Category Archives: Walking

BE A QUANTOCK EXPLORER

The Quantocks Events Programme starts this weekend with a woodland spring flowers walk from Aisholt so we thought this would be a good time to share a post from the team at the Quantock Hills AONB…

Grab your rucksack and flask of sugary tea and come and join the Quantock Rangers as the Quantock Hills AONB Service launches its Events Programme for 2017.

Explore the Quantock Hills with our Rangers and Specialists in a series of guided walks throughout the year. Walks include hunting for fossils on our Jurassic Coast Walk, a Wellbeing Walk to help celebrate ‘Naturally Healthy Month’ in May, a Family Bushcraft Day, an evening Bats and Owls Walk and even a Quantock Quiz Walk for the walker who enjoys solving puzzles!

The programme also includes a set of special walks run by the Quantock Volunteer Rangers called Quantock Explorer Walks. These are specially designed to introduce you to different parts of the Quantock Hills and to find out more about the wildlife, plantlife and history of that part of the hills. From Fyne Court to Cothelstone, the Bicknoller loop and a Hill Fort Walk too.

We are also helping to promote others running guided walks on the Quantocks, including a series of walks at Durbourgh Farm including a Dawn Chorus Walk, a Spring Flowers Walk and in the autumn a Fungi Walk. Also, June brings the Quantock Walking Festival run by the Sedgemoor Ramblers.

Quantock AONB Manager Chris Edwards says: “These events are about experiencing the very best of the Quantock Hills, from the 200-million-year-old fossils on the Quantock coastline, to finding out more about how prehistoric people used and changed this landscape. It’s about enjoying the outstanding nature of this important and nationally recognised landscape.”

To book onto an event and to see the programme go to the Quantock Hills AONB website at www.quantockhills.com/events/view you can also find us on Facebook at /Quantock.hills or on Twitter @quantockhills

EXMOOR SOCIETY 2017 WALKS PROGRAMME NOW LAUNCHED

The Exmoor Society has just released details of its guided walks programme for 2017. The programme provides a wonderful opportunity to walk through the splendour of Exmoor’s beautiful landscapes and villages, starting from different locations across Exmoor and in the company of knowledgeable and welcoming guides. Joining a walk is a great opportunity to enhance fitness and well-being and enjoy the company of others. The Society is now the largest provider of guided walks on Exmoor and offers a very wide variety:

  • Discover prehistoric sites on ‘A Walk Through Two Iron Ages’, ‘From Withypool to Tarr Steps, a step back in time’ and ‘Dulverton Woodland Walk’
  • Enjoy stunning Exmoor landscapes on ‘The Hidden Landscape of Culbone Wood’, ‘Avill Valley Vistas’, ‘Two Exmoor Rivers and Villages’, ‘Horner Woods and Water and ‘To the Source of the River Tone’
  • Hear about figures from literature and the Arts and see the landscapes that inspired them on ‘In the Footsteps of Rachel Reckitt, Sculptor, Engraver & Welder’, ‘To Culbone, in Coleridge’s Footsteps’ and ‘Lorna Doone – A Shorter walk’
  • Explore the history of Exmoor settlements on ‘Discovering Dunster’s Hidden History’ and ‘Lynton and Valley of Rocks – An Historic Tour’
  • Learn about Exmoor wildflowers, insects and lichens on ‘Wildlife of the Doone Valley and Moorland’, ‘Discovering the Flowers of the Barle Valley’ and ‘Wildflowers of Watersmeet Woodlands’
  • Spot wildlife (hopefully, but no guarantee!) on ‘Ilkerton Ridge and the first Cuckoo’, ‘Ponies on Winsford Hill’ and ‘Autumn Sights and Sounds around Dunkery’

Running from April to October, the programme offers four to six guided walks each month starting on 5 April with ‘Two Exmoor Rivers & Two Villages’ around Withypool and Exford, then on 18 April, repeated by popular demand, is ‘Historic Lynton and Valley of Rocks’. ‘Discover Dunster’s Hidden History’ on 23 April and explore its historic buildings and secret places. With the hope of hearing the first cuckoo, join a new guided walk ‘Ilkerton Ridge and the Cuckoo’ set in spectacular moorland landscape on 24 April.

