Explore Exmoor National Park
The Exmoor immortalised by R. D. Blackmore in his romantic novel Lorna Doone (1869) and Henry Williamson in his rural classic Tarka the Otter (1927) is a landscape of plunging coombs, deep wooded valleys, and crystal-clear streams, watched over by brooding moorland. It is one of the smallest, most intimate and least visited of the national parks. Some of the best places to see what Exmoor once looked like are the commons, such as those at Brendon, Withypool, Dunkery Hill and Wilmersham.
To give that famous display of heather the heathland is systematically burned, known locally as ‘swaling’, during the winter and early spring when the risk of fire spreading is at its lowest. This clears the dead growth of the previous year and promotes the growth of fresh young shoots for the grazing animals, which nowadays are mainly sheep. In late summer, when the heather is in bloom and alive with the buzzing of bees, you will often see rows of hives put out along the edges of the heath by beekeepers keen to obtain supplies of the delicious heather honey.