Exmoor, England

Much of Lorna Doone is set in the villages and wild open places of Exmoor.

 

Exmoor Map
Public DomainExmoor Map

 

Exmoor spans the English counties of Somerset and Devon, from the Brendon Hills in the east to Combe Martin in the West.   Key towns and villages mentioned in the novel include Tiverton (where John attends school), Oare (the village closest to Plover's Barrows Farm, near Lynton), Dulverton (where Reuben and Ruth Huckaback live), and Porlock, from which John's father was returning when he was killed by the Doones. Tom Faggus is from North Molton.

Robbers Bridge, Doone Valley
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeRobbers Bridge, Doone Valley - Credit: Roger Gittins

John Ridd’s family farm, Plover’s Barrows, is located within the parish of Oare. It lies near Badgworthy Water, where it runs into the Lynn.  This places the farm near Malmsmead, close to the border between Devon and Somerset. 

Standing Stone above Badgworthy Water, Doone Valley
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeStanding Stone above Badgworthy Water, Doone Valley - Credit: Thor Beverley

Exmoor is characterised by wild heather moorland, ancient oak forest and dramatic coastlines.  Between Porlock and The Foreland, the forests reach all the way to the coastline.  Towering cliffs drop away to the sea far below, and the coast is made up of rocky headlands, ravines and waterfalls.

The Doones live in a remote and largely inaccessible valley, the Doone Glen.  The valley is about half a mile across, and surrounded by sheer black cliffs.  The cliffs are broken by two narrow clefts.  One of these is the Doone-gate, with a portcullis of rock above it, which is closely guarded by the Doones at all times.  The other is a tiny chasm created by the river, where the Badgworthy drops into the valley in a great waterfall, and tumbles into a swirling black pool below.  The Badgworthy river runs through the centre of the valley, and the area is green and beautiful.

While there is no exact equivalent of the fictional Doone Glen on Exmoor, the valley through which the Badgworthy flows has come to be known as Doone Valley, after the novel.

Exmoor's moors and glens are grazed by sheep and Devon cattle.  Wild Exmoor ponies roam freely on the moors, and red deer frequent the hillsides.

Exmoor was proclaimed a national park in 1954.

 

Exmoor ponies
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeExmoor ponies - Credit: Mark Robinson

 

 

Timeline of events: 1673 - 1685

1673

King Charles II of England
Public DomainKing Charles II of England - Credit: John Michael Wright (1617–1694)

Charles II is King of England. The Test Act is passed, preventing Catholics from holding public office.

John Ridd, aged 12, hears that his father has been murdered by the Doones

1675

Parliament refuses to vote funds for King Charles and is suspended after sitting for just nine weeks.

John, aged 14, visits Doone Valley for the first time

1679

King Charles dismisses and reconvenes 3 Parliaments over the Exclusion Crisis.

1682

John revisits Doone Valley and begins his courtship of Lorna

1683

Discovery of the Rye House plot to assassinate King Charles and his brother James. Executions of Lord Russell and Algernon Sidney.

John is summoned to London to appear before Judge Jeffreys

The Frost Fair on the River Thames 1684
Public DomainThe Frost Fair on the River Thames 1684 - Credit: Thomas Wyke

1684

England has its coldest winter in memory. The River Thames and the sea 2 miles off the coast freeze over

The countryside is awash with rumours of plots against King Charles. Jeremy Stickles arrives at Plover’s Barrows in service of the King.

Sir Ensor Doone dies. John is unable to visit Doone Valley for 3 months because of the extreme winter. Carver attempts to starve Lorna into marrying him. John rescues Lorna from Doone Valley on a snow sled. Jeremy Stickles leads an attack on Doone Valley which fails. Lorna’s identity is revealed and she is summoned to London to live with her guardian.

1685

King James II
Public DomainKing James II - Credit: National Portrait Gallery

Feb - James Stuart, Duke of York, becomes King James II of England

June – Monmouth Rebellion, James, Duke of Monmouth, illegitimate son of King Charles II raises an army and declares himself King.

July – Monmouth’s army defeated at Battle of Sedgemoor. Monmouth executed at Tower Hill.

John’s uncle and brother-in-law Tom Faggus fights on the side of Monmouth. John’s sister Annie begs him to save Tom. John rescues Tom, but is arrested. John is sent to London to be tried.

August – September – Judge Jeffreys holds the Bloody Assizes to try Monmouth’s supporters. 

John and Lorna are reunited.

John is made a knight by King James II.

Lorna secures permission to marry from Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys and the King

John leads a successful attack on Doone Valley; the Doones are defeated.

John and Lorna marry.