The Adventurer's Guide to Britain

Tuesday, 27 December 2011, 7:30PM – 8:00PM

Secret Exmoor: 

In the sixth and final episode of the series Gethin Jones and Charlotte Uhlenbroek journey to wild Exmoor to reveal a side of the region only a few get to see. 

On day one Gethin heads to Dunster Woods to push his strength and endurance to the limit by trying his hand at tree climbing. Although the adventure sport is already big in America, Dunster Wood is one of the few places in the UK you can give it a go. 

With the help of experienced climber, Roland Heming, Gethin gets to grips with the equipment and technique. Before he knows it he’s 30ft off the ground but he then faces the challenge of reaching the very end of one of the oak tree’s branches. 

“This branch is covered in slippery moss and there’s nothing solid to grab hold of – my brain knows I’m safely harnessed but there’s no rope on earth that can hold back the fear of falling,” explains Gethin. 

It’s not just about the climb though as Charlotte has asked Gethin to scout out a good place for some bat watching while he’s up there. As he reaches the outer branches he realises he is standing in the perfect spot – all he and Charlotte will need are a couple of hammocks, although at 30ft off the ground it might not be what Charlotte had in mind. 

Meanwhile, Charlotte sets off to Winsford Hill in search of Exmoor’s most iconic resident, the elusive wild pony. Exmoor is home to 300 wild ponies and is one of only 12 places in the British Isles that these ancient wild animals can be found. 

Getting close to the ponies isn’t easy as they are notoriously wary of humans, so for Charlotte and her guide to stand the best chance of an encounter they saddle up and set off on horseback – both riding former members of the free-living herd. 

“This is definitely the best way to see Exmoor – it is absolutely fantastic up here,” enthuses Charlotte, “and to be on the back of a [once wild] pony just makes it ideal.” 

After an hour of riding they find a group of wild ponies but they are very skittish around the crew so Charlotte sets off with her handheld camera to better her chances of an audience. She’s not left disappointed as she’s greeted, albeit tentatively, by members of the herd. 

”We’re amazingly lucky, you could stay up here for a year and not have an encounter as close as this.” says Charlotte. 

Later that day the adventurers meet up for some bat watching and Charlotte faces her greatest fear – heights! 

“This is really scary for me but Gethin has gone to a lot of trouble to find this really great bat watching spot.” admits Charlotte. 

With lots of encouragement from Gethin, a nervous Charlotte reaches the canopy and they both settle down with their bat detector and wait. Within an hour they are surrounded in darkness and they are both thrilled when they hear a group of pipistrelle bats. 

On day two the pair set off for a hike that reveals all three faces of Exmoor – moors, ancient woodland and sea cliffs. 

Although at first it appears to be a gentle walk it’s not long before they have to negotiate a path along some of the highest sea cliffs in Britain, which narrow to less than three feet in places. The sheer 500 foot drop to the sea below means that one slip could mean death. 

They make it all the way to Hurlstone Point which sits at the very edge of Exmoor and on looking out at the amazing views they both agree it’s a fitting end to their brilliant Exmoor adventure. 

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