Category Archives: Active Exmoor


The Great Exmoor Ride is a new city-to-coast challenge bike ride from the team behind the hugely-popular Great Weston Ride and, following on from a successful test event in 2017, it is set to return on Sunday 2 September 2018.

The Ride starts in Taunton and ends in a tranquil spot on the West Somerset coast at Blue Anchor near Minehead, and along the way it offers a stunning 66-mile (105km) route through quiet Somerset country lanes and across the eastern part of Exmoor National Park.

The test event confirmed that participants can look forward to a great personal challenge courtesy of a spectacular route that will test the legs and, despite somewhat inclement weather conditions in 2017, the GER was given a resounding ‘thumbs up’ by those who took part.

2017 saw a great mix of people riding on a variety of bikes and the event is specifically designed and supported as an ‘all-comers’ challenge – there’s plenty on offer to test participants (as well as delight them), but there are no time pressures on anyone and the emphasis is very much on rising to a personal challenge and enjoying both the route AND the immense sense of achievement that comes with completing it.

A spokesman explained: “We believe that there’s something special and different about completing a spectacular, challenging ride and then actually ending up somewhere other than where you started, and that’s exactly what the Great Exmoor Ride offers.

“We know from last year’s feedback that the route itself is both fabulous and challenging, but also very do-able for anyone with a degree of fitness and/or a lot of determination – so it’s there for anyone who wants a real challenge as part of a great day out full of wonderful views, and it could be the perfect way to round off the Summer.”

The event is registered with British Cycling, and participants benefit from a whole host of event support services, including clear route signage, medical cover, and mobile mechanical support throughout the route.

There will also be a medal, a BBQ and an event bar waiting for riders at the finish and, by all accounts, anyone who takes on the challenge will certainly have earned their rewards!


Mountain bike enthusiasts from across the South West will converge on the picturesque Exmoor town of Dulverton on 6 May 2018, for the third annual ‘Eat Dirt on Exmoor’ event.

Hosted by local charity Calvert Trust Exmoor, working in conjunction with British Cycling, the ‘Eat Dirt on Exmoor’ event offers cyclists the opportunity to enjoy 22 miles of beautiful Exmoor scenery, much of which is not normally open to the general public.

The route starts in the picturesque Exmoor town of Dulverton and follows the route of the River Barle up to Tarr Steps. From there the route climbs up onto the moor, with far-reaching views in all directions, before heading south east to the River Exe and then back into Dulverton for the finish line.

Rob Lott, Head of Communications at Calvert Trust Exmoor, said, “We’re delighted to be running this fantastic event again for the third year. Last year 282 riders took part, enjoying a fantastic ride and raising over £5,650, enabling us to help more people with disabilities to access cycling and other adventurous activities. We are extremely grateful to the wonderful people and businesses of Dulverton and the surrounding area; without their support in allowing us to use their land, volunteering to be marshals, running refreshment stations, and helping set up the route, this event just wouldn’t be possible.”

Registration for the event is just £21 per rider, with £20 of that fee going directly to Calvert Trust Exmoor to help them support people with disabilities to enjoy accessible adventure activities, including accessible cycling. (The remaining £1 is an administration fee retained by British Cycling).

The riders really enjoyed the 2017 event. “Rock solid ride out! Many thanks to all who helped. Great loop with nice challenging hills, I’m glad to have ridden all of them! Thanks to the landowners and villagers too. Loved the bluebells!” (Dave Hewlett)

To find out more about Eat Dirt on Exmoor or to sign up visit or email Sharon from Calvert Trust Exmoor on


Early-bird entries are now open for the Exmoor Open Water Swim 2km / 4km / 6km on 30 September 2018 at Wimbleball Lake.

Organiser Mike Morris writes… “Our goal is to give everyone the opportunity to swim in this incredible lake in the heart of Exmoor. While there are medals for those who come in the top three for their age groups, the majority of swimmers will simply be challenging themselves to participate in a safe and friendly open-water swimming environment at Wimbleball Lake. We are excited to announce that this year we will be introducing an elite 6km race, made up of the 4km + 2km loop.

