MEND OUR MOUNTAINS RETURNS WITH £1 MILLION TARGET FOR BRITAIN’S BEST-LOVED LANDSCAPES

The award-winning, headline-grabbing campaign which raised more than £100,000 to repair Britain’s hills and mountains has returned – and is raising its sights ten times higher.

In last year’s campaign a section of path that was in need of restoration work formed part of the Two Moors Way where access along a 50-metre stretch of the path was difficult, with deep mud that stayed permanently saturated even in summer.

The campaign was incredibly successful and raised a total of £104,000. Within this, £7,500 came to Mend Exmoor which was added to through CareMoor for Exmoor (Exmoor National Park Authority’s donation scheme).

Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million aims to raise £1 million in total for a range of vital path repair projects within Britain’s entire family of 15 National Parks, including two on Exmoor – one The Chains and another on the River Barle at Great Bradley.

Team effort
The projects supported by Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million will range from the high reaches of the Cairngorms to the gentle coast of the Solent; from England’s highest mountain to the fabled seat of a Welsh giant; from the rolling hills of Exmoor to one of Scotland’s most well-trodden Munros.

Sue Applegate, public rights of way and access officer at Exmoor National Park, said: “We were delighted to be invited back to submit Exmoor projects for the Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million campaign. The funding we received from the previous one has helped improve one of Exmoor’s more remote paths and we are hoping that people will get on board and support this exciting new initiative.

“This year two Exmoor projects have been put forward, the first is to repair the surface of a popular walking and riding route across the top of The Chains.  Over the years, the route has become wet and boggy through use and simply due to the wild, wet environment it passes through.  As people try to avoid the difficult sections, the route has spread out and in places has caused a widening erosion scar. This project aims to carry out path surface improvements on a 3.8-kilometre stretch between Exe Head and Woodbarrow so that a long-term sustainable route is put in place – we will be using a natural soil inversion technique which provides a good surface without bringing in lots of external materials to this sensitive environment.

“Our second project is on the River Barle at Great Bradley.  Currently, the Two Moors Way, a popular recreational route linking Dartmoor & Exmoor, follows a very eroded permitted path on the eastern bank of the river.  We would like to move the route onto a bridleway which runs along the western bank but, where it crosses the River Barle at Great Bradley, there is currently only a ford.  For much of the year the water is too deep for walkers to get through.  We plan to build a new bridge at this point so that the bridleway can be used at all times and we can move the Two Moors Way route onto it to a position where it is secure and sustainable.”

Here are the direct links to the two projects on Exmoor:

The Chains
The River Barle at Great Bradley

Overall coordination is provided by the BMC, funding comes from the BMC’s charity (the BMC Access and Conservation Trust), and headline sponsorship is generously provided by Cotswold Outdoor and Snow+Rock, two of Britain’s leading outdoor retailers and the BMC’s recommended retail partners.

Individual projects are backed by a range of National Park authorities, outdoor enthusiast groups and charitable trusts, and in Scotland the campaign is represented by the BMC’s sister organisation, Mountaineering Scotland.

Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million will run over a whole year. It will employ a wide range of fundraising techniques in addition to crowdfunding, from harnessing the generosity of ‘ordinary’ outdoor enthusiasts, to drawing in money and support from large businesses, corporate donors and charitable foundations.

The appeal is divided into three phases.

The first phase will run between now and the spring of next year, during which time the fundraising focus will be on drawing in large donations from individuals, businesses and grant-giving bodies.

The second phase will run over the spring and summer of 2018 and will see the main drive to encourage the public at large to donate. The third phase will run in the autumn of 2018 and will see a crowdfunding ‘crescendo’ aimed at raising the remaining sum of money.

The National Park is encouraging everyone who wants to to donate today if they are able, but also to keep an eye on BMC and National Park media over the course of the year for more information about how they can get involved as the campaign progresses and develops.

Photo: Badly eroded permitted path on the eastern side of the river Barle at Great Bradley

EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK LOCAL PLAN ADOPTION

The Exmoor National Park Local Plan is now available.  It will guide development and the use of land on Exmoor until 2031 and indicates what will be permitted through planning applications.  Its adoption follows scrutiny by an independent Inspector who conducted a thorough examination into the Plan and held public hearing sessions into the key issues that it seeks to address.