There is no charge for the walks but a small donation is welcomed from non-members. Some walks end with an optional pub lunch or afternoon tea – a social opportunity for the walkers and support for local businesses, not to mention welcome post-walk refreshments!

For further details visit www.exmoorsociety.com. For any queries, contact info@exmoorsociety.com or 01398 323335.

FREE WORKSHOPS TO HELP YOU INCREASE YOUR BUSINESS FOOTFALL FROM THE RELAUNCHED TWO MOORS WAY

Last year the Two Moors Way – Devon’s Coast to Coast walking route – celebrated its 40th anniversary. A series of improvement works were undertaken and the 115+ mile route, linking two coasts and the South West’s two National Parks, re-launched to celebrate this milestone. Local businesses are now invited to join free workshops to discover how they can benefit from the work as the industry gears up for the new visitor season.

Three workshops will take place along the route at the Simonsbath House Hotel on Exmoor (27 March), The Drewe Arms, Drewsteignton (25 April) and the Watermark Centre at Ivybridge (8 May). Each session will provide local businesses with an overview of the route’s history, a virtual tour of the trail and the points of interest along the way, a guide to the new website, films and other resources for businesses as well as top tips on attracting business from walkers. The workshops will be delivered by speakers from the National Park Authorities, the Two Moors Way Association and Encounter Walking Holidays.

“The aim of these workshops is to let businesses know what’s been happening along the Two Moors Way and to share some opportunities in helping a growing number of hungry, thirsty and tired walkers and their baggage along the route,” said Colin Piper of the Two Moors Way Association.

“As a result of our work with partners and better publicity, we can expect many more walkers to use the route, resulting in a greater need and use of a wide range of local services. We want all those who provide these services to be fully aware of these new opportunities, and how sharing ideas can be beneficial.”

Each workshop runs from 11am to 2pm and businesses can attend whichever is most convenient for them free of charge (including lunch and refreshments). Places must be booked in advance by emailing the name of your business and those attending with your choice of location and any dietary requirements to ColinJPiper@aol.com

To celebrate the Ruby Anniversary of the route Dartmoor and Exmoor National Park Authorities, together with Devon County Council helped to re-establish the Two Moors Way Association. In addition to a series of trail improvements the partners worked together to launch a new website (www.twomoorsway.org) providing inspiration and information regarding the route, in addition to a new pocket guide.

More recently additional funding has been secured for the Association from the National Lottery’s Awards for All scheme allowing these workshops to be run, and the production of two stunning films showcasing the route to the world. A new visitor passport scheme is being developed to help walkers record their route and the Association is also being helped to develop its volunteer opportunities and support to help look after and promote the route into the future.

Press and journalists are also invited to attend the workshops to discover more about one of the South West’s most popular walking routes. Please book in advance by emailing ColinJpiper@aol.com with your choice of workshop.

PHOTO: DTJ

EXMOOR SOCIETY WALKS PROGRAMME

The Exmoor Society’s 2016 guided walks programme proved to be another great success, building on and surpassing the figures from 2015. Through the support, commitment and energy of the Society’s volunteer walk leaders, the 2016 programme comprised 26 walks.

