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A wander in Withypool

Having crossed the border into Somerset we made our way across large expanses of Exmoor moorland. Much of the moor is common land, where anyone with grazing rights can graze their cattle or sheep. If you are lucky you may spot Red Deer or Exmoor ponies. We did see some ponies but only in the distance.

Our destination was the pictuersque Exmoor village of Withypool lying on the River Barle. Withypool was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Widepolla.

A picturesque six-arched stone 19th-century bridge crosses the river, a picnic spot with a small car park stands beside the bridge. We were lucky to get a spot in the car park and having parked up we exited onto a patch of grass which led to the riverbank. A flat well used footpath runs for 2 miles leading to Landacre bridge. Landacre Bridge is a restored late medieval bridge.

Along the river bank grow the willow trees that give Withypool its name. The term 'withy' is used to describe the strong, flexible willow stems or rods, often used to weave baskets and other containers.

We didn't get there today, but on our next trip we plan to visit the church of St Andrew's, which dates to the late medieval period. In the churchyard stands the remains of a medieval churchyard cross, listed for its historic interest by Historic England.

If you are in need of refreshments try the Royal Oak Inn, a 17th-century traditional country inn. Writer RD Blackmore, author of the novel Lorna Doone, wrote part of his famous Exmoor novel in the bar of the Royal Oak. Much more recently, American General Dwight D Eisenhower planned the D-Day landings while staying there.

Withypool also boasts a village shop and post office, and a popular tearoom. Near the tearoom stands a very rare set of early 20th century Shell petrol pumps. If you feel like indulging your self we can vouch for the cream tea as we rewarded ourselves after our walk.

Another popular walk leads along the river from Withypool village to the ancient clapper bridge of Tarr Steps, a distance of roughly 4.5 miles. Perhaps a challenge for another day. If you are looking for a real challenge The Two Moors Way long-distance walking trail runs through Withypool, where it links up with the Exe Valley Way.

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