“The uniqueness of this event is that the 4km route will take the swimmers all the way down to the end and back, on a stunning single-loop tour of the whole lake. Safety will be covered by kayaks and motorboats, as the swimmers enjoy unparalleled views of this special place.

“The 4km swim distance is designed as a challenge, even for the seasoned long-distance, open-water swimmers and slightly longer than an Iron Man swim. It is also a goal to aim for, for swimmers who either have confined their swims to pools or have yet to conquer this distance. For those who are not ready to take on the 4km route, we have a 2km course, which will hopefully result in returns next year to take on the 4km course!

“For those people who want to bring their families and make a weekend of it, we have negotiated 10% off camping at Wimbleball Lake and also 10% off all the activities on and around the lake.

Early Bird entries are available at

The charity partners for this events are: Surfers Against Sewage, Friends of the Earth and Children’s Hospice South West.

Exmoor Open Water Swim is sponsored by dryrobe,  Alpine Elements, Brewer, Harding & Rowe solicitors, Wicked Wolf Gin and Pickwell Foundation.

‘Arguably the most prestigious swimming competition in the South West – Somerset County Gazette

‘Great work guys – awesome astmosphere and well looked after, I will definitely be back.’ Pete Taylor – Competitor

‘Fantastically organised event at Wimbelball Lake. Thank you’ – Becky Little – Competitor


Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance is once again encouraging supporters to sign up early for their Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge 2018 after another overwhelming response last year.

The event, which is not designed as a race, involves cycling through some of Dorset and Somerset’s most beautiful countryside and takes place on Sunday 13 May 2018.

Last year’s event raised in excess of £74,000 (including gift aid) and sold out within hours of online registration being open. Demand for places is expected to be even higher this year.

Online registration will open at 10am on Tuesday 5 December 2017, via the Charity’s website – – and, with only 600 places available, those wishing to take part will need to be quick to avoid disappointment. Participants can enter as an individual or as a team.

The Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge offers two different routes and distances. For those who like a challenge, the brilliant 54-mile cycle, which starts in the Somerset port of Watchet and finishes at West Bay near Bridport, will not disappoint.

With a mixture of quiet back roads, interspersed with some very demanding climbs and equally hairy descents, the event has something to offer for everyone! A staggered start will see the stronger cyclists set off first at 11am, with the less experienced riders departing at 11.15am. A shorter 11-mile route starts at the Royal Oak public house in Drimpton at 2pm and also finishes at West Bay.

Bill Sivewright, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Chief Executive Officer, said, “We are thrilled to be able to announce the date for our Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge 2018. This will be our eighth year in the saddle and every year the event seems to get better and better.

“We always strive to build on the success of the previous year and with this in mind we are once again restricting our numbers to 600 cyclists. We are also continuing with a staggered start time in order to keep the event as safe as possible and to encourage all standards of cyclists to take part without fear of being overcrowded.

“With such a demand, there will undoubtedly be those who are disappointed not to gain a place which is why I cannot stress enough how important it is to register early! We also hope that those who are fortunate to gain a place will once again encourage their family and friends to sponsor them in a bid to make 2018 the best Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge yet.”

Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance has flown over 12,000 missions since its launch in March 2000, saving many lives and aiding recovery, with outstanding immediate care and rapid delivery to the hospital best suited to meet the patient’s needs. With no direct Government or National Lottery funding, the charity relies on the generosity of the public and events like Coast to Coast for support.

To register online, visit the charity’s website: at 10am on Tuesday 5 December 2017 or for more information call 01823 669604.

Entrance fees are: Adults (£20) & Under 16s (£10).


Wimbleball Lake has been selected as one of the finalists in the 2017/18 Bristol, Bath and Somerset Tourism Awards in the ‘Tourism Experience of the Year’ category.

Wimbleball is managed by South West Lakes Trust whose challenge it is to balance conservation with recreational enjoyment of the lakes as a visitor attraction. Wimbleball boasts the perfect blend of excitement and tranquillity, offering visitors a peaceful retreat into the countryside or a more adventurous day out on Exmoor.

