All posts by Naomi Cudmore

Editor and designer for the magazine, Naomi has lived in and around Exmoor since 1979. She spent most of her childhood in Nettlecombe parish, went to school at Minehead Middle and the West Somerset Community College and studied English Literature at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. She worked in publishing for ten years after graduating in 1996, then took a break when she left her role as Commissioning Editor in 2004 to sail around the world, during which she was an on-board writer and the racing team's 'media person' for ten months. Afterwards she set up on her own (she runs www.lighthousecommunications.co.uk), before taking on the editorship of Exmoor Magazine in 2008 and buying the business with colleagues in 2010. She lives near Washford with her partner Pete and an extremely lazy 'editor's cat', Turtle, who makes guest appearances on our Facebook page from time to time. She spends most of her spare time gig rowing at Appledore.

ANDREA OKE BEGINS ARTIST RESIDENCY AT HALSWAY

Somerset Arts Works, in partnership with Halsway Manor, are pleased to announce a new and final Somerset Art Works commission as part of ‘A Landscape of Objects’ funded by Arts Council England.

Somerset visual artist Andrea Oke will take up a residency at Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, deep in West Somerset. With parts of the building dating from the 15th century and with a mention in the Domesday book, Halsway Manor is imbued with a rich folk heritage that encompasses dragons, devils, murder and Odin’s ghostly blacksmith. Yet much of this folk history is now forgotten creating a borderland of shadows and concealments. Through the combination of traditional craft and digital media Andrea will reanimate Halsway Manor’s landscape by exploring some of the forgotten people and the stories that shaped the bedrock of this place.

In the ‘Shadowland Project’ Andrea says “By creating a visual landscape of folklore and placing Halsway at its centre I hope to start new conversations that prevent both the stories and the storytellers from being lost to us forever.”

During the project Andrea will be researching the folklore and history of Halsway and its immediate surroundings, utilising resources from within Halsway’s library collection and Somerset’s Heritage Centre, as well as talking to people and visiting local sites. The research will inspire and inform a pop-up exhibition of original artwork at Halsway Manor that can be visited as part of Somerset Open Studios (Thu 27 – Sun 30 September, 10am – 5pm. Admission free). There will also be opportunities to meet the artist (Sat 29 September, 2pm) and participate in family friendly workshops (Sun 30 September, 10am-12noon and 2-4pm. £10 per family. Places should be booked in advance via Halsway Manor – 01984 618274).

Crispian Cook, Chief Executive of Halsway Manor said “We are delighted to be hosting Andrea Oke here as Artist in Residence. It is particularly exciting that she is here at a time when we are undergoing changes with our restoration project and widening our creative engagement. Andrea’s work here will enrich what we are doing and provide a wonderful chance for members of the public to experience an artist at work during Somerset Open Studios 2018.”

Andrea is keeping a blog throughout her residency, visit shadowlandproject.wordpress.com to follow her progress.

Shadowland Project is the final commission of Somerset Art Works project A Landscape of Objects, funded by Arts Council England. A Landscape of Objects has consisted of a series of site-specific commissions, residencies, bursaries and curated shows, including new work from local to international artists, during 2017-18. This is a major artistic programme by SAW to encourage research by artists into the spirit of the place, local identity and rural context in the making and presenting of contemporary arts and craft, investigating innovative and imaginative uses of important man-made landscapes and our relationship to them.

NATURALLY HEALTHY MONTH

Exmoor National Park are hosting a free event in Minehead at the end of May to inspire us all to boost our health and wellbeing by getting outside in the beautiful countryside in and around Exmoor.

Taking place at Blenheim Gardens and Minehead Beach on Saturday 26 May 2018 (11am-5pm), the event forms part of a month-long festival across Somerset and Devon for ‘Naturally Healthy Month’ throughout May.

