A walking group based in the villages of Nether and Over Stowey is gearing up for a festival for walkers from near and far aimed at showcasing the landscape of the Quantock Hills, England’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

With the support of the Quantock Hills AONB Service, Stowey Walking, a member of the national Walkers are Welcome network, is hosting the weekend of guided walks in and around the Quantocks from 30 June to 1 July and is ready for you to register for whichever walks suit you.

Stowey Walking has some experience of running walking festivals having helped Sedgemoor Ramblers with a similar event in the past but now feels it is ready to go it alone.

Walkers who book places at the festival will be able to choose from three guided walks each day of varying lengths, so there will be something to suit everyone, from keen hikers and ramblers to families looking for a more leisurely stroll in the countryside.

Both Nether Stowey and Over Stowey lie at the foot of the stunning Quantock Hills. The name Stowey comes from the Old English for ‘paved road’ which is fitting for the villages having welcomed walkers for hundreds of years. Nether Stowey with its shops, B&Bs and pubs is at the start of the Coleridge Way, named after the poet who wrote some of his most famous work there. The smaller settlement of Over Stowey clusters around the church of St Peter and St Paul; the parish, however, encompasses a substantial area of farmland and open access land on the Quantock Hills.

Lynne Abbott of Stowey Walking said, “The group is excited to be holding its first solo festival as a Walkers are Welcome destination and members will be working hard to ensure it is an enjoyable weekend for all.”

Numbers for the walks need to be limited so booking is essential. There is no charge for booking but walkers will be asked to make a voluntary donation to Stowey Walking on the festival weekend.

For full information and booking details contact enquiries@stoweywalking.co.uk or visit the website www.stoweywalking.co.uk.


The conservation area for Lee is being extended with more historic characteristics and qualities set to be protected.

At a meeting of North Devon Council’s Executive this month, councillors agreed to recommendations in a report that Lee Conservation Character Appraisal 2018 and the revised boundary for the area are formally adopted by the council. This means that the conservation area for the village has been almost doubled from 11 hectares to 20.8, extending further to the north, east and west as well as including more open spaces.

The character appraisal identifies the key characteristics and qualities of the conservation area for the village and has been produced following public consultations last summer. The appraisal includes most of the suggestions put forward by members of the public and consultees who took part.

Lead member for Strategic Planning at North Devon Council, Councillor Jeremy Yabsley, says: “Conservation areas and character appraisals play an important part in helping to protect special features and locations of an area that are unique and make it what it is. They are not designed to stop development or change to an area but to recognise the special qualities and characteristics so that we can preserve and enhance them for future generations to enjoy.

“I understand that the consultations were very well attended by people of all ages putting forward their ideas and suggestions about what we should include in the appraisal as well as the proposal to extend the conservation area. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to attend, this just goes to show how taking part in these events when we hold them can make a real difference to a village or town.”

There are 41 conservation areas across the North Devon district, most with their own character appraisal and management plan. Conservation areas aim to recognise the architectural and historic interest and importance to the community of the locations within it.

When planning applications are considered the council will look at the conservation area, its character appraisal and management plan to see if the proposals will preserve or enhance the area before making a decision.

PHOTO: Courtesy North Devon Coast AONB


A new initiative set to boost food and drink businesses in North Devon was launched yesterday (Monday 26 March 2018).

The North Devon Marketing Bureau unveiled the brand-new North Devon Food Trail app, which is designed to showcase the best independent food and drink businesses the region has to offer. The businesses included in the app were all recommended by locals, as part of a piece of research undertaken in 2017.

It features over 150 businesses all identified as unmissable by North Devon residents and aims to give visitors insider knowledge on where to eat. The app also lists some of North Devon’s unique food producers.

The app was commissioned by the North Devon Marketing Bureau (NDMB), the not-for-profit business set up to execute destination marketing for North Devon, Torridge and Exmoor. Nick White, Chair of the North Devon Marketing Bureau, said: “A little-known fact is that Devon has more Michelin stars that Cornwall – at the North Devon Marketing Bureau we aim to raise the profile of Northern Devon’s quality food and drink at all levels. This new app is the backbone of our regional campaign.

“We want to put North Devon firmly on the foodie map and our unique app is designed to do this. Based on genuine recommendations from North Devon locals we’ve put together the must-have guide to eateries in the area.

“As North Devon locals, we all know this area has a fantastic array of independent food and drink heroes, from restaurants, to street food, to artisan producers – but we also know that many visitors and locals want reliable information on how to find the real gems.