The family-friendly site offers something for everyone including the delightful Duck Café serving fabulous, fresh, local food, a children’s play area, a network of footpaths and cycle tracks as well as archery, high ropes, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, sailing and windsurfing. In addition, there is also a popular campsite offering visitors the opportunity to extend their stay on Exmoor and camp or glamp on site.

Andy Parsons, Chief Executive of South West Lakes Trust, said, “To be a finalist in a very tough category really underlines the fantastic achievements of our awesome Wimbleball team – they are absolutely dedicated to providing unrivalled experiences to our customers, helping them to create treasured memories. We are very proud of this nomination and look forward to welcoming many more new people to the lake to enjoy all that it has to offer.”

The annual competition saw an increase to 24 categories this year, with 111 entries received from across the county. The South West Lakes Trust team will be in suspense until the prestigious Awards Ceremony on 9 November, when they will learn whether they have won a Gold, Silver or Bronze award.

Successful businesses in the Awards will automatically be considered for matching categories in the South West Tourism Excellence Awards in February 2018 with the chance to go on to represent Somerset, Bristol and Bath at the National VisitEngland Awards.

Follow Wimbleball Lake on Facebook to find out how they got on.


500 people took to the water at the inaugural Exmoor Open Water Swim on Saturday at Wimbleball Lake. In this first event ever of its kind at Wimbleball, the weather played ball as more women than men swam the single loop lap of this magnificent reservoir.

Mike Morris, Event Director, says: “Open-water swimming is a massive growth activity and it is so great to see kids aged 12 swimming with 70 year olds – we are so grateful to South West Lakes Trust for allowing us to put on the event.”

Top GB athletes competed in an Elite Wave followed by the rest of the entrants who were a mixed array of seasoned open-water swimmers and first-timers. Entrants could choose between the 2km and 4km course and about 50 kayakers from Bideford and Exmoor Canoe Clubs plus 5 safety boats ensured that all entrants were well looked after.

First place in the men’s 4km went to Channel swimmer Nils Young from London, with a stunning time of 51 minutes and 31 seconds, who beat  Mark Richards from Bristol by 30 seconds. They swam side by side for the whole race, both having tacitly decided not to draft each other, with Young edging ahead in the last 800m. “An enjoyable swim in a stunning location,” was how Young described it. “It was a big yet really friendly event and I’ll definitely be back to defend my title next year!”

Vikki Thompson from Exeter took gold in the women’s 4km, with a time of 53 minutes 40 seconds, giving her third position overall.

The surprise of the day was the winner of the 2km: Oliver Heard who is only 12 years old and is fresh from breaking the record on completing the Solent Swim on 17 September 2017. Race Director Pete Wright said: “An absolutely stunning swimmer who cut through the field with a really smooth swim stroke – he led from the outset and beat Ben Haslett from Bristol by at least 25m.”

The women’s 2km was taken by Kathryn Saddler from Exeter. Second place was another 12-year-old pupil from Taunton School: Macey Barrett. Mike Morris says: “I am not sure what sort of porridge Taunton School give their pupils but I want some!”

There were also about 40 non-wetsuit-wearers who braved the elements, including GB former international swimmer, Londoner Nuala Muir-Cochrane, who took gold in her category.

Vicky Raybould Taunton who came in seventh in the super vet category commented: “Great work on the planning and carrying off a safe fun event – definitely back next year.”

The event organisers also had the pleasure of welcoming Giles Long MBE, one of the most successful paralympic swimmer of our time to hand out medals and prizes.

In excess of £20,000 has been raised for charity from The Exmoor Open Water Swim and its sister event, The Croyde Ocean Triathlon (see our summer issue, which featured the event). Money went to Children’s Hospice South West, the Red Cross, the RNLI, the Syrian Refugees and Surfers Against Sewage.

All results and photos can be found at and there are also video clips of everyone who crossed the finish line!

