Category Archives: Exmoor National Park news

EXMOOR LAUNCHES NEW PLAN FOR THE FUTURE

Exmoor National Park’s future vision for the next five years was launched today, welcomed by Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Defra Minister for National Parks, in a video address at the Exmoor National Park Authority and Exmoor Society’s joint Spring Conference held in Dulverton Town Hall.

Exmoor National Park’s 2018-2023 Partnership Plan* has been led by Exmoor National Park Authority, with input from around 80 partners, landowners, local communities, organisations and businesses, through a rigorous programme of workshops and meetings. Opinions were also sought through a public survey and key evidence on the Park’s special qualities gathered through the State of the Park Report.

Under the core themes of ‘People, Place, Prosperity’, the Plan sets out key strategies needed to ensure Exmoor’s diverse and beautiful landscapes remain rich in wildlife and history, and that people everywhere have the opportunity to enjoy its special qualities. It also highlights the need to foster a vibrant local economy for Exmoor’s communities by providing new routes for innovation and entrepreneurship, and for increasing rural productivity.

Key priorities include a commitment to maintaining Exmoor as a working living landscape, with farming at its core. Increasing rural productivity through targeted land management schemes, and support to help new and young farmers diversify their farming income and develop rural skills form a vital part of the strategy. This interaction between people and nature has persisted for centuries and is crucial to maintaining the rich array of wildlife and habitats found on Exmoor today.

Increasing opportunities for people to enjoy and get involved in maintaining Exmoor as one of the most beautiful landscapes in the UK is also a mainstay of the Plan. Exmoor’s first rate rights of way network is a shining example of this, with an impressive 96 per cent of routes classed as open and easy to use – the highest of all National Parks.

Work to encourage more people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to enjoy the Park will also continue, following a rise in the number of young people visiting, including over 6,500 students last year alone, and continuing support for local schools through the Authority’s Learning Partners Scheme.

Ensuring local communities thrive through a vibrant local economy is another key ambition. While visitor numbers have been steady over the last five years, the length of time people stay in the park is up by 35 per cent. The report highlights the positive impact this is on the local economy, with the Exmoor tourism industry currently valued at around £115 million.

Challenges for the Park are also addressed, including how best to restore Exmoor’s renowned purple heather moors, which rely on careful management by Exmoor’s hill farmers, along with the Authority and other partners.

In the video address to conference delegates, Lord Gardiner said: “I am delighted to support the launch of the Exmoor National Park Partnership Plan. It sets out an exciting agenda for the next five years.”

Sarah Bryan, chief executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “This Plan is for all those who care about Exmoor: the place, its communities and the benefits the National Park provides to the nation. By providing a framework for working together, we hope it will mean people can continue to be inspired by its extraordinary beauty and sense of place, while supporting those who rely on it for their livelihood to reap the many benefits that National Park status can bring.”

Robin Milton, Chairman of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “We are extremely grateful to our many partners for sharing their views and to the more than 900 people who responded to our public opinion survey, showing just how cherished Exmoor is by so many. At this time of substantial political change and uncertainty, we hope this will allow us to capitalise on this unique chance to help shape Exmoor for future generations, whilst continuing to enrich the local economy and landscapes.”

PIONEERING NEW APPROACHES TO EXMOOR’S INVASIVE SPECIES PROBLEM

Castration and electrocution are two ground-breaking new ways of tackling invasive plant and animal species being trialled in Exmoor National Park, highlighted as part of Invasive Species Week recently.

Japanese and Himalayan Knotweed are two of Britain’s most invasive weeds and they have caused extensive damage to several of Exmoor’s most precious watercourses, such as the Lyn, Heddon and Barle – all Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

A ten-year collaboration between Exmoor National Park Authority, the Environment Agency, Natural England and the National Trust to try to control the problem has proved highly successful, with the plant now being managed across an area the size of six Wembley football pitches, thanks to the support from local landowners.

Exmoor is now among a handful of UK sites where a pioneering new method of control is being trialled, involving electrocuting the weed’s root system. It is hoped the new approach will avoid the need for repeat spraying with herbicides, which can impact the environment, although not nearly so much as the plants themselves.

Elsewhere on Exmoor’s waterways, another non-native invasive species is being dealt a tough blow. An estimated quarter of a million North American signal crayfish inhabit the River Barle, with potentially devastating consequences for our native wildlife.

The River Barle Crayfish Project is now tackling the problem in an innovative new way never before tried outside of captivity – by castrating the larger, more dominant male signal crayfish. After this harmless procedure, they are returned to the river where it is hoped they will continue to outcompete smaller males to control breeding.

Later this year findings are due to be published on the project – which exists as a partnership between Exmoor National Park Authority, the Environment Agency and the River Exe & Tributaries Association.

Ali Hawkins, Wildlife Conservation Officer at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “It’s great to be trialling innovative new techniques like these that could potentially help with the problem of invasive species on Exmoor, without further damage to our delicate ecosystems.