Many local households experience challenges finding suitable housing for themselves and their families and the new Local Plan gives priority to affordable housing for local people including through self-build. The previous 2005 Plan led to nearly 100 affordable homes for local people being built in many communities across Exmoor. As a result, over 200 local people have been assisted across the moor – some living in homes they have built themselves, some by private developers or landlords and others by Housing Associations. More still needs to be done, and the new Plan widens opportunities for local people to address their housing needs including for those needing accessible or adaptable homes: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/planning/planning-policy/local-plan.  

A message which came through strongly in consultations on the Plan was the importance of keeping viable working communities on the moor, including younger people and families. Together with the focus on local needs homes, the new Plan looks to safeguard community services and facilities such as shops and pubs.  There are also opportunities for businesses to extend, to re-use buildings or build new premises in settlements, as well as increased flexibility for some types of visitor accommodation.

It is hoped that these measures will help make sure Exmoor’s communities can continue to thrive in the future.  As a National Park recognised nationally for its beauty, care has also been taken to ensure the Plan will conserve and enhance Exmoor’s natural beauty and wildlife as well as its towns, villages and buildings.

National Park Authority Chairman Robin Milton said: “This new Plan for Exmoor is the result of extensive consultation with local communities, businesses and stakeholders.  The starting point was the views and comments made by all those people who come along to one of the ‘Your Future Exmoor’ events and I am grateful to everyone who took the time then or who has contributed since. It is fantastic to have an up to date Local Plan which helps to give local communities and businesses opportunities to thrive, whilst conserving and enhancing the National Park and its special qualities.”

TRAINING PROGRAMME FOR TOURISM PROVIDERS

A new training programme to support tourism businesses in making the most of their connections with Exmoor National Park has been launched. The programme will be repeated at different locations, with the first sessions being offered at Dunster National Park Centre on the 7th and 14th November 2017.

Building on the previous Exmoor Awareness courses, the revised programme consists of three days, which can be taken as a collective or individually to suit specific business needs. The programme introduces businesses to what makes the area so special and supports them in developing their offer. The aim is to help businesses to achieve the maximum benefit from their association with the National Park and to keep them updated with all the latest news and information. The courses will be led by specialist staff and ranges from the National Park, alongside tourism professionals.

Session 1 – Moor Discovery will introduce businesses to the National Park, its management and its special qualities such as its landscape, wildlife and cultural heritage and provide top tips and links to resources to help their guests enjoy the area. It is particularly suited to new businesses or those that want to gain a better understanding of what makes Exmoor special.

Session 2 –  Moor Connections  is an interactive day to help improve tourism business skills and increase confidence, knowledge and understanding of the National Park. It aims to enable businesses to benefit fully from their association with the National Park through developing concepts such as experiential tourism.

Session 3 – Moor Update – A spring update day suitable for all businesses to learn about the latest initiatives and goings on within Exmoor and an optional field trip.

“Tourism is the mainstay of our economy and we benefit tremendously from being a National Park,” said Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager at Exmoor National Park. “National Parks are internationally recognised as some of the best natural attractions and through this programme, we want to forge stronger links with the businesses based in and around the National Park to support them in developing their offer.

“We’re excited to be able to work alongside businesses to unpack and utilise the resources available to them to increase visitor numbers and satisfaction.”

Session 1 is at the National Park Centre in Dunster from 11am to 4pm on Tuesday 7 November and Session 2 on Tuesday 14 November, at the same place and time.

Each session costs just £15 per person (or £25 per person for both sessions 1 and 2) including all course materials and a local produce lunch. Places must be booked in advance via www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/living-and-working/info-for-tourism-providers/events-and-training. For further details please contact Katrina Munro on 01398 323665.

PHOTO: Valley of Rocks by Mike Watson

EXMOOR HISTORIC SIGNPOST PROJECT: VOLUNTEER SLEUTHS REQUIRED

The aim of Exmoor National Park Authority’s Historic Signpost Project is to record, refurbish, celebrate and explore the history of Exmoor National Park’s traditional signposts. This is a two-year project funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Exmoor National Park Authority (ENPA) and Somerset County Council.