Running from February to the end of October 2016, the walks covered a wide variety of landscapes and subjects across Exmoor, starting with the springtime theme ‘Snowdrop Valley in Full Bloom’ and ending with the autumn scenery of ‘Deer on Dunkery’. To give an indication of the breadth of the programme, the subjects have included:

  • Prehistoric sites visited on the walks ‘From Withypool to Tarr Steps, a step back in time’ and ‘Coast and Common from Barna Barrow’
  • Exmoor landscapes – rivers, moorland, farmland, coast and woods – featured in the walks ‘Two Exmoor Rivers and Villages’, ‘Anstey Commons and Hawkridge’, ‘Selworthy and North Hill’, ‘The Woods of Simonsbath’, ‘Avill Valley Vistas’ and ‘Autumnal Woods around Dulverton’
  • Literature and the Arts have been the focus in ‘To Culbone, in Coleridge’s Footsteps’, ‘Doone Country’, ‘In the Footsteps of Rachel Reckitt, Sculptor, Engraver & Welder’ and ‘Hope Bourne and her Beloved Exmoor’
  •  The history of Exmoor settlements have been explored in ‘Discovering Dunster’s Hidden History’ and ‘Lynton and Valley of Rocks – An Historic Tour’.

The 26 walks in 2016 were joined by over 370 walkers (353 in 2015) and £515 was raised in donations. These figures have steadily increased over the last eight years. The walks are supported by locals and visitors from the UK and abroad, by members and non-members, individuals and families. Some walks include an optional pub lunch or afternoon tea, offering a social opportunity for the group and support for local businesses. In addition to the programme being advertised through the Society’s website, it also appears in the Exmoor Visitor and on the ENPA website, in the national and local press and via Twitter. The Society is now the largest provider of guided walks throughout the year on Exmoor.

It is the walk leaders, however, with their enthusiasm, dedication and willingness to share their love and knowledge of Exmoor, and who plan, research and prepare the walks, who are at the core of the programme’s success.

The 2017 programme

This year the programme expands even further, with 33 walks. Some are new, including a walk around Ashley Combe (home of Countess of Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron), one along Ilkerton Ridge in search of the first cuckoo, ‘A Walk Through Two Iron Ages’ and another to the source of the River Tone. There are new themes, such as ‘Wildlife of the Doone Valley and Moorland’ and ‘Wildflowers of Watersmeet Woodlands’, and old favourites, such as historic Lynton, Dulverton’s autumnal woods, and the lives of artist Rachel Reckitt and, of course, Hope Bourne.

In addition, the Society is strengthening its links with other groups. There will be a guided walk ‘In Search of John Knight’s Lost Mansion’ led by ENPA’s Rob Wilson-North and linking with his Simonsbath Festival talk. Also, a member of the partnership project ‘Upstream Thinking’, improving the quality and delivery of the South West’s water, will lead a walk around Wimbleball Reservoir.

Find out more by visiting the Exmoor Society’s Online Diary

PHOTO: by David J. Rowlatt

BAT WALK ON THE QUANTOCKS

Saturday 17 September marks the beginning of ‘Outstanding Week’, a national week celebrating our 46 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) across Britain, with a week of Outstanding events being run by AONBs nationwide.

To celebrate the AONB Family has worked together to organise a programme of events covering one week (and a bit) to help people enjoy and be inspired by Britain’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The events can be found on www.landscapesforlifeevents.org.uk

The Quantock Hills AONB is celebrating with a Bat Walk on Friday 23 September, at 7pm from Ramscombe, Great Wood. To book on to this event go to www.quantockhills.com/events/view

There is also a Quantock Jurassic Coast walk as part of the Outstanding week, but this event is already sold out so it is a good idea to keep an eye on the Quantocks events page if you are interested in taking part in walks, etc.

Quantock Hills AONB Manager Chris Edwards says: “It can sometimes be underestimated how important getting out and experiencing natural beauty is to our personal sense of wellbeing. I would say that having the ability to immerse yourself in a landscape that is cared for because of its rich wildlife, its rare and important habitats and its fascinating geology is one of the greatest pleasures in life. We are celebrating our natural landscapes across the country this week because these landscapes are crucial for biodiversity and for ecological health but also because they are crucial for our human happiness. So come and celebrate with us in the outstanding Quantock Hills during this special week.”

Twitter @quantockhills @naaonb & @aonbfamily #outstandingweek for new events to enjoy each day.

PHOTO: by Rich Hill.