“Tourism is of huge importance to the area, supporting one in four jobs with a turnover of over £550m. This initiative aims to support local food and drink businesses, boost visitor spend, bringing together and benefitting local communities.

“We’d like to say thank you to all the locals that voted for their favourite food and drink – we’d like to invite locals to download the app too. After all, while we all have our particular favourites, it’s great to get some new ideas.”

The app is being endorsed by local chefs and food and drink businesses.

Dez Turland, Development Chef at Saunton Sands, said: “North Devon is home to some fantastic food and drink and this app is designed to help locals and visitors discover some hidden delights. It’s unique, because locals have nominated their particular favourites – we are very proud to launch the app as it’s been carefully collated by the people who really know what they’re talking about!

Lyndsay Platt, Owner of Glorious Oyster, said: “We’re thrilled to be part of this new initiative, designed to encourage visitors to discover some of the great food and drink in the area. We specialise in serving fresh local shellfish and seafood and want to shout about the great food available on our doorstep – this new app is designed to help people find more companies like us and we are proud to be involved.”

And accommodation providers, local attractions, food and drink producers and locals are all being encouraged to help spread the word to visitors.

Nick White continued: “We’re hoping that accommodation providers and businesses will see this app as a huge benefit and will download our toolkit to help promote it to their customers. This is just the start – we want to evolve the app over time, with greater functionality and more features.”

The North Devon Food Trail app has been funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the North Devon Marketing Bureau. It is available on the App Store and Google Play – more information can be found at www.northdevonfoodtrail.co.uk www.northdevonfoodtrail.co.uk


RHS Rosemoor is celebrating Easter with a colourful programme of activities at RHS Garden Rosemoor for all the family to enjoy whatever the weather.

Young ones (or the young at heart) can join in the Lindt Gold Bunny Hunt and hop about the garden on the trail of the Lindt Gold Bunny, following clues to lead to a delicious Lindt chocolate treat. On certain days, Entertainingly Different will be helping or is that hindering your hunt – but whichever it is, there is sure to be fun had by all.

Get crafty with Rosemoor’s drop-in family workshops or discover Rosemoor’s beautiful wild flowers on a family adventure walk. With different activities every day and no extra charge, it’s a perfect solution to keeping the kids entertained this Easter holiday.

The Easter holidays culminates in the wonderful Wilderness Weekend with fabulous family activities designed to introduce people to living off the land, treading more quietly and understanding more about nature and the ability we all (people and plants) have to survive our ever-changing situations.

The Lindt Gold Bunny Hunt, Easter Trail is available 24 March – 15 April 2018, 10am–6pm. Drop-in workshops, 11am–1 pm and 2pm–4pm, daily except (weekends and bank holidays).

All activities are free with normal garden admission (which is free for RHS Members). Last admission is one hour before closing. For more information on the garden and to book tickets online, please visit www.rhs.org.uk/rosemoor


Tiverton Rotary Club has gifted 50 tree saplings to the Council in support of the Rotary Tree Challenge.

The Rotary Tree Challenge is a nationwide challenge encouraging each Rotary member to plant at least one tree to help save the environment in time for this year’s Earth Day on 22 April 2018.  With over 47,000 members in Great Britain and Ireland, the potential number of trees planted would be equivalent to a forest the size of 100 football pitches!

To initiate the challenge, 6 trees were planted during a joint ceremony on Thursday 22 March as part of a wider planting programme in and around Tiverton.  The ceremony took place along the old railway line near Manley Bridge.  In attendance were Rotary members Sue Godfrey (organiser), Tricia Collier and Les Rendell along with the Council’s Leader Clive Eginton,  Darren Beer and Mick Jelliman  from the Grounds Maintenance team.

Further potential sites are being planned and agreed by the Council to enhance existing woodland and open spaces, including Elmore Football Club, Market Walk, West Exe and along the BMX track.

The tree saplings include a mixture of species, including beech, oak and hornbeam  and were supplied by the I Dig Trees planting scheme (a collaboration between OVO Energy and The Conservation Volunteers).  Once all 50 of the trees have been planted, the Council will maintain and accept responsibility for them throughout their life.

Rotary member and organiser Sue Godfrey said: “We are delighted that Mid Devon District Council welcomed the offer of trees by the Rotary Club of Tiverton. We all need to get involved in caring for our environment. This not only benefits wildlife but also enhances the quality of life for all of us in the Tiverton area.”