Active Devon and Public Health in Somerset are coordinating the Naturally Healthy Campaign on behalf of the Devon and Somerset Local Nature Partnership’s, with support from the Wildlife Trust and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Somerset. Over thirty organisations have now signed up, with more than 100 events planned – the vast majority of them free of charge – covering all five districts of Somerset.

Naturally Healthy Minehead coordinator Lucy McQuillan, from Exmoor National Park Authority, said, “This is a brand new event, celebrating just some of the ways that you can enjoy the beautiful countryside around Minehead and Exmoor National Park.

“Naturally Healthy Minehead is about giving people the chance to try something new – whether it’s yoga, Nordic walking, mindfulness, games on the beach, short guided walks, golf, boules, crafts or learning about Exmoor bogs! Whatever you fancy, it’s the perfect opportunity to step outside and let nature nurture.”

Tim Braund, head of information and communication at Exmoor National Park, said: “Research shows that connecting with nature can have a positive impact on people’s physical and mental health and sense of wellbeing. Being outside has even been linked to improved heart health, through increased activity and reduced stress and anxiety, so for some it can be a genuine lifeline.

“We would love people living in Somerset to get behind Naturally Healthy Month by sharing their experiences on social media using the hashtags #letnaturenuture and #stepoutside, and by letting friends and family know about the wonderful programme of events happening right here on their doorstep.”

A full list of the events across Somerset can found on the Somerset Local Nature Partnership website www.slnp.org.uk.

PHOTO: Taken at Valley of Rocks.

VOLUNTEERS FLOCK TO HELP REVAMP HISTORIC EXMOOR SIGNPOSTS

Volunteers from across Exmoor and West Somerset have succeeded in restoring over 60 of the region’s iconic fingerpost signs, as part of a project led by Exmoor National Park Authority to record, refurbish and uncover their story.

Now, one year into the two-year project, support has been pouring in from local communities keen to ensure these iconic landmarks aren’t lost and over 100 volunteers have been recruited.

The project, which has funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Exmoor National Park Authority and Somerset County Council, was kick-started when local communities and parish councillors expressed concern to Exmoor National Park over the future of their signposts.

Volunteers undertake health and safety training before getting on with the job of cleaning and painting the signposts. Local contractors have been brought in to make repairs that are more complicated and refurbish those close to busy roads.

Exmoor National Park’s Charlotte Thomas, who is leading the project, said: “The interest we’ve had from local communities has been just fantastic. We have teams of volunteers all over the project area who are helping out. There is even a group in Minehead who are a roving team and have helped refurbish signposts in neighbouring parishes. Others have kindly let me know when they have found broken fingers and we have been able to use local contractors to fix them. It just goes to show the important role these signposts play in the personal and regional history of Exmoor.”

If you’ve spotted numerous signposts along the A39 towards Minehead going white, it’s because Mike Neville and Stuart Lawrence, two volunteers from Minehead, have been busy working with others to restore them back to their former glory. Mike said: “I got involved with the project because I wanted to make a difference in my local community and I’d noticed the signs starting to look scruffy. It’s really satisfying seeing them looking all pristine by the side of the road and good to know you’ve done your bit in restoring a local heirloom. I’ve even made a few friends along the way!”

People are now being asked to submit old photographs and anecdotes of the signs to try and piece together each one’s unique history. Charlotte is working with Dr Helen Blackman from the Exmoor Society and is particularly interested in any photos of signposts that might provide clues about their true age.

Anyone interested in volunteering or finding out more can contact Charlotte at cthomas@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk or on 01398 322259.

BIG ADVENTURES ON EXMOOR THIS HALF TERM

Families looking for a Big Adventure on Exmoor over half term are in luck. The next of Exmoor National Park’s highly popular Big Adventure Days is at Nutcombe Bottom near Dunster (TA24 6TA) on Wednesday 30 May from 10am–4pm. There will be a host of free outdoor activities encouraging families to discover and explore the natural world.

