Photographer Alex Walton explores Mutter’s Moor

A stunning view across to High Peak. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

A stunning view across to High Peak. Picture: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Archant

Alex Walton takes a photographic tour of Mutter’s Moor for the Sidmouth Resident magazine.

I arrived at the car park on a sunny, yet very blustery, afternoon. Having pulled my walking boots on and applied my sunscreen, I began readying my camera equipment before heading off towards the heathland.

Colourful foxgloves. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

Colourful foxgloves. Picture: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Archant

I had initially thought that there would be lots of wildlife to photograph and I had high hopes of spotting a lizard or an adder basking in the sun.

The heath looks empty at first glance. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

The heath looks empty at first glance. Picture: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Archant

However, having explored the area for about an hour, and only coming away with a few decent pictures, I became somewhat disillusioned.

Finding a path. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

Finding a path. Picture: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Archant

I felt that the land was barren, flat, and unexciting; I hadn’t so much as even glimpsed a bee! Two hours into my trek I’d had enough and began retracing my steps back to my car. There was just one problem, I was lost!

A red admiral butterfly basks in the sun. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

A red admiral butterfly basks in the sun. Picture: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Archant


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I tried in vain for another hour or so to find my way back. The sat-nav on my phone was useless as I was out of signal. Luckily, though, there was plenty of light left before nightfall.

Purple heather sprouting through. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

Purple heather sprouting through. Picture: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Archant

But I was tired and downbeat; I must have walked for what seemed like an age in the wrong direction with heavy camera equipment on my back, trying to locate the car park.

A splash of colour in a sea of green. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

A splash of colour in a sea of green. Picture: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Archant

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Exhausted, I finally came to the edge of Mutter’s Moor, and that is where I found my inspiration again. Lofty trees stood like sentinels as if protecting the land within.

A crop of foxgloves in the middle of the moor. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

A crop of foxgloves in the middle of the moor. Picture: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Archant

On the other side of this tree line was a breathtaking view overlooking the Otter Valley. I took a breather and sat on a tree stump, sipping my water bottle and looking around with renewed interest. From my low viewpoint I had a closer inspection of my surroundings. I noticed clumps of heather with vibrant fresh flowers playing host to sprawling cobwebs – I watched, fascinated, as a spider cocooned a bee with its silk. I saw that young saplings had sprouted through toppled firs, which had fallen victim to past storms. I also managed to spot a lizard lying on a dirt track; however, flies were covering it as the reptile had sadly succumbed to an attack from a predator. On reflection, what struck me was how life and death goes hand in hand in this harsh environment.

A green hairstreak butterfly having a respite. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

A green hairstreak butterfly having a respite. Picture: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Archant

From my vantage point, I noticed in the distance a familiar sight – High Peak hill, I had found my bearings. I followed my new path, keeping the line of trees to my right.

A bee seeks out nectar from a clump of foxgloves. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

A bee seeks out nectar from a clump of foxgloves. Picture: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Archant

The recent glorious weather had cracked the exposed track, yet in shady spots small muddy pools of water could be found. I often like photographing the reflections seen in puddles, which act like a mirror.

Reflections in a puddle. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

Reflections in a puddle. Picture: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Archant

The path swept around a bend where a well-placed bench provided a welcome respite and a beautiful vista of High Peak. It was easy to picture the Revenue men from years gone by keeping watch over the coastline for smugglers, such as Abraham Mutter, who the moor is likely named after.

Cracked earth from recent dry weather creates interesting patterns. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

Cracked earth from recent dry weather creates interesting patterns. Picture: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Archant

I rejoined my path and it wasn’t long before I found a gathering of tall foxgloves, which was attracting a number of bees and other insects hunting for nectar. I spent a while here, using my close-up lens in an attempt to freeze a bee in flight.

Tall trees stand like sentinels in the wooded patches of the moor. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

Tall trees stand like sentinels in the wooded patches of the moor. Picture: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Archant

Eventually, I found the car park and climbed into my car where I reflected on my adventure around Mutter’s Moor. My initial impression was a barren expanse of land covered with prickly gorse bushes and not a lot else. But on closer inspection I found the pebblebed heath to be a place of reflection and hidden wonders. I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes you need to be lost to find what you are looking for.

Young trees growing next to fallen ones are a common sight. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

Young trees growing next to fallen ones are a common sight. Picture: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Archant

Winding tracks criss-cross the heathland. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

Winding tracks criss-cross the heathland. Picture: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Archant

Glorious green trees line the path to the moorland. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

Glorious green trees line the path to the moorland. Picture: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Archant

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