“Many of the habitats here are protected for their uniqueness and scientific value, so it’s vital that we do all we can to safeguard them from these foreign invaders. We’d love more volunteers to come forward and help us stop the spread by signing up to one of our training days, or reporting sightings of invasive species through our website.”

People wishing to volunteer for these two projects and others like them can find out more at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/get-involved.

MOOR TO ENJOY – NATIONAL PARKS REALLY ARE GOOD FOR YOU

Recent research proves that being in National Parks improves mental and physical wellbeing.  Evidence has been published in light of action research carried out in two linked three-year-long projects by Exmoor and Dartmoor National Park Authorities.

Partners from Public Health England, Devon and Somerset County Council Public Health Teams and other guests gathered last month to hear about the results of the ‘Moor Health and Wellbeing’ report. The evaluation, carried out by Plymouth University, weighs up the challenges and successes faced by Exmoor’s Moor to Enjoy Project and Dartmoor’s Naturally Healthy Project. Some of the reported positive changes identified from participants’ experiences within the National Parks included a sense of belonging, feeling physically or mentally energised, enjoyment, a sense of achievement and increased opportunities for creativity and learning.

Exmoor’s Moor to Enjoy Project focused on supporting groups and group leaders in communities within striking distance of the National Park developing and delivering exciting activities and ‘taster’ days out on Exmoor.  “The Project aims to bring together public health and social care professionals and groups and group leaders with the amazing opportunities to get out on Exmoor and enjoy the stunning landscape and wildlife.  It is hoped that through these taster days,  groups and individuals will be given the confidence and skills to discover more of Exmoor independently in the future,” said Lucy McQuillan from Exmoor National Park.  “Getting active outdoors doesn’t have to be a full on hike with all the kit.  We are trying to encourage people to take that first step to explore the National Park in a way that suits them.  This might be as simple as sitting by a river or having a picnic at a favourite view point,” she continued.

Moor to Enjoy took as its starting point the 5 Ways to Wellbeing and the Government’s Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations for physical activity and actively promotes Public Health England’s and local public health teams’ OneYou and Active 10 initiatives addressing inactivity, encouraging people to undertake more than 30 minutes of exercise a week.  “If you want to be active, what better place than your local National Park with all the associated mental health benefits that brings too,” said Lucy.

Dartmoor’s Naturally Healthy project increased understanding of demographics and health risks in a local community by bringing people together with lower than average physical and/or mental health. This established a local ‘naturally healthy group’ that meets every week to either undertake a ‘Walking for Health’ walk or a nature based activity for wellbeing, examples include Tai Chi, cycling, creative crafts. This process enabled the group to develop a succession strategy to secure longer term benefit.

The evaluation report will contribute to the growing body of research evidence that exposure to natural environments has demonstrable physical and mental health benefits, particularly with conditions such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. In addition to the Report, a practitioner Toolkit produced by Plymouth University provides a ten-step guide for stakeholders on how to support provision of wellbeing in nature programmes.

Find the full ‘Moor Health and Wellbeing’ final report and practitioner toolkit online at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/living-and-working/moor-to-enjoy-project

PHOTO: Partners from Exmoor and Dartmoor National Park Authorities, Devon and Somerset County Council, Public Health England and Plymouth University.

COME AND SAY HELLO AT THE LEAFLET EXCHANGE

Don’t forget that this Wednesday is the annual Visit Exmoor Networking Day with Leaflet Exchange, at Wheddon Cross. Exmoor Magazine will have a stand at the afternoon Leaflet Exchange and we would love it if you came and said hello. You can find out more about the magazine and share your article ideas and feedback with us.

The Leaflet Exchange is a useful opportunity for tourism providers to come along for free and pick up leaflets and information for use in their venues through the coming season, including the brand-new Eat Exmoor food and drinks guide, as well as swap ideas and network with other tourism businesses. Complimentary tea and coffee will be provided by Miles.  This year the Leaflet Exchange takes place at the Moorland Hall, Wheddon Cross, between 2pm and 4pm, following on from the morning’s Visit Exmoor AGM, presentations and lunch over the road at the Rest & Be Thankful Inn.

The Visit Exmoor morning’s events provide an opportunity for tourism providers to hear all about the work of the organisation and to contribute their ideas. This is an ideal opportunity for local tourism businesses across Greater Exmoor to network, get involved and pick up useful tips and advice.

Things begin at The Rest & Be Thankful Inn, Wheddon Cross, at 11.30 with the Visit Exmoor AGM and a series of informative presentations from local experts, including award-winning glamping business owner Bella Given, Dan James from Exmoor National Park and social media specialist Matt Young.

A buffet lunch (£8.50 per head) will be served at the Inn along with the chance to network with like-minded tourism business owners. Members of the Visit Exmoor committee will also be on hand to answer any questions.

As with the Leaflet Exchange, all businesses are welcome, and the event is FREE to attend. If you would like to go along in the morning though, please do register so that Visit Exmoor can plan for numbers.

There is no need to register to attend the Leaflet Exchange – for that you can just turn up. We hope to meet you there!

PHOTO: by Julia Amies-Green

 

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.”