly 40 days to walk the entire route if your employer is generous with your holiday allowance!

For more information about Exmoor, click here.

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