Days out at Exmoor's Snowdrop Valley
HE appearance of snowdrops pushing their dainty heads through the earth, brings with it a surge of optimism that winter's short grey days will soon be brightening and opening out. In February there will be a chance to catch these popular heralds of spring at a special viewing place on Exmoor.
Great swathes of the pretty, white bells, which litter our woodlands and dot their miniature magic through our gardens and hedgerows, can be found in a sheltered corner of the Avill Valley in Exmoor.
Once a secret only known to locals, this floral extravaganza has begun to attract visitors from all over the UK.
Walkers need to allow at least one and a half hours and wear waterproof footwear to complete the specially marked scenic walking route from Wheddon Cross, although there are a selection of longer routes available for keen ramblers.
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Park and Ride buses also depart regularly from Wheddon Cross car park in the centre of the village.
"We hope that we offer something for all our visitors," says co-ordinator Nic Wigley. "Everyone gets to walk among the snowdrops, but there is the option of either the bus or the footpath to get down to the valley and back. We are delighted that we are able to offer the Tramper scooters for the first time this year too."
The availability of the Tramper all-terrain mobility scooters now opens up the main footpath for those who have difficulty walking.
West Somerset Railway is also offering the opportunity to combine a steam train and coach journey to see the spring flowers. Take a steam train from Bishops Lydeard Station to Dunster and then hop on a coach for an Exmoor journey to Snowdrop Valley. Once there you can either take the optional bus tour or enjoy a bracing walk through the valley.
Refreshments are available at Snowdrop Café in Moorland Hall, which will be manned by local volunteers and charities. Wheddon Cross also has an inn and tearooms. A new line of souvenir merchandise is being designed locally by Exmoor artist and pyrographer Janina Tonks (www.vividdove.com) and will be available to buy in the village.
Snowdrop Valley on Exmoor is best viewed from Saturday, February 2 to Sunday, February 24. For details of the railway route visit www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk
There are also details at www.wheddoncross.org.uk on things to see and do.
Accommodation in Exmoor, Quantocks and the West Somerset Coast area can be found at www.Visit-Exmoor.co.uk
Staff from Countryside Mobility South West will be running two guided Snowdrop Valley trips per day. The route is bumpy and steep in places but Tramper training will be provided before each trip. Trips will run at 11am and 1.30pm on February 5, 12 and 19 from the Exmoor village of Wheddon Cross. (booking essential on 01392 459222 or e-mail info@countrysidemob ility.org).