I love the Valley of the Rocks.  It is majestic, with its cliffs confidently towering above the sea.   At the same time it has an intimacy with its natural amphitheatre and crevasses inviting visitors and pilgrims to sit and gaze. There is no logic in the rock formations unless the logic is that there is no logic.  The hills tumble into the sea which, through stealth and persistence, is claiming back what formerly belonged to it. The tide ebbs and flows. A lonely boat obeys the waves that hold it.  Feral goats, long-term residents of the Valley, hang precariously and inaccessibly from the rocks, surprising walkers along the narrow cliff path. The sun moves across the landscape creating its shadows.  And the world moves around it. 

The Valley of the Rocks is a place of inspiration and invitation. The recently formed  Pleasure Dome Theatre Company adds energy and imagination to the place with plays in the amphitheatre. It is a stunning location with the sound and sight of the evening sea adding even more drama. It was a joy to watch their adaptation of the novel Lorna Doone, whose author, R.D.Blackmore  spent his childhood nearby, fell in love with the area and located his book on Exmoor and in this place. 

Eighteenth century Poet Robert Southey describes the Valley as ‘rock reeling upon rock’, while, over one hundred years later poet Letitia Elizabeth Landon, experienced another side of the Valley, which for her was a ‘lone and barren place.’   

Courageous rock climbers are drawn to the Valley by another form of inspiration as they struggle to tame the jagged landscape.

Valley of the Rocks: place of majesty and intimacy and loneliness. Gazing at the scene reminds me that everything and everyone has a place in the family of things. The goats bring wealth with their presence and their foraging. The huge sea sustains the lonely boat, keeping it afloat. People, drawn to the Valley, have their souls and bodies exercised and fed. Experiencing drama in the amphitheatre,   the sun sinks into the sea leaving behind glimpses of transcendence.

Contemplating Exmoor – Gallery

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  1. Awe and terror! It was during a walk along the high, narrow path in this remarkable place over forty years ago with our then young children that my wife was suddenly unable to move. Neither forward nor back could she step, with a three-year-old strapped to her shoulders, an oblivious six-year-old skipping like a mountain coney and a husband stretched between fear and unforgivable impatience. How we managed to return to safety and composure I cannot now imagine, but ever since that dreadful moment, irrational though she knows it to be, my wife has been unable to venture to high places with precipitous drops. And what an acute deprivation that can be!

  2. Is this a bit further along the coast from Lee Abbey? Your reflection brought a number of visits either just with Becky or with a prayer group. We used to turn right coming out of the Abbey and go down to the sea, but that too was mesmeric, a place to just sit still and be. I wonder if the feelings that the Valley engenders – high up but looking down on the Sea – was reflected in the times we are told that Jesus went up into the hills on the other side of the Sea of Galilee to spend the night in prayer?

    1. Yes it is further along the coast from Lee Abbey. I had never made the link with the Sea of Galilee, but you are right. The sea and hills and the boat are reminiscent of the scene. Thanks for the thought.

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