The organisers would like to give a big thanks to all the volunteers including the Rotary Club, Childrens Hospice South West, Exmoor Canoe Club, Bideford Canoe Club and all the other and a massive thanks to the sponsors: Dryrobe, Alpine Elements, Exmoor Gin, Discover Chocolate and Zoggs UK,

The event was a sell-out and is set to double in size next year. Next year’s Exmoor Open Water swim in association with The Pickwell Trust will take place on 29 September. On line entries will soon be available at

PHOTO: Helen Hounslow (on the right) from Taunton School aged 12 – 4th in her category in 2km. Courtesy Howaboutdave Photography



The dream of a new leisure centre for North Devon took three monumental steps closer to reality last week, with exciting news from Sport England as the icing on the cake!

The project, led by North Devon Council’s Parks, Leisure and Culture team, will see a new eight-lane swimming pool and other leisure facilities built onto the Tarka Tennis Centre at Seven Brethren, Barnstaple.

Last week a planning application was submitted and validated, with hopes that this will be determined by December. The search for an operator to design, build, operate and maintain the new leisure facilities is now live, with details of the contract online at – the closing date to register an interest and submit a response is 27 October 2017 at midday.

On Thursday 14 September, Sport England confirmed that its Investment Committee is in support of the project and has formally invited the council to submit an application for funding. This means Sport England has ring-fenced £1.5m towards the project, and will work alongside the council to support its application for funding. If successful, construction of the new facilities could begin in autumn 2018 and be complete by summer 2020.

Executive Member for Parks, Leisure and Culture, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “We may have been fairly quiet about our leisure centre project for a while, but behind the scenes a huge amount of work has been going on to drive the project forward and this is the news we’ve been waiting for from Sport England. I am so delighted by their decision to support our application and look forward to continuing to work with them to progress our funding bid.

“We also reached two key milestones last week, with the planning application lodged and the contract out to tender. I would like to congratulate the officers for what they have achieved so far and thank them for their professionalism and continuing  hard work. North Devon Leisure Centre is coming to the end of its useful life and we’ve got to work hard to secure this funding to provide a new pool and leisure facilities to replace it.”

To keep up to date with the progress of this project, follow the council’s blog



The Great Exmoor Ride, on 3 September, is a new city-to-coast challenge ride from the team behind the hugely popular Great Weston Ride (GWR). It starts in Taunton and ends on the seafront at Blue Anchor near Minehead, covering 63 miles of tranquil Somerset country lanes and venturing onto and across the eastern part of the National Park (the route packs in almost 1,600 metres of climbing).

The aim is to replicate the challenge and enjoyment of the GWR in another wonderful part of Somerset and, while this new event is most definitely a decent cycling challenge, it has been designed to be accessible and to appeal to as many people as possible who are keen to enjoy it as a social and community occasion at their own pace, with no time pressures.

The event is registered with British Cycling and riders will be provided with a whole host of event support services, including clear route signage, marshalling, medical cover, and ample mechanical support throughout the route. And the event organisers are once again asking riders to consider if they can fundraise while taking on the challenge, with Prostate Cancer UK being the event’s official charity partner.

Find out more:


Celebrity chef Michael Caines MBE, who visited Calvert Trust Exmoor earlier this month, has agreed to become an Ambassador for the charity, calling the centre “one of North Devon’s ‘hidden gems”.

“Calvert Trust Exmoor is a fantastic facility,” Michael explained following a motivational speech he gave to an invited audience of visitors and local dignitaries at the centre on Tuesday. “It provides amazing opportunities for people who are challenged in life through a variety of disabilities, and it also supports the families who care for them.”

Born and raised in Exeter, Michael lost his right arm in a road accident in 1994, but has risen to the top of his profession, being named AA’s Chef of the Year in 2007 and holding two Michelin stars for 18 consecutive years. Michael describes the accident as a defining part of his life, alongside the day he was adopted in terms of importance.

“My upbringing defined my outlook in the sense of who I am; but the love and support of friends and family that got me through that difficult day,” Michael said. “That day changed me, for sure. It made me a better person because I became more compassionate. If it hadn’t been for the compassion of others, then I’d have never got through that day.”