Clive Eginton said: “I’d like to thank the Rotary Club of Tiverton for this magnanimous gesture; it really is fantastic that they’ve donated 50 trees of 5 different varieties and I hope that the people of Tiverton and the surrounding areas will enjoy these trees for many decades to come.”

The environmental benefits of this campaign will replenish forests and ensure habitats for wildlife are restored. The challenge is also a great way to involve communities, with activities varying from extending and under-planting existing woods to enhancing parks and open spaces.

If you would like to get involved in the Rotary Tree Challenge, grab your wellies and make contact with your local Rotary Club using the Rotary Club finder. Alternatively, check the Rotary tree-planting schemes and take part without getting your hands dirty.


The Yarn Market Hotel in Dunster has been listed as a finalist in the 2018 National Group Travel Awards. It is one of seven nominated in the “Best Individual Hotel for Groups in the UK” category.

Antony Brunt, the proprietor of the Yarn Market Hotel, commented: “We are delighted to be nominated as a finalist in these awards. It’s a great reflection on the work that all of the team at the hotel put in all year round to attract business and then to make sure that our guests, be they groups or individuals enjoy their stay and the delights of Dunster itself, West Somerset and the Exmoor National Park.”

Antony is a well-known figure on the Travel Trade Show circuit and has been found promoting the Yarn Market Hotel and the wider attractions of the area across England and Wales. The message has been taken to London, Manchester, venues across southern England and Liverpool amongst other locations and on Tuesday 20 March he headed to the NEC Birmingham to spend two days working at the British Travel Trade Show. The work and the mileage has clearly paid off as he will return to a full hotel, hosting a four-day break for RailTrail holidays, who are visiting heritage railways in the South West including the second day on the West Somerset Railway’s Spring Steam Gala on Friday 23 March.

Also celebrating…

Salad Days (see photo) is a finalist in the prestigious VisitEngland Awards for Tourism Excellence 2018

VisitEngland, the national tourist board, has announced the finalists for the Awards for Excellence 2018, with Dunster’s Salad Days being named as a finalist in the Dog Friendly Business of the Year. The winners of this prestigious accolade will be announced at the Awards ceremony to be held on Monday 23 April at the Bath Assembly Rooms.

Salad Days Beach Hut, announced as a finalist earlier this week, represents one of the three finalists in the Dog Friendly Business of the Year category and is the only representative from Somerset. All finalists must now wait until the Awards ceremony to discover whether they have achieved Gold, Silver or Bronze placings.

VisitEngland Chief Executive Sally Balcombe said: “The finalists have shown themselves to be of the highest calibre, using their talent and innovation to deliver excellence. The hundreds of applications this year reflect the quality products across our tourism landscape and I warmly congratulate all the finalists and wish them the very best of luck.”

Speaking on behalf of Salad Days, Brett Bates, said: “We were so excited to win Gold in the Bristol, Bath and Somerset Awards held in Taunton last year, then we were over the moon with a further Gold at South West Tourism Excellence Awards in Torquay last month and now we can’t quite believe that our little beach hut has made it to the national Visit England finals. Salad Days will be alongside some of the best tourism businesses in the country. All this in just our first two years of business, wow!”

“Salad Days started as a dream over 50 years ago when I used to visit Dunster as a child and now I want our guests to experience some of the charm and magic that this wonderful part of Somerset offers,” said Brett “Now, with this kind of recognition, it will help to put Dunster Beach on the map and more people will find it, which is good news for Dunster, Somerset and Exmoor. Right from the beginning we wanted Salad Days to be dog friendly as we knew that so many people visit this area with their dog, now they can stay at one of the best dog friendly businesses in England.”

PHOTO: The interior of Salad Days Beach Hut

A full list of winners can be found at www.visitenglandawards.org/finalists


Following the sell-outs of Oliver and The Magic of The Musicals, the award-winning (several David Beach awards for Somerset in March 2018), local group ‘Fusion Young Performers’ comes to the Regal Theatre, Minehead to perform their latest challenge, Cats, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot, the show is packed full of memorable song and dance numbers such as Macavity, Memory, Skimbleshanks and many more.  It’s a kaleidoscope of song and dance and the audience is guaranteed to go home amazed by the energy. With dance numbers brought to life by Lorraine Ahern’s stunning choreography, vocal direction by Sarah-Jane Cross and an 11-piece band led by musical director David Pitts, this promises to be an exciting show that will leave everyone entertained and inspired by a hugely talented group of local young people.