Much of the motivation for this came from local communities concerned about the state of some signposts in their areas and a desire to preserve and celebrate the distinctive character of the signs that are a much-valued part of the Exmoor landscape. As such, they are an integral part of Exmoor’s history and heritage. During the 1960s, councils were advised to remove existing signposts and replace them with standardised signs. However, Somerset did not do this, particularly on Exmoor, and so the distinctive cast-iron, black-and-white signs remain.

The ENPA is working with the Exmoor Society and volunteers to trace the history of the signposts. Dr Helen Blackman, the Exmoor Society’s archivist, said: “The starting point is the history of individual posts. The kind of questions we would love answers to are: how long have they been there?; do they and the crossroads that they are positioned at have specific names?; is there anything in particular that has happened to them, such as removal during the Second World War and later replacement?”

From this, volunteer researchers are aiming to find out about the importance of routes and locations and so help piece together a wider history of travel around the moor. Dr Blackman continued: “Have you ever wondered why some towns and villages are clearly signposted, whilst other have so little to indicate their whereabouts? For example, to some visitors it may seem odd that many signposts point to Watchet, now a relatively small town. However, the signage reveals something of its previous significance as a port and a major centre for paper manufacture.”

The Exmoor National Park is seeking more volunteers to help uncover this fascinating history. No experience is necessary, as training will be given by Dr Blackman; all that is required is some spare time and enthusiasm for research and detective work.

Routes over Exmoor have also evolved, as roads were tarmacked in the 1930s and some tracks were preferred over others. The signposts and their history can help piece together why this might be. Were some routes considered more direct, or did they cover easier terrain? Did they pass somewhere previously significant, now largely forgotten?

Dr Blackman concluded: “Do you have old photos and slides of Exmoor that include views of the signposts? These could be close-ups, or just photos that happen to include the posts such as the one pictured* or have any stories to tell about why crossroads have particular names? We would love to hear from you if you have information that would help with the project, please email exmoorsocietyarchivist@gmail.com.”

  • PHOTO: Molly Groves in 1963 standing next to the top of Oare Post, Hookway Hill which is buried in snow. Photo courtesy of Mrs Groves.

NEW PARTNERSHIP PLAN FOR EXMOOR – YOUR VIEWS SOUGHT

A new Partnership Plan is being prepared for Exmoor National Park. It’s a Plan for everyone who cares about Exmoor: the place, its communities and the benefits the National Park provides to the nation. The National Park Authority is responsible for bringing the Plan together and is now seeking views on the draft.

Robin Milton, Chairman of National Park Authority said, “Exmoor is a special place, protected for the nation as a National Park. We know that it is cherished and celebrated by the people who live here, and who visit. This five-year Partnership Plan sets out the Vision for Exmoor, and what is required to maintain the special qualities of the National Park. Given the significant challenges and opportunities facing Exmoor over the next five years, particularly in the light of the UK leaving the European Union, it is important that we do not seek to preserve Exmoor in aspic but balance the needs of different interests now and in the future.

“It’s called a Partnership Plan because we know it can only be achieved through working with partner organisations, communities, visitors and businesses. So this consultation on the draft Plan is really important, and I hope that as many people as possible will send us their comments.”

Consultation on the Exmoor National Park Partnership Plan runs from 18 September to 30 October 2017.

Find out more and comment at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk

Copies of the draft Partnership Plan can be viewed at the National Park Visitor Centres in Dunster, Dulverton and Lynmouth or at the Exmoor National Park Authority offices in Dulverton.

For further information please contact Clare Reid, Partnership Plan Manager, creed@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk

PHOTO By the late Brian Pearce.

HELP BRIDGE THE GAP AT WOODSIDE

A fundraising campaign has been launched by Exmoor National Park’s CareMoor for Exmoor* to replace a much-loved feature of Exmoor – Woodside Bridge, which has provided a crossing of the East Lyn river near Lynmouth for over a hundred years.

Woodside Bridge had to be removed last December following an inspection which revealed that the softwood timber beams had come to the end of their life. The bridge was replaced in the 1950s after the Lynmouth Flood and again in 1993 by the Royal Engineers working with Exmoor National Park. At 17.3m/57feet, the structure is the longest single span countryside bridge in the National Park.

