Exmoor is one of the country's great wilderness locations.
rugged National Park is covered with heather and is home to a range of wildlife,
including ponies and the famous-yet-elusive 'beast of Exmoor'.
|Exmoor - winter wonders include
moorland specialists. |
Exmoor is actually Britain's
second smallest National Park, but what it lacks in size, the area makes up for
Within its 267 square miles there are open moorlands, wooded
valleys and some of the most dramatic sea cliffs in the country.
is named after its main river, the River Exe, and is dissected by combes or steep
wooded valleys which have been formed by fast-running streams.
a National Park in 1954 and it is home to some of Britain's biggest and most impressive
mammals including the Exmoor Pony.
Exmoor Pony is a moorland specialist designed to cope with tough winters and the
poor diet available up on the moors.
This ancient breed has changed little
in the last 12,000 years, and remains one of Exmoor's most famous inhabitants.
The pony has adapted to living on the moor, with a snow chute in its tail,
bulging 'toad eyes' to keep out the elements, and short ears designed to reduce
Their coats manes and tails are virtually waterproof and they
have a distinctive, big belly so they can eat large amounts of nutrient-poor heather
to obtain their daily energy supply.
The pony's insulation is so good that
snow won't melt and build up on the ponies' backs when the weather gets rough.
Exmoor Pony is one of the world's rarest animals with less than 1,200 on the planet,
and only 200 proper moorland-bred ponies.
Every pony up is monitored by
the Exmoor Pony Society to ensure the stock remains pure-bred.
round up results in the ponies being branded to mark them as bona fide Exmoor
This is the only time the animals are handled by humans - most
of the year they live wild on the moor.
For wild animals the ponies are
very tame but don't be tempted to feed or touch them.
of the plants adapted to survive the harsh British winter conditions on Exmoor
is the Snowdrop.
One of the best places to see is a small reserve appropriately
called Snowdrop Valley on the River Avill.
poet Thomas Tickell called the flowers 'Vegetable Snow'.
were considered unlucky if you brought them into the house.
bear the nickname 'February Fairmaids'. They were worn by some young women in
Yorkshire to display their purity and were sometimes sent to over ardent wooers
as a reminder not to try anything on.
not after a 'drop of snow' but 'drop' meaning earring - the Snowdrop looks like
an earring pearl.
like damp conditions - look out for them close to rivers.
Snowdrops grow in huge numbers, probably due to the undisturbed nature of the
It's possible that the Snowdrops in the valley are actually the
native British race rather than the imported variety.
These delicate flowers
survive in winter because their leaves have specially hardened leaf tips for breaking
through frozen ground - known as 'snow piercers' or 'snow breakers'.
leaves also contain an antifreeze - when sub-zero temperatures strike, the water
in the plants cells doesn't crystallise and rupture the cells.
of the moor
other famous Exmoor inhabitant is the Red Deer - over 3,000 roam over the moors.
the end of winter the stags start to lose their antlers in readiness to grow a
new pair during the summer.
The Red Deer is Britain's largest terrestrial
mammal weighing in at up to 190 kg.
They get their name from their summer
coat which goes a deep chestnut red, but in winter they grow a thicker darker
There are quite a few wild populations in the UK, the biggest
being found in Scotland, but Exmoor has the highest number in England.
with the Roe Deer, the Red Deer is the only native deer in the UK.
herd was once in danger of extinction during the 17th Century due to over-hunting.
had to be brought in from Germany to boost numbers, but in recent years they have
been doing very well on the moor.