Jeremy Walker reveals how to get the best from Porlock Weir, one of the most picturesque hamlets on Exmoor, Somerset
Nestled at the foot of Exmoor, Porlock Weir is about one and a half miles along the west Somerset coast from its slightly bigger neighbour of Porlock, famous for its steep, tight, twisting hill leading up to the moor. Porlock Weir is one of the most picturesque hamlets on Exmoor and has a small working harbour surrounded by a pub, hotel, café and a few picturesque cottages. It is a short walk to England’s ‘smallest parish church’ at Culbone, which for a brief time was also a leper colony, and the area is steeped in stories of smuggling and shipwrecks.
Porlock Weir is reached via the A39, turning in Porlock onto the B3225 towards West Porlock. You keep going along typically narrow West Country lanes until you run out of road, where you will find a pay-and-display car park for about 30 cars right next to the harbour.
Several footpaths lead off from the weir onto the moor. There’s a great walk to be had through Worthy Wood, and the South West Coast Path runs right through it, but the main attraction for landscape photographers is the quaint harbour and pebble beach.
Time to visit
For me, photographically, the beach is the star attraction. It is a pebbly beach but one that is interspersed with old and failing wooden groynes – a joy for those who like to play with long exposures.
Starting right next to the harbour entrance and accessed over a metal walkway and narrow path, there are plenty of weather-beaten wooden stakes with pebbles piled high, and an uprooted wartime pillbox. On the Porlock Beach side of the harbour, and accessed directly from the car park, the pebbles continue for a long way, but there are wooden posts and groynes dotted all along the beach and it is well worth the effort to navigate the pebbles in search of a shot.
Porlock Weir is an all-year-round location, although if you want direct sunlight at sunrise you will have to be up early as this will only happen in the summer months. I don’t think the sunset makes its way round to the village because it is obscured by a hill. So early starts it is, then!
Food and lodging
Millers At The Anchor is an antique-stuffed curio of a hotel that does seem to get good reviews, although I have never stayed there myself. I have, however, eaten at The Bottom Ship, a charming low-roof thatched pub with an open fireplace.
My personal favourite eating establishment in the area is The Culbone, a restaurant with rooms. The food is stunning, the bedrooms are very comfortable and it is just four miles from Porlock Bay. There are also several B&Bs, and one or two cafés in Porlock, so the area offers something for all budgets.
With a location like this, turning up 20 minutes late could find your location underwater, so planning is critical. Tide times are readily available from the internet, but I use Tide Times (www.tidetimes.org.uk/porlock-bay-tide-times).
ND filters and tripod
If you are going to try to shoot on the beach, a few neutral density filters will be very useful, such as Lee Filters’ 10-stop Big Stopper or its new 15-stop Super Stopper, which will allow for long exposures even in the middle of a sunny day. A good tripod is also a must.
Chamois leather cloth Having a chamois leather cloth handy to keep sea air, spray and salt off your camera is always a good idea when you are shooting near the coast. Protecting your camera is incredibly important when there is salt water around.
Jeremy Walker is an award-winning professional photographer and Nikon Ambassador, specialising in high-quality landscape photography. Visit www.jeremywalker.co.uk