TO CULBONE CHURCH IN COLERIDGE’S FOOTSTEPS

Join a walk led by a member of the Exmoor Society to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of one of the nation’s favourite poems, ‘Kubla Khan’  by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

The circumstances of the composition of this poem are perhaps as well-known as the poem itself.  In 1797 Coleridge was staying at a farmhouse near Culbone, when he fell into an opium-induced dream and, upon waking, started to write down the lines of poetry that had come to him in his sleep.  Some 54 lines in, however, he was “called out by a person on business from Porlock”, his train of thought was broken and the poem never finished.  It was Lord Byron who persuaded him of the poem’s excellence, leading to its eventual publication in 1816.

The Exmoor Society walk, ‘To Culbone in Coleridge’s footsteps’, takes place on Thursday 8 September and starts at Porlock Weir.  It will follow the most recent section of the Coleridge Way up as far as Silcombe Farm, then go down to Culbone Church and return along the South West Coast Path.  Jenny Gibson, Exmoor Society walk leader explains, “Though the route is hilly, the 6-mile/6-hour walk will proceed at a gentle pace giving walkers plenty of time to admire the breathtaking views that contributed to ‘Kubla Khan’s’ imagery, consider the poem’s possible hidden meanings and ponder which farm Coleridge was actually staying at when he wrote it.

“There will also be an opportunity to visit England’s smallest church at Culbone, and walk through the tunnels belonging to Ashley Combe House, once the home of Lord Byron’s daughter, Ada Lovelace, often described as the first computer programmer.”

Meet at 10.30am at Porlock Weir car park (TA24 8PD), bring a picnic and wear weatherproof everything.  Dogs on leads are welcome.  Free walk, but donations to The Exmoor Society are requested.  More information on www.exmoorsociety.com

You can read more about the 200th anniversary of ‘Kubla Khan’ in the new issue of Exmoor Magazine (turn to page 12 for an article contributed by the Friends of Coleridge).

PHOTO: Culbone Church ©Jenny Gibson 2015

FAR EAST WALKS IN DUNSTER

Dunster was the first village on Exmoor to join the ‘Walkers are Welcome’ initiative. This fast-growing, community-led scheme was set up in 2007 and now boasts over 100 towns and villages around the UK. The essence of the scheme is to provide walkers with some great walks and be assured of a warm welcome. With a vast array of walks over Exmoor and the picturesque qualities of a medieval village, Dunster is a perfect venue.

It is for these reasons that the Walkers are Welcome team asked Dunster to help host a visit from Yuko Shioji, together with her daughter Joko. Yuko is a professor of Anthropology and International Tourism at Hannan University in Osaka, Japan. On behalf of the Japanese government she is researching how footpaths in the UK are thought out, designed and maintained. The objective is to revitalise and introduce new walks in Japan.

Antony Brunt of the Yarn Market Hotel, Dunster organised a full programme of activity during her stay in Dunster. Calling on local expertise Yuko had a round table meeting with Christine Lawrence, leader of Somerset County Council; Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager, Exmoor National Park Authority; Robert Downes, Tourism Officer, West Somerset District Council and Bryan Cath, North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival organiser. She then visited the Tall Trees Trail in Dunster Forest and met Andy Player of the Crown Estate.

The rest of the day was spent meeting Geoff Garfield, area representative for the South West Coast Path in Minehead and then travelling to Lynmouth. Here she discussed how the Coleridge Way walk has been successfully extended to 51 miles and marketed to attract the public. The last part of her visit was a guided tour of Dunster village, the Castle and Dunster Watermill by local historian on the village Martin Harbourne.

Japan has just 700 designated walks and one of the more difficult issues that Yuko is hoping to address in her research is the Right of Way. This does not exist in Japan and means that developing walks, such as the South West Coast Path, simply cannot be done in Japan.

Christine Lawrence commented, “It really is quite flattering to find that Dunster has been brought to the attention of the Japanese government. So often, living here we take our countryside and walks for granted. It is an honour that our ideals and expertise might, in the future, be used in Japan”.

