View down to Lynton

We spent a few days last week on holiday in North Devon, staying at Lynmouth. When we actually stopped to think about it, we realised that it was the first holiday (as opposed to work travel) we'd had in 3 years, and I certainly felt like we needed it! In the last few years, we seem to have always been too busy, had too little money or to have been doing things like moving house to make even a short break practical. But getting a change of scenery every now and again is important to recharge the batteries, so I was quite excited about our little trip.

We suspected that we would have dreadful weather, but in the end we were incredibly lucky. It was very windy on the coast, and that seemed to keep most of the showers at bay, or at least move them along quickly once they had started, so we didn't get prolonged periods of rain. This was just as well, because we wanted to spend most of the time walking some of the coastal and moorland paths. Lynton and Lynmouth are really one town divided by an almost vertical cliff. There's a rather nice Victorian water-powered cliff railway to take you between the two, or you can walk up the zig-zag paths which connect the two towns.

All I can say is that people who live in Lynton and Lynmouth must be very fit, and have very supple knee and ankle joints. Even with the zig-zags, the paths had sections that seemed to have slopes of about 40°, and required a curious, flexed-foot shuffle to walk up or down. This also applied to the coast path and a lot of the other footpaths we used for our walks. The area isn't known as 'Little Switzerland' for nothing. Mr. Bsag is like a mountain goat, and climbs hills while walking or cycling with no perceptible effort. I, on the other hand, am clearly not geared correctly for hills, and while I can walk for miles on flat or undulating terrain, I puff and pant like a steam train on inclines. Despite that, we had some wonderful walks (with Mr. Bsag gently pushing me up some of the hills).

Watersmeet oaks

One of my favourite walks was along the River Lyn to Watersmeet (where two rivers meet, obviously). The river flows in a deep gorge which is thickly wooded with wonderful, lush ancient woodland. One benefit of all the rain we have had this summer is that the vegetation was even greener and more lush than it might have otherwise been. Every possible shade of green -- from almost black, through vivid emerald, to sharp lime -- was represented. Rain drops shone and sparkled on every surface making the whole wood glitter. Every rock and tree trunk was thickly covered in many species of moss, liverwort, lichen and fern. I couldn't resist plunging my hand into a plump pad of moss, and found that it sank finger-deep into the cool, soft fronds. Deciduous woodland is one of my favourite habitats, and with a fast-flowing river too, it was just about perfect. I could have stayed for days in that green-brown dappled light, just looking around me and sighing happily. The photo above is of a section of the woodland, high on the valley side, entirely composed of oaks. It might well be very ancient, but the soil is so thin there, with rocks close to the surface that the oaks can't get to their full size, and grow like ancient saplings, close together and corkscrewing towards the available light. Magical.

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