Category Archives: Exmoor National Park news

EXMOOR IN THE AWARDS SPOTLIGHT

Exmoor National Park’s contribution to tourism in the South West was recognised at the start of February at the South West Tourism Awards 2017/18 when a special ‘Outstanding contribution to Tourism Award’ was given to the region’s protected landscapes (including National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the South West Coast Path).

The special award was presented at the awards ceremony, which has become the single largest gathering of tourism businesses in the region, with over 400 delegates present at the Riviera Conference Centre in Torquay.

Announcing the award, BBC Spotlight presenter Victoria Graham spoke about the way in which volunteers and staff work together to manage protected landscapes which enable the tourism industry to “deliver such wonderful and varied visitor experiences for our guests”.

Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager at Exmoor National Park, commented, “We’re really proud that our contribution to the wider visitor economy has been recognised in this way. We work closely with local communities, businesses and land managers to help keep Exmoor special. Over 2 million  visitor days are spent on Exmoor every year contributing almost £115m to the rural economy with 99% of visitors rating their experience as good or very good. This is thanks to the efforts of all our staff, partner organisations and volunteers that enable so many people to enjoy Exmoor and this is an award for them all.”

A number of Exmoor businesses also picked up awards during the evening including:

Longlands near Combe Martin – Gold, Glamping Accommodation
Salad Days Beach Huts at Dunster – Gold, Dog Friendly Business and Silver, Self-Catering Holiday Property
The Swan at Bampton – Gold, Tourism Pub.
The Luttrell Arms in Dunster –  Bronze, Tourism Pub

Exmoor has also been shortlisted as ‘National Park of the Year’ in the BBC Countryfile Magazine awards. The work of the National Park Authority and partners on projects such as the reinvigoration of the Two Moors Way to open up access were cited by the judges for the shortlisting.

It is now down to a public vote to decide if Exmoor wins the top spot. You can vote online at www.countryfile.com/bbc-countryfile-magazine-awards-2018 until 5 March 2018.

CAREMOOR EVENTS BEGIN FOR 2018

Diners were in for a treat recently at two special fund-raising Exmoor Gin nights held at the award-winning Swan in Bampton as part of Exmoor National Park’s new CareMoor Dining Club.

Exmoor-based Wicked Wolf Gin owners Pat and Julie Heap had worked with Paul and Donna Berry of The Swan to deliver five gin-based drinks perfectly matching each of the five courses.

A total of £330 was raised for CareMoor for Exmoor, the National Park’s donation scheme supporting nature, heritage and access work across the moor.

The CareMoor Dining Club events are hosted by different venues around Greater Exmoor, celebrating the great local food and drink produced here, whilst also raising some funds to help keep Exmoor special.

Katrina Munro of Exmoor National Park said, “These events are the perfect way to celebrate and support our local Exmoor producers and we’re very grateful to the Swan for kicking off this year’s calendar.”

Spaces are still available on the next events are being held in February at Dulverton and Wootton Courtenay by Claire’s Kitchen and in March there are evenings at Dunkery Beacon Hotel and Psalter’s Restaurant, Luttrell Arms Hotel, Dunster. More details can be found here.

The Swan has been in an especially celebratory mood over the last week after being presented with a highest climber award at the 2018 ‘Estrella Damm’ Top 50 Gastropub Awards AND having won gold at the South West Tourism Excellence Awards in Torquay on 1 February!

Finally, don’t forget that Wednesday 7 February is the Eat Exmoor event at The Beach Hotel Minehead. Find out more here.

PHOTO: Chef Donna Berry and team at the Swan, Bampton

EXMOOR’S HEDGELAYING COMPETITION RUNS AGAIN

Exmoor National Park Authority is pleased to announce the launch of the 2017/18 Exmoor Hedge Competition.

The competition is aimed at the landowners, managers and contractors who carry out the high-quality hedgelaying work for the benefit of Exmoor’s farming, wildlife and landscape.