Supplied by Cliff Nicholson, Spears Cross, Dunster

PHOTO: Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager; Robert Downes, Tourism Officer, West Somerset District Council; Yuko Shioji, Professor of Anthropology and International Tourism at Hannan University in Osaka, Japan and her daughter Joko; Christine Lawrence, leader of Somerset County Council; Bryan Cath, North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival organiser and Antony Brunt from the Yarn Market Hotel Dunster.

LONG CHAINS COMBE REMOTE PATH REPAIRS IN TIME FOR AUTUMN

Work can now get underway to repair a remote path near Long Chains Combe in Exmoor National Park which was recently one of the projects in the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) Mend our Mountains crowdfunding campaign.

For Exmoor, the aim of the project was to raise enough money to airlift stone into a remote part of the moor to improve the surface of an important path which is part of the Two Moors Way, a 102-mile route which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.  BMC’s Mend Our Mountains raised £7,500 for this work.

Sue Applegate, Rights of Way & Access Officer at Exmoor National Park said: “We were surprised and delighted at the amount of money we raised by this innovative project which will enable us to improve the surface of an ancient route, one of Exmoor’s most remote and rugged tracks.

“To repair a path we would normally use material that is on site, but in this case there was simply not enough suitable material for the scale of the job – because of its remote location a helicopter was the most efficient way of getting it there. The work would probably not have been able to go ahead without this funding and we are really grateful to everyone that donated from all over the UK and even as far away as the USA.”

“We are also grateful to local businesses XMAN Events and Encounter Walking Holidays for donating rewards as well as the staff from BIH (Onshore) Ltd and local contractor Steve Atkins who worked with our National Park Rangers to lift the stone in.”

Carey Davies, The British Mountaineering Council’s Hill Walking Development Officer, said: “We are thrilled to be able to support restoration work near Long Chains Combe with proceeds from the BMC’s Mend Our Mountains campaign.

“This work is happening because thousands of walkers and lovers of the outdoor landscape of Britain came together to make it happen.

“Mend Our Mountains was a massive crowdfunding campaign which raised almost £104,000 in total for eight path repair projects in some of the most popular and iconic upland landscapes in Britain. It was a real ‘community’ effort, with lots of different elements of our ‘outdoor world’ pulling together for a cause and being involved in different ways.

“It is great to be able to include this beautiful Exmoor location as one of the supported projects. Exmoor contains some of the most awe-inspiring and entrancing landscapes in Britain.

“The Exmoor coastline is rightly famous among walkers and climbers, where picturesque villages nestle among breathtakingly huge coastal cliffs. But the inland landscapes are wonderful too, like The Chains, where the atmosphere of older eras is preserved among tightly-wound valleys and moors dotted with ancient stone circles like the ones at Long Chains Combe.

“Everyone should be free to explore the British outdoors, but the accumulated impact of walkers does take a toll, which you can see here. The Chains also gets a lot of rain, and in the past has experienced some of the highest daily rainfall Britain has ever seen, which exacerbates the problem of erosion.

“Our National Parks do a fantastic job of looking after the landscape but they are under increasing pressure, particularly after half a decade of budget cuts. This is why we ran Mend Our Mountains. There is no substitute for proper funding and support for National Parks, but if walkers, climbers and others are given the opportunity to give something back voluntarily to the landscapes they love, then they will.”

The repairs to the path will be starting in the next few weeks so that a reliable, dry path is in place before the autumn.

EXMOOR RIGHTS OF WAY VOLUNTEERS SHORTLISTED FOR AWARD

The efforts of a dedicated group of volunteers who help look after Exmoor’s rights of way, have been recognised after being shortlisted for the Campaign for National Parks Park Protector Awards 2016.

Park Protector Awards recognise, reward and celebrate exceptional projects or individuals that have made a lasting contribution to the protection, restoration or conservation of the National Parks of England and Wales.  The awards are open to groups or individuals who are delivering projects, campaigns, or activities in one or more of the National Parks in England and Wales and the prize is a £2,000 bursary to develop the project.