Thousands of people used the bridge each year to enjoy the short, easy circuit  taking in Middleham Memorial Gardens along with the beauty and wildlife of the river and woodland valley. The bridge is an important link for visitors and the local businesses which they support.

Dan Barnett, Access & Recreation Manager at Exmoor National Park, said: Many people are surprised to learn that the bridge is not recorded as a public right of way which means there is no duty for local authorities to replace it, so we need your help.

“We are keen to replace the bridge as soon as funds allow so we are asking visitors, residents and anyone who cares about Exmoor to make a donation. Any amount, large or small, will help and we hope to reach our target by Christmas which will allow us to get the bridge installed ready for Easter next year when the main visitor season begins.

“We now have a price of £65,000 to install a high-quality new structure. This is a steel beam supported bridge with hardwood timber work which will have a very long design life.”

The land where the bridge is sited is owned by The National Trust, which is a partner in this project.

For more information and to contribute to the Woodside fund please visit: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/caremoor/woodside www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/caremoor/woodside

* CareMoor for Exmoor is the Authority donation scheme for Exmoor National Park. It offers everyone who has been inspired by Exmoor an opportunity to contribute to the upkeep of the environment of the National Park and its future. Donations help fund Nature, Heritage and Access projects to keep Exmoor special. For more information  visit: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/caremoor
 

PHOTO AT TOP: Colour-tinted image shows two ladies walking on the footpath opposite Tors Road, early 1900s. Photograph kindly donated by Paul Sheppard.

EXMOOR WILD WATCH: WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED SO FAR

Exmoor is home to a fantastic array of wildlife and to prove it so far this year Exmoor Wild Watchers have submitted more than 200 sightings of everything from red kites to tree bumblebees.
Ben Totterdell from Exmoor National Park says: “We are always grateful to people that take the time to let us know what they have seen and this year we were delighted to receive 83 sightings or sounding of a cuckoo and it’s been a bit of a surprise that people have reported seeing more red kites (24) than kestrels (15).

“Now in its third year, Exmoor Wild Watch is an opportunity for you to join us in finding out more about some of the species that are particularly characteristic of Exmoor. We would still love to hear from you if you see any of the species listed below. Some are nationally rare and others we simply do not know enough about.”

In the next month or so keep a special eye open for golden-ringed dragonflies, red admiral butterflies, adders, grey wagtails and tree bumblebees.

To submit a record simply visit www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/Whats-Special/exmoor-wildwatch and click on a species to find out more and to report a sighting. If you are inspired after taking part in this survey you may want to join in one of the family-friendly events or get involved in an Exmoor Wild Watch training event: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/get-involved/events-and-training . These include one off Discovery sessions to longer term surveys.

Handy spotter guides and family wildlife leaflets can be picked up from National Park Centres at Dulverton, Dunster and Lynmouth.

PHOTO: Red kite in Valley of Rocks, photographed by Jack Clegg of Exmoor Photography, as seen in our winter 2016 magazine in a piece by the late Trevor Beer. Jack’s images have often accompanied pieces written for us by Trevor – here is another back from autumn 2011, all about this magnificent bird! Click on the image to enlarge.

EXMOOR DARK SKIES FESTIVAL ONLINE BOOKINGS NOW OPEN

The full programme has been produced and event booking has now opened for the first Exmoor Dark Skies Festival from 19 to 29 October celebrating the National Park’s status as Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserve. There are more than 25 events to appeal to families and children, as well as those more experienced in watching the stars.

The festival is sponsored by Airband. Managing Director, Redmond Peel, said, “We’re delighted to be sponsoring the very first Dark Skies Festival. Over the last two years Airband have worked closely with Exmoor National Park on the roll out of superfast broadband, so it’s a great opportunity to be involved with the festival focussing on just some of the incredible and unique phenomena Exmoor has to offer.”

At the start of the festival over 500 schoolchildren will be on Exmoor to learn about the night skies before the festival launch event with astronomer, journalist and presenter Will Gater. The launch will include the first public showing of a new film all about Exmoor’s Dark Skies followed by a talk about viewing the stars and Milky Way from Exmoor as well as rarer phenomena such as the Northern Lights which people might not think they could see or photograph from so far south.