Calvert Trust Exmoor CEO, Heidi Watson, said the charity was delighted that Michael has agreed to become an Ambassador. “He’s a shining example of someone who has not only overcome disability but has proved to the world what a disabled person can achieve in their lives.”

Michael, who recently added The Coach House at Kentisbury Grange to his portfolio and the newly opened Lympstone Manor near Exeter, explained that the local community can play its part in helping the guests that stay at Calvert Trust Exmoor: “The community has a big role to play, making sure that the individuals who come here, for whatever reason, whatever background or circumstances, whatever their individual story is, get the opportunity to live a thorough and fulfilling life – one that challenges them and gives them the qualities of life that we all want: ‘happiness.’ That’s the one key quality that I think is vital.

“We’re all challenged; we all have demons,” he continued. “Some of us might suffer from depression, some of you might have got up this morning feeling like it’s a tough day; but their days are always tough and always challenging. This wonderful facility at Calvert Trust Exmoor gives people what I call ‘positive challenges’ that add value to their lives, and in doing so breaks down that word ‘disability’ into opportunity and ability.”

One of the UK’s most celebrated chefs, Michael concluded by saying that every day he gets now is “a gift”.

“I could have died at 25, but I didn’t. Life is short enough anyway, and given those challenges that we have, they make us a stronger and a better person. If you’ve been given opportunity to continue your life and drive forward with the help and support of others, then your potential can be realised too.

“It’s really inspiring to see so much passion in the people that run Calvert Trust Exmoor and the community that supports it. And I’m very proud to be associated with the centre.”

To find out more about how you can get involved in the work of Calvert Trust Exmoor, visit the website or call 01598 763221.


Watchet’s ambitions to have a state-of-the-art Bowling Club are closer to being realised thanks to a £50,500 grant from a Leisure Fund secured from the Hinkley Point C project which is administered by West Somerset Council.

Watchet Bowling Club is keen to transform its facilities and provide a high-quality community venue for the area and the money will go towards the first phase of the project to replace old garages with a new indoor bowling rink.

The high-achieving club has a real track record: the women players reached the semi-finals of two trophies last season, while the men won the league and also swept the board in county competitions.

A new indoor rink will give the club the space for county-level competitions and make it possible for games to be played simultaneously, rather than have to wait for the one rink to become available.

The club has now gained planning consent for this project and is hoping the community will also support the initiative through the newly launched Somerset West Lottery. The club is one of the local good causes that will benefit from the weekly draws.

Tickets for the lottery are now available to buy and the first weekly draw takes place on 29 Jul, with a top prize of £25,000 on offer and a two-night stay in The Royal Seven Stars Hotel in Totnes as an additional bonus prize for this first draw. The lottery is a joint West Somerset Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council project to help community initiatives.

The Bowling Club started out on its journey to transform its premises four years ago and, after consulting the community, drew up plans to improve its own facilities while also providing a real community hub for educational, recreational, sporting and social activities for all age groups.

The initiative has three main strands:

  • replacement of garages with a new  indoor double rink bowling green with associated facilities
  • internal and external alterations to the existing clubhouse to provide a quality community venue able to accommodate 150 people
  • erection of an extension to provide a gym

The club is working in partnership with Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership and local providers and clubs.

The successful bid for funding from West Somerset Council will be followed by bids to other funding pots including Sport England, Power to Change and the Big Lottery.

Club treasurer, Marilyn Binding, said: “Watchet has no community venue able to accommodate large numbers. Our improved venue will fill this gap and it will provide somewhere for all sectors of the local community to take part in a wide range of activities.

“Our proposed project will act as an accessible and inviting focal point for our current population and newcomers moving here to work at Hinkley Point and join in with what is happening locally.

“The centre will make the most of the opportunity to target both workers themselves and their friends and families – encouraging them to participate together in community activities, including healthy living, educational, social and leisure activities.”

Cllr David Westcott, Lead Member for communities with West Somerset Council, said: “This is an ambitious project with a real community focus that will provide Watchet with facilities that many larger towns would envy.

“The Club has also shown the initiative to make a successful bid for funding from our Leisure Fund and to become one of the good causes supported by our local lottery.”