Performances on Monday 2 – Saturday 7 April begin at 7.30pm and tickets are as follows: adults £12, Friends of the Regal £11, students £6, family ticket (2 +2) £32. They are available from the Regal Box Office (01643 706430), 10am – 3pm Monday – Saturday.  You can book online at www.regaltheatre.co.uk .
OPENING NIGHT OFFER – All adult tickets £8.00.


Beef, Birds & Beauty – A New Future for National Parks?

This is the theme for the 2018 Spring Conference, organised by the Exmoor Society in partnership with Exmoor National Park Authority, which takes place on Friday 20 April at Dulverton Town Hall.

The Government’s 25-year Environment Plan states that the creation of designated landscapes has been among the most outstanding environmental achievements of the past 100 years. At the same time, it has set up a 21st Century Hobhouse Review of the English National Parks and ANOBs. Michael Gove, Secretary of State for the Environment, has described the present period as ‘a moment unfrozen in time’ because of the ability to shape a post-Brexit world.

National Parks are special places where nature and people over time have produced areas of distinct character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic values. The conference will explore how they can remain special, what changes are needed in delivering their purposes and enhancing their environments, landscapes and communities. Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Defra Minister for National Parks, will address the conference and launch the Exmoor National Park Partnership Plan 2018-23.  Merrick Denton-Thompson, President of the Landscape Institute, will discuss the importance of a landscape-led approach in managing National Parks and Sarah Howes of Plymouth University will illustrate the health and wellbeing benefits of National Parks. There will be opportunities for delegates to contribute their views as well.

Exmoor itself has taken the lead by producing a post-Brexit agri-environmental scheme. Called the Exmoor’s Ambition, the National Park Authority and Exmoor Hill Farming Network have brought out a detailed transformative proposal for sustaining and enhancing Exmoor’s farmed landscape and communities after Brexit. Following on from last year’s conference exploring Natural Capital and addressed by Dieter Helm, chairman of the Government’s Natural Capital Committee, the Exmoor Society has commissioned an Exmoor Register of Natural/Cultural Capital Assets, trialled on three Exmoor farms. The Register will be revealed for the first time at the Conference by Robert Deane of Rural Focus Ltd.

Places are limited and fill quickly, so early booking is advised and at least before 13 April, at a cost of £20. Further details are available at www.exmoorsociety.com and from The Exmoor Society, 34 High Street, Dulverton TA22 9DJ. T: 01398 323335.

PHOTO courtesy of ENPA.


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.


Somerset Art Works (SAW) is delighted to be involved in PROCESSIONS, a mass participation artwork to mark the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which gave the first British women the right to vote.

PROCESSIONS will invite women* and girls across the UK to come together on the streets of Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London on Sunday 10 June 2018 to mark this historic moment in a living, moving portrait of women in the twenty-first century.

Somerset Art Works is one of 100 commissioned organisations, working with women artists in the lead-up to the event, as part of an extensive public programme of creative workshops to create 100 centenary banners which will form part of this vast artwork.

The banner-making workshops will focus on text and textiles, echoing the practices of the women’s suffrage campaign and will be places to consider the power of the vote today and our shared future. The banners made will represent and celebrate the diverse voices of women and girls from different backgrounds.

Bristol-based artist Dorcas Casey (pictured) has been commissioned by Somerset Art Works to lead creative workshops with students from Strode College in Street and Richard Huish College in Taunton.

Dorcas said, “I’m really excited about the Processions project and being part of a vast community of people all working towards such an important and ambitious event. I’m looking forward to working collaboratively with students, I love the idea of using fabrics and bringing people together through the process of making.”

PROCESSIONS is produced by Artichoke, the UK’s largest producer of art in the public realm, as part of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s official arts programme for the First World War centenary.

Helen Marriage, CEO of Artichoke, said: “The 100th anniversary of the passing of legislation which made universal suffrage unstoppable is a moment both for celebration and reflection. Individuals and groups up and down the country, including Somerset Art Works, will be at the heart of this UK-wide artwork. What they make and bring to their chosen procession on Sunday 10 June will form part of a unique living portrait of women today.”

*those who identify as women or non-binary

Processions Website: www.processions.co.uk

About Somerset Art Works (SAW)
Somerset’s only county-wide agency dedicated to developing the visual arts, SAW initiates a wide range of projects in a variety of settings, working in partnership with other arts and non-arts organisations. SAW works to increase public engagement, weaving together communities and raising the profile of the vibrant contemporary visual, digital and applied arts in Somerset. www.somersetartworks.org.uk

Somerset Art Works is shortly to become part of the Arts Council England’s National Portfolio of funded organisations for 2018-2022.