The volunteer Path Watcher’s scheme was set up by staff from Exmoor National Park Authority’s Access and Recreation Team and plays a vital role in ensuring Exmoor’s paths are well cared for and that any issues are reported and resolved quickly.  To date the 12 volunteers covering 15 parishes have surveyed over 300km of paths.  The benefits to the community are enormous making paths easily navigable for everyone in the local community and visitors alike, ensuring hazards or dangers are reported swiftly to the authority’s Field Services Team.  Path Watchers report, refresh way-marks and carry out minor repairs to gates and signs.  They also receive ongoing training for their role and recently got to learn more about all-terrain mobility Trampers (pictured) which helped them understand more about issues particular to individuals with limited mobility.

National Park rights of way support officer, Ceri Rapsey, who helps coordinate the volunteer Path Watchers says, “They are so passionate about making Exmoor’s rights of way the best in the UK and are constantly thinking of innovative ways of improving their surveying and maintaining rights of way for the enjoyment of others.  We’re thrilled their enthusiasm and dedication has been recognised.”

Results will be announced soon and the winner will be invited to attend the award ceremony at the House of Commons in October 2016.

Jackie Kiberd, Project Coordinator for Get Involved at Exmoor National Park Authority, said, “Path Watchers has proved an incredibly successful scheme and although we’re not looking for additional Path Watchers just now, there are many other ways in which people can get involved across Exmoor.

“Volunteering is fun, it’s a great way to meet new people and learn new skills.  We advertise a whole range of opportunities on the Get Involved pages of our website for a wide range of organisations across Exmoor.  So whether you’ve got a few hours or a few days to offer, whatever your interest, there’s something there for you.” www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/get-involved/latest-volunteering-roles-and-opportunities

CAMPAIGN FOR NATIONAL PARKS: 80TH ANNIVERSARY WALKS

On Saturday 30 July campaigning organisation 38 Degrees and the charity Campaign for National Parks are celebrating our nation’s most beautiful landscapes. They’re hosting free organised walks and natural art workshops in every national park in England, Scotland and Wales, including Exmoor of course.

80 years ago a group of people came together to launch a campaign to protect our national parks. These events across the country celebrate this incredible achievement, and the things that can be done when people work together. The theme for the events is ‘inspired by nature’, and brings together experts from the natural world as well as the arts.

On Saturday 30 July, join 38 Degrees and the Campaign for National Parks for one of two very special events…

Join a walk led by a professional guide, who’ll share the very best that Exmoor National Park has to offer – it’s history, it’s wildlife and much, much more!

Or join the ‘art in nature’ walk with a very special workshop, curated by land artist Richard Shilling and hosted by local artists. It will explore the natural environment as we walk and work together to collect abundant natural materials to create a unique piece of artwork. Everyone is welcome, big or small!

Where: Start and finish at Dunster Steep car park.
When: 30 July 2016, 11am.
How to book: 38degrees.org.uk/national-park-walks

Maddy Carroll, 38 Degrees Campaign Director, says, “The UK’s national parks only exist because a group of people came together 80 years ago to protect them. 38 Degrees is the biggest people-powered organisation in the UK, so this year we’re teaming up with the Campaign for National Parks to help people enjoy these places in the height of summer, when they’re at their most beautiful. Come and join us to celebrate the 80th anniversary of this amazing campaign.”

Fiona Howie, Chief Executive of Campaign for National Parks, says, “For 80 years the Campaign for National Parks has been working hard to make sure that some of Britain’s most beautiful landscapes are preserved for everyone to enjoy and are protected against threats that would have damaged what makes them so special. We’re delighted to be working with 38 Degrees again so that as many people as possible can get together and celebrate the true diversity and spectacular sights of the National Parks in the UK.”

To find out more visit: 38degrees.org.uk/national-park-walks