Activities will run throughout the day, including den building, woodland games, forest skills, campfire bread making, wild food talks, our barefoot walking challenge and much more. There’s also an adventure playground, picnic area, toilet facilities and the Tall Trees Trail. The event is free, but donations to Caremoor for Exmoor are welcome from those who have enjoyed their day.

Adam Vasey, Exmoor National Park Ranger, said, “This is an event for the whole family to get back to nature. We’ve got some great activities lined up, especially now that the Forestry Commission are joining us to share how they help look after this very special woodland – home to Britain’s tallest tree. There’s no need to book and everyone is welcome, so grab a picnic and join us for a wild day out!”

Later in half term, Exmoor National Park will also be holding its first Big Adventure Family Campout of the year at Wimbleball Lake (TA22 9NU), from Friday 1 June to Sunday 3 June.

The site opens from 4pm for people to set up camp, with activities starting from 6pm. Tents will need to be down by 11am on the Sunday.

Patrick Watt-Mabbott, Exmoor National Park’s Volunteering and Outreach Officer, said: “Our Family Campouts are really great value and are ideal for first timers or those who haven’t camped with children before. We’ll have a campfire on Saturday night, with some story-telling and then a night walk, so the kids really will have something exciting to talk about when they head back to school on Monday!”

Charge: Family Ticket (2 adults, 2 children) £30/night. Additional adult £10/night, additional children £5/night. Booking is essential online at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/big-adventures-and-family-events

BARNSTAPLE’S ANNUAL BLAST OF SMALL-SCALE THEATRE FUN IS BACK AND BIGGER THAN EVER

The countdown has begun and very soon Fringe TheatreFest will be back in Barnstaple animating venues across the town in a riot of theatre, dance and live performance. Featuring over 60 shows from across the UK, from Thursday 30 June until Sunday 1 July, TheatreFest has been boosted this year by a very welcome grant from North Devon TAP Funding. The grant of £2,605.73 will be helping to kit out some exciting new venues including The Castle Centre and The Southgate who are coming on board for the first time in 2018.

Fringe Theatrefest Artistic Directors, Bill Buffery and Gill Nathanson, are delighted with the way this year’s festival is taking shape. Gill says, “The tap funding couldn’t have come at a better time with these new Fringe venues. Both spaces need complete kitting out to make them perfect for Fringe audiences to enjoy the fantastic programme that we have on offer this year.”

The full line-up for inside shows on offer at Fringe TheatreFest 2018 can be viewed online at www.theatrefest.co.uk.

Tickets will be on sale online via the website from 1 June.

WEST SOMERSET COUNCIL JOINS DEMENTIA ALLIANCE

West Somerset Council has officially joined Watchet area Dementia Action Alliance (WDAA) as part of its commitment to being a “dementia-friendly” organisation.

Cllr Keith Turner, the Lead Member for Housing, Health and Wellbeing, is the council’s representative on the group.

West Somerset Council fully supports WDAA and the organisation’s work locally in transforming the health for people living with dementia through community action.

Cllr Turner said: “I am proud the council is now a member of this local organisation – one that is making a real difference to people’s lives. Support networks are vital for those with dementia, their families and carers and helps people maintain that all-important independence for longer.

“I was pleased to attend WDAA’s annual general meeting this week and see for myself the tremendous amount of work that volunteers are doing.”

Margaret Tatham (WDAA lead) said: “We are delighted that West Somerset Council has joined the Alliance, which now has 45 members across Watchet, Williton and nearby villages, all helping to make our area more Dementia Friendly.”

The council became a dementia-friendly organisation four years ago with staff undergoing awareness training with some going on to become ‘dementia champions’.

Staff are planning to raise funds for Reminiscence Learning, the dementia charity, during National Dementia Awareness Week (May 21-27).

PHOTO:  (L-R): Cllr Dave Westcott, Lead Member for Community and Customer, Cllr Keith Turner and WADAA chair Margaret Tatham.

