The Exmoor Landscape

Prayway Head

Exmoor is a unique place shaped by people and nature over thousands of years and is recognized as one of the UK's finest landscapes.  Large areas of open moorland provide a sense of remoteness and tranquillity rare in southern Britain. Spectacular coastal views, deep wooded valleys, high sea cliffs and fast flowing streams all combine to form a rich and distinct mosaic.

It is a landscape that has inspired poets writers and artists for hundreds of years and continues to inspire people today.

The unique character and diversity of Exmoor’s landscape is described in the Exmoor Landscape Character Assessment (LCA). This document, published in 2018, provides a comprehensive update to the first LCA report from 2007. The document identifies nine distinct Landscape Character Types, within which are 26 Landscape Character Areas.  Key characteristics of each type are set out in the document, along with more detailed descriptions of the Character Areas. The LCA has been adopted as a supplementary planning document.

Have a look just at some of the art inspired by Exmoor on this Pinterest board or enjoy just enjoy a selection of our favourite landscape views in the gallery below.

Exmoor Seascape

Exmoor Seascape

Exmoor National Park has a beautiful and dramatic coastline, stretching from Minehead in the East to Combe Martin in the West. This spectacular coast, with the highest sea cliffs in England, was one of the reasons why in 1954, Exmoor was designated a National Park.

In December 2015 the North Devon and Exmoor Seascape Character Assessment was published.  (download here from North Devon DC website - large file 57MB opens in new window)

Seascape is defined by Natural England in the terms of the European Landscape Convention (ELC) as:

An area of sea, coastline and land, as perceived by people, whose character results from the actions and interactions of land with sea, by natural and/or human factors

The report was commissioned by a partnership of the National Trust, North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Exmoor National Park Authority, North Devon Council, Torridge District Council and Natural England.  It was prepared by Land Use Consultants.  It covers the North Devon and Exmoor coasts from Marsland Mouth on the Cornish border to the boundary of Exmoor National Park near Minehead, including the Taw/Torridge Estuary and its fringes. It extends offshore to the 12 nautical mile territorial limit, including Lundy and its surrounding waters at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean

The report describes the many, valued natural, cultural and perceptual aspects of both land and sea.

It should help provide the evidence to support a number of important planning, management and policy activities by the project partners and others. It should also assist developers and planners in making informed decisions about offshore developments, including renewables.

Download the Seascape Report here from North Devon DC website

Tracking landscape change

The combination of highly diverse and distinctive upland landscapes and the relatively small scale of Exmoor National Park, results in a landscape where the impact of change can be significant. We have been undertaking a landscape monitoring project to help understand the nature and extent of certain known changes, and their wider impact on the landscape.

Previous work has defined a set of ‘Landscape Character Types’ distinctive to Exmoor. In this latest study we have further developed a set of case studies: 1) Changes to moorland vegetation, 2) The impact of intensive game shooting, 3) Distribution of telecommunication masts, and 4) Changes to historic views and vistas.

Using a mix of aerial photography, QGIS mapping, fixed point photography (on the ground and by drone) and geographic imagery, we have sought to design an exemplar way of monitoring future landscape change on Exmoor. For example, we used aerial photos over a 38 year period to map vegetation across three prominent moorland sites. Landscape change due to both intensive game shoots and the roll out of telecommunications infrastructure was measured through spatial mapping and landscape change over decades was illustrated through photos from past and present.

There are of course wider social, economic and cultural factors influencing the character of Exmoor’s landscape, as well as natural processes, all affecting the nature and pace of change. Further research is needed to understand how these relate to the changes we are seeing on the ground and identify where conservation efforts are best targeted.

This project has been a partnership between Natural England and Exmoor National Park Authority.

The Landscape Monitoring Project can be found here

Here are some upcoming events where you can expect to see great views of Exmoor. Or you can browse all events here


Ralegh's Cross Long Walk

Ralegh's Cross Inn
3rd Oct 2023 9:45 am - 3:45 pm
The 19c mineral line was built to carry iron ore from the Brendons to Watchet fo...
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Dunster Outback Guided Walk

National Park Centre Dunster
5th Apr 2023 11:00 am - 1:00 pm

stargazing Dark Skies Supper club

Exford Bridge Tearooms
18th May 2023 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Dark Skies Discovery Hub Stargazing Evening

Exford Bridge Tearooms Chapel Street Exford
30th Mar 2023 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm

stargazing Dark Skies Supper club

Exford Bridge Tearooms
25th May 2023 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Ashley Combe Landscape Restoration in Culbone Wood

Worthy Combe Toll Gate car park (£2 fee)
6th Oct 2023 10:00 am - 2:00 pm