To be eligible to apply, all or part of the farm must be within Exmoor National Park and the hedge laid during the winter of 2017/18. There will be two classes – ‘Open’ and ‘Novice’ – and the winner of each class will receive £200, 2nd place £100 and £50 will go to the 3rd place. The judges include members of the Devon and Somerset Hedge Groups, who are experienced West Country hedgelayers themselves. The previous year’s Open Class winners are also invited to join the judging panel.

Work carried out during the autumn and winter months has resulted in a considerable transformation along many lanes and field edges, as once-shady, outgrown hedges are cut and laid. This traditional management is crucial in order to rejuvenate the hedgerows which are iconic features of the Exmoor landscape, reflecting our cultural heritage and supporting an incredible range of wildlife. The work is very skilled and provides employment for numerous people on Exmoor during the winter months.

Susan May, Chairman of the Exmoor Trust, said: “The Exmoor Trust is delighted to sponsor this competition again this year and encourages all hedge layers to enter.”

Heather Harley, Conservation Officer (Farming & Land Management) for Exmoor National Park, said: “If you would like to enter the competition you have until 4  May 2018 to submit your entry form together with at least one photo of the completed hedge and if possible a photo of the hedge before work took place. For further information or an entry form please ring us on 01398 323665 or email hjharley@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk.”

The Exmoor Hedge Competition is being run by Exmoor National Park Authority and again has been possible through the generous sponsorship of the Exmoor Trust.

CAREMOOR FOR EXMOOR DINING CLUB

The first dates of the new CareMoor for Exmoor Dining Club have been released. Top chefs are supporting the National Park by holding special lunchtime and evening events, celebrating their use of local produce and raising funds to help keep Exmoor special.

During the meal, diners will enjoy hearing from the chefs, as well as some of their suppliers, about their passion and love for Exmoor produce. Events will take place throughout the year at different locations, from award-winning restaurants to unique pop-up events across Greater Exmoor. Each event will have its own unique menu created specifically to celebrate locally sourced produce. Whilst highlighting their passion for local food, the chefs are also supporting the National Park as the fixed-price meal for each event includes a contribution to CareMoor for Exmoor, which raises funds for nature, heritage and access projects across the National Park.

The first dates for 2018 include:

·        Friday 26 January at The Swan, Bampton. An evening meal with owner / chef Paul Berry preparing a five-course tasting menu in conjunction with Wicked Wolf Gin and Exmoor Ales.
·        Sunday 4 February with Claire’s Kitchen at Wootton Courtenay Village Hall preparing a two-course Sunday Lunch in partnership with Little Oak Farm.
·        Saturday 10 February with Claire’s Kitchen at Dulverton Town Hall for a three-course oriental evening in conjunction with Secret Orchard Cider.
·        Saturday 3 March: a four-course evening meal presented by Head Chef Barrie Tucker Chef at Psalters Restaurant, at the Luttrell Arms, Dunster.
·        Thursday 29 March with Chef John Bradley at the Coleridge Restaurant, Dunkery Beacon Country House Hotel with a ‘Taste of the Moor’ tasting menu.

Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager for Exmoor National Park, said, “The Dining Club is part of our joint Eat Exmoor project, which aims to spread the message about the quality of our local food and its link with the landscape we all love and want to conserve.  CareMoor for Exmoor is our donations scheme, which helps to keep Exmoor special. We are very grateful to the chefs and venues who are supporting us by hosting a Dining Club event and hope that this will give people a unique opportunity to experience the true taste of Exmoor.”

As part of the Eat Exmoor project, Visit Exmoor (the official tourism association)  is also publishing a new, free Eat Exmoor food and drink guide early next year and local food lovers can sign up for a foodie E-Newsletter making sure they hear about all the latest food events including those under the banner of  CareMoor for Exmoor Dining Club.

For full details, prices and booking information visit www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/caremoor. Further Dining Club dates will be added throughout the year.

PHOTO: John Bradley from the Dunkery Beacon  Country House Hotel.

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.