EXMOOR SOCIETY: EXMOOR YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR’S AWARD 2018

The 2018 Pinnacle Award, organised by The Exmoor Society, is open to young people aged between 18 and 27 who live, work or study in the Greater Exmoor area. It offers £3,000 to an individual or group who have a business start-up or development plan. Six years ago, The Exmoor Society set up the Award to support young entrepreneurs who wish to stay working on Exmoor, particularly within farming and land-based development, but not exclusively.

As a conservation body, The Exmoor Society fully recognises the importance of providing opportunities for young people to remain on the moor when they enter the world of work. “The Society wants to show that beautiful landscapes and livelihoods can go together by supporting the younger generation, the very essence of keeping Exmoor alive as a national park,” said Rachel Thomas, Chairman.

Previous applications have come from people with ideas as diverse as making cider and developing a herd of pedigree cattle. Winners so far have included young people setting up their own agricultural contracting businesses, entrepreneurs in a country clothing business, low-impact forestry services and a worker in traditional ironwork who wanted to branch out into steel fabrication to meet the demands of the modern market. Last year’s winner, Nick Hosegood, an arborist from Luxborough, is using the award to offer a portable milling service for Exmoor-grown timber.

The Society hopes to attract many entries for the award this year which has a closing date of 30 June 2018. Application forms are available from The Exmoor Society’s office in Dulverton, telephone 01398 323335 and on its website: www.exmoorsociety.com.

PHOTO: Previous winners include Matt Sharp (2015).

EXMOOR’S DARK SKIES FESTIVAL SET TO RETURN

Exmoor Dark Skies Festival 2018 will be returning this year with a two-week long programme of events from 20th October – 4th November aimed at inspiring young and old about the wonders of the night sky.

Exmoor is one of only a handful of internationally accredited Dark Sky Reserves, making it one of the best places in the world for stargazing. It means that the amount of light pollution within and around the National Park is tightly controlled, ensuring that the beauty of the night sky can be experienced to its full.

Events will take place across Exmoor suited to beginners and families, as well as those more experienced in astronomy. The line-up so far includes a fun family Astro Party at Wimbleball Lake, a mobile planetarium offering an immersive 360 degree experience of the solar system, a night walk during the exciting Orionid meteor shower, during which up to 20 meteors an hour may be visible, as well as traditional stargazing and astronomy talks. And, for the more adventurous, there’ll be night time outdoor pursuits, such as night-navigation walks guided by National Park Rangers, night swimming and mountain-biking.

After many events sold out last year, Exmoor National Park Authority will be organising this year’s Festival over two weeks, giving everyone the chance to get involved regardless of when half term falls in their county. The full programme will be available this Summer on the Exmoor National Park website at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/stargazing.

Exmoor National Park’s Katrina Munro, who is coordinating the Festival, said: “Millions of children across the globe will never see the Milky Way from their own homes. But from Exmoor, it can regularly be seen with the naked eye. We’re excited to be welcoming people back to the Festival for a second year to share in the wonderment of gazing up at one of the world’s darkest skies.”

As well as organising the Festival, the National Park is also working with partners across Europe on a new project called Atlantic Net Sky, which seeks to attract visitors from abroad by developing new offerings around astro-tourism. Collaborative working will be a key part in the success of the project, sharing knowledge and experience with other dark sky sites.

Robin Milton, Chairman of Exmoor National Park said, “The last 12 months have seen the continued promotion and protection of Exmoor’s amazing dark skies. In partnership with a number of external organisations and individuals, Exmoor National Park Authority has continued to monitor and protect the quality of Exmoor’s dark sky.

“By inspiring people, residents and visitors alike, to better understand and appreciate the rare qualities that the dark sky above Exmoor has to offer, the National Park seeks to maintain its status as one of the twelve Dark Sky Reserves recognised worldwide by the International Dark Sky Association.”

