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Exmoor National Park farming history

Here on Exmoor National Park, we’re incredibly proud of our farming heritage. Long before Exmoor became a National Park in 1954, farmers were shaping the landscape you can see today. Gradually the practice created a unique mosaic of high moorland, wooded combes (valleys) and interlinking farmland.

For centuries a large area at the centre of what is now Exmoor was reserved as a Royal Forest, or hunting ground. This area was surrounded by manors and then parishes.

Exmoor National Park climate

Even today, Exmoor is predominantly rural, and farming is vital to its economy. With its harsh climate and difficult terrain, the majority of the land is best suited to livestock production. Several local breeds exist. Notably the Exmoor pony, Red Ruby Devon cattle and Exmoor Horn sheep. Hardy and resourceful (like the farmers who breed them!), they are ideally suited to the Exmoor environment.

Exmoor National Park pedigree

Modern agricultural techniques have made it possible to keep more commercial lowland and continental breeds here. Fortunately, however, the 150 or so members of the Exmoor Horn Sheep Breeders’ Society, whose flocks range in size from a handful of ewes to over a thousand, have ensured the survival of “Hornies”, and the continuation of pedigree bloodlines.

At 693 square kilometres (267 square metres) Exmoor is one of the smallest of the United Kingdom’s 15 National Parks. It is situated in the southwest of England. Mostly in Somerset and partly in Devon. It has a spectacular coastline on its northern boundary.

Exmoor National Park environment

Like all our National Parks, most of Exmoor isn’t owned by the nation.  About 75% of its land is in private ownership. The rest is owned by several organisations, including the National Trust (10%) and the Exmoor National Park Authority (7%). Exmoor is neither a complete wilderness nor a theme park. It is a working environment and home to around 11,000 people. Exmoor is one of Britain’s best-kept secrets. It has fewer tourists than any other National Park. With no main line railways, motorways or airports nearby, it takes a bit of effort to get here. But it’s definitely worth it!

Why not visit us and see for yourself?