Other indoor events include an astro-photography talk, a special film showing of 2001: Space Odyssey and art displays as well as several planetarium sessions all around Exmoor. The planetarium offers inspirational and immersive 360-degree experiences of the solar system. 3D digital projections are created using sophisticated computer simulations, presented by an experienced astronomer to take you deep into the wonders of space.

For families there will be an amazing Astro Party at Wimbleball Lake, with fun hands-on sessions and virtual-reality experiences as well as traditional stargazing and a night-time forest walk and campfire. For the more adventurous there is night-time mountain biking, a night swim or an exhilarating night-navigation walk with a National Park Ranger. Other outdoor activities include dusk safaris and a guided night walk up to Dunkery Beacon – the highest point on Exmoor.

Exmoor National Park’s Katrina Munro, who is co-ordinating the festival, said, “Interest has already been high including international enquiries and media coverage. The printed Festival Programme can now be collected from National Park Centres and our online booking facility has also opened enabling visitors to plan in advance. This is the first festival of its kind on Exmoor and we’re looking forward to introducing many people to the wonders above!”

Full details of the Dark Skies Festival events and online booking is available from the National Park’s website www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/stargazing/dark-skies-festival  . Advanced booking is highly recommended to guarantee entry to events and a special early bird discount of 10% is available for many events booked before the 15 September.

www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/darkskiesfestival 

 

EXMOOR WILD WATCH SIGHTINGS SO FAR

Following the recent request for wildlife sightings, there have been more than 60 recorded on the Exmoor National Park’s Wild Watch pages.

Ali Hawkins from Exmoor National Park says: “Many thanks to everyone who has joined in with Exmoor Wild Watch and recorded their findings so far. The earliest cuckoo recorded this year was on 11 April, one day earlier than last year, so please let us know if and when you hear one as they should be calling for a few more weeks yet.

“Places to hear cuckoos on Exmoor usually include Croydon Hill, Alcombe Common, Ley Hill and Webber’s Post, but wherever you hear or see one, please record your sightings.

“Also spotted for the first time on Exmoor was a tree bumblebee, so please keep an eye out and let us know if you see one of these and where you saw it. As it gets warmer, another species to look out for is the beautiful gold-ringed dragonfly, the largest insect in the country.”

The place to record any sightings of these species and more is by visiting www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/Whats-Special/exmoor-wildwatch where you can also get involved by joining a Wild Watch training event.”

Spotter guides and a family wildlife leaflet can be picked up at National Park Centres at Dulverton, Lynmouth and Dunster.

PHOTO: Golden-ringed dragonfly by Nigel Stone.

BIG ADVENTURE DAY AT HADDON HILL THIS WEDNESDAY

Everyone is welcome to come and join in The Haddon Hill Big Adventure on Wednesday 12 April from 10am to 4pm. Hosted by Exmoor National Park with help from volunteers, it will be the first Big Adventure of 2017.

There will be a chance to explore the natural world with family friendly games and activities lasting all day, including bush-craft skills nature art activities including soil printing and picture making. There will also be scavenger hunts and species identification with the Exmoor Natural History Society.

Haddon Hill is a wide open space with plenty of room for everyone and there are toilets and parking available on site. The event is free, but donations to CareMoor for Exmoor, the National Park Authority’s donation scheme will be welcome,  the scheme supports vital conservation and access work that might otherwise not happen.

National Park Ranger Adam Vasey says: “This year at Haddon, in addition to the usual range of fun activities, we’re setting up a treasure hunt trail those families who complete the trail there will be a prize draw at 2pm where you can win some of our new Big Adventure T-shirts.”

Adam continued: “We’ve got a lot on offer this year with our Big Adventure events and, due to popular demand, we’re running four Family Campouts throughout the year. That will give both locals and visitors alike a chance to camp on Exmoor in some amazing locations.

“Don’t worry if you haven’t camped before, the experience is very suitable for novice/new campers, there’s more information on our website or come along to Haddon Hill and ask us some questions.”

For details of hundreds of events across Exmoor this year visit:  www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/events

PHOTO by Steve Guscott