Tourism businesses and groups interested in getting involved in either the Exmoor Dark Skies Festival 2018 or the Atlantic Net Sky project can contact Katrina Munro, Economy Project Officer at the National Park, KJMunro@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk and 01398 322236.

PHOTO: Milky way over Exmoor National Park by Keith Trueman.

BEEKEEPING EXPERIENCE DAYS AT QUINCE HONEY FARM

The Beekeeping Experience Day is back – another chance to get hands on with a hive at one of the UK’s leading honey farms.

Following the success of last year’s inaugural sessions, Quince Honey Farm in South Molton is once again offering six Beekeeping Experience Days over the summer of 2018.

If you or someone you know has ever thought about keeping bees or would just like to know more about these fascinating creatures, then this one-day course provides the perfect opportunity to get an introduction into the craft. It offers an unrivalled chance to get close to the bees and learn everything there is to know about beekeeping, all in the glorious North Devon countryside.

Quince Honey Farm’s Master Beekeeper Paddy Wallace and his son and business partner Ian, lead the day. Ian said, “We are passionate about bees and beekeeping at Quince Honey Farm, and are delighted to offer this practical, one day course. Keeping bees can be so rewarding and we want to pass on our knowledge and hopefully inspire people to have a hive or two themselves.”

The day begins by sampling some different honey products such as mead, honey chutney and Quince’s own seasonal varieties of honey, including Dandelion (spring), Devon Flower (summer), Exmoor Heather (late summer) and Ivy (winter). Then it’s time to get suited up in full protective clothing to be shown, up close, the inner workings of a hive.

In the afternoon, after a freshly prepared lunch and a guided tour of Quince Honey Farm’s unique BeeWorld attraction, participants will do some real beekeeping, as they conduct a supervised ‘Beehive Inspection’. They will care for the hive in whatever fashion is needed, as dictated by the weather and condition of the colony, be it feeding, collecting honey or inspecting the brood nest for diseases.

Throughout the day Paddy and Ian will share their knowledge and offer up tips and advice on keeping bees, in a fun and engaging manner to ensure everyone comes away buzzing with excitement on a day well spent.

North Devon residents Martyn and Lorraine Babb, who are keen to keep bees in the future, took part last year, and said, “We really enjoyed it. It was very informative and built a confidence in handling bees and the hives. We would certainly recommend this, even if you are not thinking of keeping bees, but just interested in their welfare and contribution to the world we live in.”

With bees and beekeeping hitting the headlines now more than ever, it really is a fantastic time to get involved and help bees to thrive in the British countryside.

The Beekeeping Experience Day costs £135 per person, including lunch and refreshments, and runs on Thursday 24 May, Saturday 26 May, Thursday 14 June, Saturday 16 June, Thursday 5 July and Saturday 7 July. Ideal as a gift for a loved one or as an informative day out for yourself.

For more information or to book, contact Quince Honey Farm on 01769 572401, email admin@quincehoneyfarm.co.uk or visit the website at www.quincehoneyfarm.co.uk.

WORLD PREMIERE FOR ST MARY’S BRIDGWATER

Bridgwater Choral Society will be performing the world premiere of Benedicite, a composition by their Conductor Iain Cooper, during their May concert. The work is a short piece for choir, brass quintet, piano duet and timpani, which Iain says is “bright and cheerful and written in an accessible style with some lively, syncopated rhythms”.

Handel’s Coronation Anthems and Faure’s Requiem will complete the varied programme for the concert on Saturday 12 May 2018. It will be performed at St Mary’s Church, Bridgwater. The recently upgraded building now offers better lighting, access and seating. The soloists will be Andre Soares (baritone), and Mary Morgan (soprano). The orchestra will be led by Brigid Kirkland-Wilson, and the conductor will be Iain Cooper.

Tickets are £12 (unreserved) and are available via the website www.bridgwaterchoral.org or on the door on the night.

PHOTO: by Ken Grainger.