National Trust acquires part of Lorna Doone’s Exmoor

Cloud Farm from a distance.
Cloud Farm from a distance. Photo credit Mark Johnstone.

The National Trust has just announced its acquisition of a slice of Exmoor associated with fictional heroine Lorna Doone.  

The nine acre site near the Devon/Somerset border includes Lorna Doone Farm and the nearby Cloud Farm campsite. Both are situated in the heart of the wild Exmoor coastal landscape which inspired the much-loved novel by RD Blackmore, published in 1869.

Acquired before the coronavirus crisis for £1.5 million, completion took place before the lockdown significantly affected the Trust’s finances. It is likely to be the last acquisition the Trust is able to make for some time. It also comes at a point when the conservation charity’s aim of providing nature, beauty and history for everyone is more relevant than ever.

The Trust aims to improve the facilities and open up the site to encourage more people to enjoy and benefit from spending time in nature.

A place for people and nature

The setting is hugely popular for walking, riding and cycling and is well connected by public rights of way to other National Trust places. This includes Watersmeet (which has a very nice tea room!), a five-mile walk along the East Lyn river, which features heavily in the novel.

April Braund, Visitor Experience Manager for the National Trust said,

‘For those familiar with the book, RD Blackmore’s descriptions of the Exmoor landscapes of rolling hills and deep wooded valleys are at the heart of the site. Visitors will have plenty to see. We are hoping that by making this beautiful spot more accessible, we can encourage more people to connect with nature.’

The Trust already cares for wildlife in the area including beavers and water voles on the nearby Holnicote estate.  It has also successfully enticed the UK’s most endangered butterfly, the high brown fritillary, back to the landscape.

Kev Davies, Lead Ranger for the area said,

‘Britain’s wildlife is in trouble, with 41 per cent of species in decline. We want to help reverse the decline in wildlife on land in our care.
The countryside in and around the Lorna Doone valley is a great place for seeing wildlife. There’s red deer at Watersmeet, peregrines, ancient oaks and, further afield on the Holnicote Estate, beavers and water voles.’

Settings that inspired the novel

Scenes from the book that can be visited nearby include:

  • Badgworthy, the fictional home of the Doone’s. It is now a ruined settlement thought to date from the 12th Century. In the book it was where the Doone’s stone huts were “built on the banks of this river.”
  • Malmsmead, a hamlet at the entrance to Doone valley, which has a picturesque 17th Century stone bridge and ford over the river.

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