Sir Thomas Acland was from home, but he had kindly arranged that his agent should show us round the great property of 10,000 acres on Exmoor that with the concurrence of his heirs, he had leased as a gift to the National Trust for a period of 550 years.  On a cool June morning, bright after heavy rain, we found ourselves glad to escape from the tourist atmosphere of Minehead, and walking through crystal air, scented with honeysuckle, up the long incline that leads out of Minehead towards Porlock. (p. 100)….

“I think,” said the agent, “the best way to get a general idea of the property in this neighbourhood will be to take ponies and visit the North Hill first, then cross the valley by Allerford, and pass up the Horner vale to Cloutsham.  The roads are steep, and we shall probably not go at more than a walking pace, but we shall be able to do the round in four and a half hours.” (p. 102)

We gladly assented.  The ponies arrived, and away we went to Budleigh Hill.  Then turning from the main road due north, we ascended by a steep lane that allowed us sight of the most picturesque cottages we had seen, with their tall cylindrical chimneys, and their gable ends set at many angles, all marvellously thatched, snug and happy in their garden grounds.  We saw many houses that day upon the Holnicote estate, and not one of them, whether roofed with the  brown Bridgwater or Staffordshire tiling, or thatched with local straw, but made us feel that an artist had planned it and would wish to have the chance of drawing it. (p. 102)

It was clear that the Lord of the Manor cared not only for the lives of his tenants, but for the beauty of their surroundings.  We could not help thinking that the thatched roofing of his own Holnicote, which we saw later in the day, was but a sign of his sympathy with the dwellers in “huts where poor men lie.” (pp. 102-103)

On our right hand stood Selworthy church and vicarage, and close to the roadway the buttressed walls of an old fourteenth-century tithe-barn shut the view.  Upward we went towards the open moorland, saw the memorial hut in which Lady Acland delights to enjoy the mountain air, and above it the Bury Castle or earthwork of the aboriginal British times.  Away at the head of the Coombe, still black from the fire that took place there last year, we saw such a sight of foxglove multitude as we had never before beheld.  The grass had been burnt here, and the result of the fire was this magnificent display of foxglove beauty.  We went on through fern and heather till we reached the upper down, covered with broom and fescue-grass that shimmered in the wind.  Tough feeding this, and only the older sheep can tackle it.  Gulls wheeled overhead, and higher still we went northward toward the sea. (p. 103)

Going forward still farther, we came to the boundary of the National Trust estate, the East and West Myne farmland enclosures.  We did not descend to the cliff edge, which here falls precipitously to the sea, but we got a fine view of Bossington Ball, which is part of the National Trust property to the west, with the Countisbury foreland beyond.  Then turning backward, we made our way through moorland heather towards Selworthy Wood, getting a noble view of the Holnicote vale, with the green wooded Horner valley passing up into the folds of the hills beyond it, and Luccombe Hill, reaching up to Cloutsham Ball, beneath the top of Dunkery Beacon. (pp. 103-104)

The National Trust property, we knew, stopped short of the top of the Dunkery Beacon, which is the commanding feature to the south; but we knew also that whilst we were now on a stretch of National Trust property of North Hill, which extended to 1,500 acres, there on Luccombe Hill and Cloutsham was acreage which, including the Horner valley and stretching as far as Stoke Pero, must include something like 5,000 acres more. (p. 104)

We passed steeply down the Holnicote glen through Selworthy Forest, filled with silver fir, spruce, Douglas pine, and Scotch fir, chestnuts, and Wellingtonia, planted by the grandfather of the present owner, and apparently left almost untouched by the woodman’s axe ever since they were planted.  Carefully made grassy rides passed off left and right of the main track.  We were told that in this single wood alone these paths extended for a stretch of twenty-six miles, and when we saw their number we could well believe it.  What delightful wander-ground on a hot summer day would this cool woodland give to far-off generations! (pp. 104-105)

We dropped down a thousand feet to a little land bowered to heaven by hazels, and thence along to Allerford, and could hardly pass through the ford for the beauty of the cottage and its ample porch, under which access was given to the hump-backed narrow stone bridge beside the ford.  All the houses were covered with roses, and garden grounds were gay with stocks and snap-dragons.  We gained the elm-shaped main road to Porlock, then turned sharply to the left up the Horner land, which led us by picturesque cottages to the entrance of the Horner valley, and wound up this valley by the side of a stream for a mile. (p. 105)

We have seen many wooded valleys, but nothing more beautiful than this Horner vale.  The peculiar feature of the woodland seemed the walnut trees, and my friend pointed out to me the slits in the bark of these trees, made by the frost two winters ago, that must have gone near to killing them.  Fortunately they survived, and the scent of their foliage in the hot sunshine filled the air. (p. 105)

At the end of a mile or so we crossed the stream, and turning in the direction of Cloutsham began so steep an ascent that we were forced to dismount and lead our horses.  We gained the top of the ascent and looked down on Priest’s Wood and Priest’s Way, Parson’s Wood and East-water;  then, turning backward, saw the glorious woodland of the Horner valley streaming down from the far hills, and the Prickslade and Stoke Pero combes in flood of shadowy emerald.  At last we reached that famous hunting centre, the Cloutsham farm.  Burnt down two years ago, it has been rebuilt with admirable taste, and though we missed the old oak panelling, we found it panelled throughout with cedar and walnut from the estate, and still in the kitchen, with its huge open fire-place, stood the old settle and the Tudor table that had shown hospitality to the multitude of huntsmen who have rested here. (pp. 105-106)

(A Nation’s Heritage, pp. 100-108)