In the know: The Exmoor stage

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Minehead: The big hill

Here’s an object-lesson in not making assumptions about place-names. The town was never the seat of some imagined ancient lead- or silver-mining operation. Possibly its name derives from an old English word for hill – similar to the Welsh Mynydd or Mynedd. Anyone who has ever stood to the east and looked at the dominating outline of North Hill on the skyline, as Exmoor rears up out of the gentle sands of west Somerset, can understand exactly why it should be named so. However, another theory is that an early resident, William de Mohun (or Moyon) of Dunster, supplied its name. In earlier centuries the sea came considerably further inland than it presently does, and there is evidence of submerged forests to be found all round the bottom of North Hill. Modern-day Minehead spans three earlier settlements that were known as Higher Town (the picturesque cottages around the church), Middle and Lower Town (the modern resort) and Quay Town (around the harbour).

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Burgundy Chapel

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Porlock Shingle Ridge

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Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway

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Lynton and Barnstaple Railway

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Valley of the Rocks

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Lorna Doone

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Romans in the south-west

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Hunting the Earl of Rone

The hunting of the Earl of Rone is a folk festival taking place every year in Combe Martin on the Spring Bank Holiday, having been revived in recent years. It generally takes the village the best part of four days to catch the Earl once he is at large; he usually goes to ground in Lady Wood at the top of the village before being captured by costumed soldiery, made to sit backwards on a donkey and thrown in the sea. But, before you start to feel too sorry for him, he does get to visit all six pubs on the two-mile route along the country’s longest village high street. We were lucky enough to be in the village to witness the 1997 festival.

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Our photos from 1997

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    Harold goes hiking

Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow - Thoreau