Part of the wild Exmoor landscape which inspired the 1869 novel Lorna Doone by RD Blackmore has been bought by the National Trust.
The 3.6 hectare, or nine-acre, site was acquired for £1.5m shortly before coronavirus lockdown measures were introduced.
It is likely to be the charity’s last acquisition for “quite some time” as the lockdown has significantly affected its finances, with an estimated £200m loss of income this year, a spokeswoman said.
The site includes Lorna Doone Farm and the nearby Cloud Farm campsite in the Exmoor coastal landscape that inspired the novel.
In the book, Blackmore described the deep green valley “carved from out the mountains in a perfect oval” and wooded hills “swept up to the sky-line” as well as a river “gilded out from underground with a soft, dark babble”.
April Braund, visitor experience manager for the National Trust, said the landscape featured in Lorna Doone was at the “heart of the site”.
“We are hoping that by making this beautiful spot more accessible, we can encourage more people to connect with nature,” she said.
The National Trust will improve facilities, such as a tearoom, holiday accommodation and campsite, car park and public toilets. Public rights of way connect it to other National Trust places including Watersmeet, a five-mile walk along the East Lyn river, which features heavily in the novel.
The charity already cares for wildlife in the area including beavers and water voles on the nearby Holnicote Estate and has worked to entice the high brown fritillary and dark green fritillary butterflies back to the landscape.
Kev Davies, lead ranger for the area, said 41% of species in Britain are in decline and the trust is keen to reverse that on its land.
“The countryside in and around the Lorna Doone valley is a great place for seeing wildlife,” Mr Davies said. “There’s red deer at Watersmeet, peregrines, ancient oaks and further afield on the Holnicote Estate, beavers and water voles.”
The 150th anniversary of the publication of Lorna Doone was celebrated across Exmoor last year.
Blackmore’s romance novel has never been out of print and has inspired films, TV series, songs and even a shortbread biscuit.
Rob Joules, general manager for the north Devon coast and countryside, said the National Trust’s acquisition of the site would ensure its future.
“Every penny donated or spent on site will be reinvested on our land in the area, helping nature thrive and adding to the enjoyment of people,” Mr Joules said.
“It’s great that visitors will be able to stay in this landscape and able to get active in the outdoors by walking along the river, up on the moor or down to the sea along the South West Coast Path.
“By diversifying our income streams on this part of Exmoor we will be able to increase the funds we spend improving access, creating amazing outdoor experiences and space for nature to thrive.”