By: Blonde Two

Exmoor National Park has many things to recommend it. For a start, it is in Devon (which is the best county in the UK), it has rushing rivers, steep valleys, acres and acres of ancient woodland and is right next to a beautiful stretch of coastline (in other words, perfect walking country).

Today, however, I am going to recommend Exmoor to you for a different reason, Exmoor National Park is a most excellent lesson in contour lines. Of course, other National Parks have contour lines; those on Dartmoor can be a bit fuzzy and tricky to follow but visit the Cairngorms and your day turns into one big, and seemingly insurmountable contour line. The great thing about Exmoor is that it has all the steep-sided valleys you could want, but they aren’t so high that you take a whole day to walk up one of them. If you are working with a group, this has its advantages.

Look at the image below, taken at Webber’s Post just below Dunkery Beacon. The way the hills fold offers an excellent opportunity for contour line discussion, I counted three valleys. The photo was taken fairly early in the morning and the shadows help mark these out. Another clue, which I don’t have a record of, was the sound of rushing water. If you look at the map snippet below, you will find it quite easy to pick out the river valleys, but what about Yeals Combe? Can you spot that in the photo?

Copyright Ordnance Survey 2017

To be honest I became a tad obsessed with contour line examination. I won’t share all of my findings with you but below is my absolute favourite. Marvel at the tight contour lines and how the valley sides fall away (you are lucky I stayed there long enough to take a photo), observe the river tumbling down and away round the bend and… best of all… feel my satisfaction at the neatly arranged field system, one, two, three, four, one after the other… and just like they are pictured on the map. (Blonde One will understand why this had me in raptures if no-one else does!)

Copyright Ordnance Survey 2017