Exmoor attracts the adventurous. I was intrigued by these cyclists going into the mist and wondered whether they were aware of the steep and hazardous descent ahead of them. I suspect they were not concerned: the adventure was everything. One of the joys of living here is to see young and old pit themselves against the elements. There are mountain and trail bikers on the tracks, walkers and runners in the hills, women and men fishing in lakes and rivers, swimmers and surfers in the sea, paragliders in the sky and climbers on the rocks. It is a place where young people tramp and camp as they undertake their Duke of Edinburgh Awards. Exmoor is a paradise for those who seek risk, challenge and uncertainty. It is a place of refreshment and self-discovery.
Risk-taking and challenge are sewn into the fabric of Exmoor which is dependent upon the health and well-being of its land and environment. Farmers depend upon the weather for the health of their crops and animals. The tourist industry depends upon the well-being of the environment to encourage visitors. Many businesses depend upon visitors in order to supply and maintain local industry. But there is a fragility in this line of dependency which creates risk and uncertainty which can be hard to carry.
As much as society seeks to reduce and avoid it, risk-taking is an important part of life. Without risk Ada Lovelace (nineteenth century resident of Exmoor) would not have developed the first computer programme and Ranulph Fiennes (current resident of Exmoor) would not have trekked to both the South and North Poles.
We may not be called to such dramatic risks, but there are times when, like the adventurers who come to Exmoor, we may need to make leaps and turn corners not knowing where we will end up. American poet Mary Oliver challenges us with words from her poem ‘The Summer Day’:
‘Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last,
and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’
It is never too late.
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