By: Blonde Two
If you were looking for a walk in wild, alien landscapes, you might well choose Iceland’s black lava fields or New Zealand’s glacial fjords.
Or you could visit the salt marshes near Porlock Weir in North Devon.
You wouldn’t be disappointed. Just a quick stroll from Porlock or Bossington will find you in an environment so different from the surrounding steep-sided valleys and precipitous cliff tops that you’ll wonder which travel portal you have just stepped through. Who knew that the Southwest Coast Path had such strange powers.
A evolving natural environment
Porlock Marsh doesn’t just look ethereal, it is a tenuous and developing landscape. Since the enormous shingle ridge of Porlock Bay was formed around 8,000 years ago, movement of and breaches in it have been flooding (and un-flooding) the area with salt water. It’s worth noting at this point that the Exmoor coast has one of the world’s highest tidal ranges (up to 15 metres).
The waters at Porlock Marsh have receded as natural and manmade repairs occurred but after the last breach in 1996 the National Trust and other authorities took the decision to let nature take its course, and left the breach as it was. The result is a mysterious-looking landscape that is still changing. You can read more about this decision and the Porlock Marsh Vision here but I recommend visiting first, and giving your imagination free rein.
Salted ghost trees
If Porlock Marsh’s shallow rippling water channels, invisible skylarks and curious light don’t get your storytelling juices flowing, it’s rows of ghost trees certainly will. Poisoned by salt as the sea breached the shingle bank, these skeletons stand proud and stark against the muted browns of the marsh. Testament perhaps to nature’s power but also to the inconstancy of all life on earth.
Walking the shingle bank
One of the strangest things about Porlock Marsh is that, although it is right next to the coast, the shingle bank hides the sea. One of the routes into Porlock Weir (picturesque with lovely food) takes you along the shingle bank. It’s not easy walking but visiting the bank again at the Bossington end gave us the opportunity to explore some fascinating WW2 pill boxes and a lime kiln.
There’s so much to explore in and around Porlock that I recommend you give the area a good couple of days to visit (or longer, it’s a very peaceful place). If you do decide to stay, and fancy an adventure, why not try a stay at the National Trust’s Foreland Bothy? You’ll have the lighthouse for company but really not much else.